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Utah/BYU Football: Is Bigger Always Better?

Once upon a time there were two college football teams that ruled their conference.  They were both in contention for the conference championship every year, and if they did really good, they even had a chance at going to a BCS bowl game.  They were nationally respected programs and recruited some solid players.  They were not elite, but probably never could be due to their location, size, and other factors.  But they were making the most with what they had, winning football games year-after-year.

Fast-forward to the 2011 football season, and things have changed, drastically, for both Utah and BYU football.  After accepting an invitation to the PAC 12 conference and leaving the Mountain West, BYU decided to follow suit.  However, when no one else wanted them, they left the Mountain West anyway for some reason (pride?)  Both schools, as far as I know, stand to make a lot more money under the new setup then what they had under the Mountain West, but is it worth it?

So far this season, Utah looks outmatched every week (with the exception of the beat-down they gave BYU).  They don’t have the size, strength, or athleticism of the rest of the PAC 12 schools.  Their quarterback, Jordan Winn, has clearly never recovered fully from his shoulder surgery, which is greatly reduced his ability to throw the football (which is too bad, since he has no ability, at all, to run the football).  Terrible throwing + no running = no yards.  He has also demonstrated bad decision making, especially under pressure, which has led to turnovers.  Now that he’s out for the season (having more surgery on his shoulder), the Utes are at an even bigger disadvantage, as their backup is nothing to write home about either (except I did see him run the football a couple of times, which already gives the team something Winn didn’t).

BYU is in an even worse position now.  They made an incredibly soft schedule in hopes of winning a lot of games this year, and have struggled against some very weak teams.  They have a TV contract with ESPN, but even on ESPN, why would anyone want to watch them right now?  With no conference, they have nothing to play for unless they go undefeated.  Their quarterback situation is just as bad, or worse, then Utah’s.  It’s getting harder and harder for them to recruit good athletes because their pool is limited.  Without a conference, they are dropping off the face of the earth into irrelevance. 

Financially, these schools may have made some good moves (for sure Utah has.  BYU, on the other hand, could be in trouble when their contract with ESPN expires, which is years away, but still…), but in terms of being relevant and having a winning reputation, it’s getting more and more clear that they would have been better off staying put.  Winning a lot of games in a small conference will get you a lot more respect then losing a lot of games in a big conference.  They were once kings of the castle, and now they’re little fish in a very big pond (or in BYU’s case, no pond at all, just vast nothingness).

Utah, at least, can still turn in around in the future and become something in the PAC 12.  BYU, on the other hand, needs to find a conference, and fast, TV contracts and money be damned.  Wins leads to respect, which leads to better athletes, more money, conference invites, etc… Making a decision based on greed and pride (which I thought went against what the LDS church is all about anyway?), is a quick path to irrelevance.  Both teams have very big holes to dig themselves out of.

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