Deseret News file photos
BYU was ranked No. 53, Utah State No. 31 and Utah No. 16 in Athlon Sports' pre-spring college football rankings.

SALT LAKE CITY — With spring football underway at many a school and on the way for others, Athlon Sports released its "Pre-spring ranking of every FBS college football team for 2019."

That meant an in-depth look, or at the very least a paragraph on each of the 130 FBS football programs.

As the publication put it, “it’s never too early to look at the year ahead and project where all 130 teams could rank when the official Athlon Sports magazine predictions are released later this summer.”

Lowest on the list of in-state schools? The BYU Cougars.

Coming in at No. 53, it was noted that the Cougars have a chance to build on their 2018 campaign.

“Coach Kalani Sitake’s team has a chance to build on that record in 2019, especially as sophomore quarterback Zach Wilson continues to develop behind a solid offensive line and the return of his top three receivers.”

Utah State, meanwhile, was ranked as No. 31 in the country heading into the 2019 season.

The publication touted the school’s record 11 wins a season ago, plus the return of Gary Andersen, Jordan Love and David Woodward as reasons to expect another double-digit win campaign, although, “Andersen and his staff do have a few holes to fill this offseason. Utah State’s offensive line must be retooled, dynamic running back Darwin Thompson left early for the NFL, and the receiving corps lost its top five pass catchers (yardage) from 2018.”

Then there were the Utes.

Utah came in at No. 16 on the list, and the online magazine was bullish as to the Utes’ fortunes this coming season.

“The Utes are a heavy favorite to repeat as Pac-12 South champs in 2019. Coach Kyle Whittingham’s team is once again loaded on defense, as this unit features cornerback Jaylon Johnson, end Bradlee Anae and transfers Francis Bernard (BYU) and Manny Bowen (Penn State) at linebacker.”

Do Pac-12 nonconference schedules need improvement?

Speaking of college football, Sports Illustrated’s Andy Staples answered a pair of questions regarding the nation’s favorite amateur pastime in his mailbag, Dear Andy.

Among the questions asked: Can the Pac-12 get back in the playoff discussion?

While the answer was multi-pronged — Staples started by noting that “it’s popular at the moment to bash the Pac-12 for its inability to stay in the national title conversation, but it isn’t impossible for a Pac-12 team to make the playoff” — Staples’ answer largely focused on Pac-12 nonconference scheduling.

Per the sportswriter, in order for a Pac-12 team to earn a playoff spot they’ll need to do so in nonconference play, as the current reputation of the conference isn’t doing anyone any favors.

Making that difficult is the lack of strong nonconference scheduling by most Pac-12 schools.

“The College Football Playoff selection committee isn’t going to be influenced as much by the preseason expectations of a conference as it is how that conference’s teams performed against other good Power 5/Notre Dame opponents,” Staples wrote. “The problem for the Pac-12 is that some teams didn’t bother to schedule anyone good in the non-conference. Here are the games that will determine what we think of the league.”

Other links

BYU

WCC Power Rankings: Conference Tournament Edition (Mid-Major Madness)

WCC Women’s Tournament Preview, Bracket, Schedule (The Slipper Still Fits)

Utah

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Pac-12 gymnastics gears up for first-ever neutral site championship (Pac-12)

Las Vegas Bowl to move up Pac-12 pecking order in 2020, per report (CougCenter)

Utah State

Who deserves to be the Mountain West player of the year? (Nevada SportsNet)

Week 17 Mountain West Basketball Power Rankings: Utah State takes over No. 1 spot (Mountain WestWire)

And finally …

Donovan Mitchell left this final thought for any of the team’s doubters following the Jazz’s 114-104 victory over New Orleans Wednesday night.

To which Ricky Rubio had a quick answer.