Utah Utes running back Tavion Thomas (9) scores during to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena on Saturday, Jan. 1, 2022. Utah leads 35-21 at half. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)
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SALT LAKE CITY — As Georgia rose the College Football Playoff trophy in the air after a 33-18 victory Monday night in the national championship game, the votes were tabulated for the final Associated Press Top 25 poll of the season.
When the results were finalized from all 62 voters of the prominent college football poll, the state of Utah made history: All three Football Bowl Subdivision teams from the state were included in the final rankings. It was the first time BYU, Utah and Utah State appeared in the final AP Top 25 rankings together.
It was a banner year for college football in the state of Utah.
Leading the state in the final rankings was the University of Utah, a team that started the season 1-2.
Coming off a narrow loss to Ohio State in the program’s first Rose Bowl appearance, Utah finished the season ranked No. 12. It’s the first time Utah has finished inside the top 15 since Kyle Whittingham’s team went undefeated and beat Alabama in the Sugar Bowl to finish No. 2 in the final AP Top 25 for the 2008 season.
It’s only the fourth time in program history that Utah has finished a season ranked inside the top 15 and only the 10th time ranked in the final top 25. The Utes finished as high as No. 16 following a near-playoff season in 2019 where the team got as high as No. 5, but the Utes lost in the Pac-12 championship game and then in the Alamo Bowl to Texas.
Whittingham earned a $400,000 bonus for his team appearing in a New Year’s Six bowl game and made an extra $100,000 for Utah being ranked in the final AP Top 25.
Behind the Utes in the rankings is 10-3 BYU at No. 19. The Cougars dropped seven spots from No. 12 in the rankings after a loss to UAB in the Independence Bowl.
The Cougars started out as one of the hottest teams in the country and claimed six wins over Power Five programs — the first in program history — and went 5-0 against the Pac-12. It meant BYU finished with back-to-back double-digit winning seasons for the first time since the 2008 and 2009 seasons under former head coach Bronco Mendenhall.
BYU ended a nine-game winning streak over rival Utah and earned a win over Mendenhall’s Virginia team in a wild game against the program’s former coach. Running back Tyler Allgeier became a big reason for BYU’s success as the former walk-on finished the season with 1,606 rushing yards and 23 rushing touchdowns.
And though Allgeier was instrumental in BYU’s bowl game, depth became an issue for the Cougars as the season wore on. The Cougars still finish inside the top 25 for another strong season as the program prepares to move to the Big 12 in 2023. Monday’s inclusion in the final AP Top 25 is BYU’s 19th time in program history.
Utah State also finished the season ranked in the final AP Top 25 at No. 24, which is the first time the Aggies have been included in the final rankings since the 2018 season, Matt Wells’ final year with the program before jumping to Texas Tech. It’s only the fourth time in program history the Aggies have been ranked in the final poll.
The Aggies had one of the most remarkable comeback seasons in the country after a rocky 2020 season. Utah State went through two coaches and a season that ended early after the players protested issues related to the program — to say nothing of a season where the team only won one game.
New coach Blake Anderson turned the program around, got players to buy in to what he was trying to do and it all led to a remarkable season that included a Mountain West Conference championship and a win over Oregon State in the inaugural LA Bowl.
The Aggies started the season with a win over a Power Five program (Washington State) and ended the season with a win over a Power Five program.
Georgia finished the season as the No. 1 overall team following its national championship win over Alabama, who finished the season at No. 2. Behind the Crimson Tide was Michigan, Cincinnati and Baylor to round out the top five programs in the country.