PROVO — The Utes are sniffing roses. The Aggies should be undefeated. The Cougars are on a quest for touchdowns.
The state of football in Utah among the FBS schools can be summed up in simple terms heading down the November stretch.
All can claim they’ve been ranked this year. All have enjoyed huge moments. But the two state-sponsored schools had Octobers that produced historic highlight videos. The independent Cougars hatched out some horror clips they need to forget.
The Cougars (4-4) are searching for an identity, hopefully still hungry and driven, albeit with a frustrated fan base. I believe in Kalani Sitake and his staff. A win at Boise State, where they are two-TD underdogs, would cure a lot of issues. Utah State (7-1) is a cat in a MWC canary cage. Utah (6-2 ) is a shark gliding in bloodied Pac-12 waters.
If you are a Utah fan, the road to Pasadena couldn’t be better engineered for a run on roller skates after a stunning weekend of upsets across the league. With USC, Oregon, Washington and Colorado all stumbling last weekend, Utah’s strength of position almost seems destiny.
Behind a stingy, big-play defense, Utah’s offense has become a strike-force problem for Pac-12 defenses. It’s a league that’s absolutely cannibalized itself, wiping out any chance for a college playoff berth. And that all works out just fine for Utah, who enters November in the best shape for a title run since joining the league.
The Utes, not Washington or USC, are gobbling up all the national attention in the Pac-12.
It should be Utah vs. Washington State in Santa Clara. Book it.
This may be the best Utah State team in three decades. Stout enough on defense to give a powerful offense plenty of wiggle room, the Aggies are explosive, confident, opportunistic and consistent.
You could make the argument that USU should have defeated Michigan State in East Lansing. It doesn’t take much of an imagination. If one or two plays had gone the other way, USU would have a perfect season so far.
None of USU’s wins have been flukes. BYU fans, still hurting over USU's big win over the Cougars in Provo, should recognize the Aggies are experiencing a generational type season. At this stage, I’d paint them the favorite to not only be divisional champions but to win the MWC championship game.
For all the handwringing in Provo, BYU is about where most people thought it would be at this stage of the season, two wins away from a bowl game. Give or take a few plays, BYU could be 6-2.
BYU needs consistency and confidence. USU seems to have kicked off this season with it. Utah found it after the Washington State game. BYU had it in Madison, Wisconsin, but lost it in Seattle.
Here are my November predictions:
I give high praise to USU and Utah. Not piling on BYU. If the Cougars show some consistency, they are on the right track.
Utah will go the rest of the way undefeated and beat Washington State in the Pac-12 championship game. Mike Leach can’t beat Kyle Whittingham twice in the same season. A Rose Bowl team, Whittingham rarely loses bowl games. It’s as rare as tax cuts.
Utah State might lose to Boise State but because of its track record on offense, it can chase down the Broncos in a shootout and I think they will. The Aggies will win the MWC title game and there’s a 70-30 chance they go all the way undefeated.
The Cougars will go bowling with wins over New Mexico State and UMass. Once there, Sitake’s youth movement could use the two-week prep time in bowl-time December to build for 2019.
There, positive enough?
Love November football.