Another week of college football is in the books, and Week 2 did not disappoint.
The BYU Cougars are living on cloud nine, not only because they accepted an invite to the Big 12 Conference on Friday, but also because they defeated the rival Utah Utes for the first time in over a decade on Saturday.
Utah State, meanwhile, continues to make history in the early days of the Blake Anderson era, while FCS stalwart Weber State made a little history of its own.
It didn’t end there, though. Oregon upset a perennial power, and now the Pac-12 Conference has a legitimate College Football Playoff contender. An upset by Stanford proves that the Pac-12 isn’t about to give up on the parity that has defined the conference the last decade, though.
Here are six takeaways from the second weekend of the college football season.
The streak is over. What do the Cougars do now?
BYU’s upset win over Utah Saturday night shouldn’t be glossed over. It was more than a decade coming for the Cougars, and the way in which BYU did it — by controlling the line of scrimmage and forcing turnovers with dynamic quarterback play thrown in made it anything but a fluke.
On this occasion, BYU was simply the better team.
“Congratulations to Kalani and his football team. They played outstanding,” Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham told the Deseret News. “Give them credit. They won the football game tonight.”
It was a victory not soon to be forgotten and one that has already been talked about in length. Here’s the list so far:
- BYU shows it learned lessons from past rivalry games in holding off Utah, finally
- Does BYU’s upset of No. 21 Utah show the talent gap really isn’t a chasm?
- Utah’s Kyle Whittingham gives BYU credit in its rivalry win as streak comes to an end
- 3 takeaways in the BYU Cougars’ win over the Utah Utes
- BYU ends 9-game losing streak to Utah with 26-17 victory
At 2-0, with a pair of victories over Pac-12 South opponents, the question now is where does BYU go from here?
The Cougars have a quarterback in Jaren Hall who has shown great ability, if somewhat inconsistently at times through the first two games. The offensive line is a strength, as is running back Tyler Allgeier, and the defense has shown the ability to come up with takeaways when needed.
The once vaunted schedule doesn’t look as difficult now, either, though next week’s game against Arizona State should be a significant test, as could meetings with Boise State, Virginia, Baylor and USC.
Obviously no one knows for sure what will happen the remainder of the season. That’s why the games are played. But after the way BYU beat Utah, things are only looking up in Provo.
“It is a huge win for our program,” Hall said. “Just momentum-building.”
Utah must improve in the trenches, and quickly
Even the most casual football fans noticed it Saturday against BYU. Utah’s line — on both sides of the ball — isn’t what it once was. The Utes have won throughout the Whittingham era by being one of the best teams where it matters most, in the trenches, but that doesn’t appear to be a guarantee anymore.
Whittingham admitted as much.
“(BYU) beat us at the line of scrimmage, which I would have bet my house going in that we would not lose the line of scrimmage,” he said. “My house isn’t worth that much so it’s not that big of a deal, but I never would have seen that coming where we didn’t control the line of scrimmage. That’s our M.O. That’s what we do best.”
The Utes also struggled in the trenches in the season opener against Weber State, though Utah’s talent simply outclassed the Wildcats over the course of the game. That didn’t happen against the Cougars, though, and most likely won’t happen against many of the remaining opponents on Utah’s schedule.
Up next is a San Diego State team that feasted on Arizona, rushing for 271 yards — averaging 4.1 yards per carry — en route to a 38-14 win. Two weeks after that is USC, which despite losing to Stanford, rushed for 185 yards, averaging 5.6 yards per carry.
In a rout of UNLV, Arizona State rushed for 287 yards, averaging 6.1 yards per carry, and there is no need to rehash what UCLA did against LSU on the ground a week ago (if a refresher is needed, the Bruins rushed for 210 yards and two touchdowns in their 38-27 win over the Tigers. Zach Charbonnet was particularly impressive, with 117 yards and a touchdown on only 11 carries).
If the Utes hope to contend in the Pac-12 South division, they need to hurry and get better in the trenches. It is as simple as that.
Utah State has a quarterback... and an offense
It might be time to stop comparing the 2021 Utah State Aggies to the 2020 version. Last year’s team was not good, to say the least.
Through two games this season, the Aggies look like a complete different outfit, and they now have a starting quarterback.
Head coach Blake Anderson remained non-committal about the competition between Logan Bonner and Andrew Peasley leading up to Utah State’s 48-24 win over North Dakota on Friday, but after Bonner threw for a career-high 390 yards and four touchdowns, helping USU rally from an early 21-7 deficit, the battle came to an end. Bonner is the Aggies’ guy moving forward.
And he should be. With him under center, Utah State has the third-best scoring offense in the Mountain West and the best total offense by far in the conference. Most importantly, the Aggies are winning.
USU is now 2-0 for the first time since 2012, and Anderson is the first Aggie head coach to start his tenure 2-0 since E.L. Romney in 1918. That’s the same Romney who had multiple stadiums named after him.
Anderson wasn’t thrilled with how his team beat North Dakota — a little too close for comfort, especially early, but he couldn’t be more pleased with his guys through the opening two weeks of the season.
“We were very frustrated with how we started,” Anderson said. “... We had a couple of mishaps that made it tough to get started. I loved the way our guys fought back. That’s two weeks in a row where things were not going perfect and guys didn’t get down on the sidelines. Energy was positive, we made some adjustments and got things going late to finish it the way we did.
“They stressed me out like crazy. I would love to see a game where we lead from the beginning and carry it, but maybe that’s just not who we are.”
Why not Oregon?
The 12th-ranked Oregon Ducks recorded the win of the season Saturday, upending perennial playoff contender and 3rd-ranked Ohio State 35-28. They did it in Columbus no less.
It was the kind of win that makes or breaks a season, a playoff resume, careers even.
The Ducks handed OSU coach Ryan Day the first regular season loss of his Buckeye head coaching career and won the program’s first game against OSU ever — Oregon previously was 0-9 against Ohio State.
It wasn’t a fluky win, either. The Ducks offense was something to behold, particularly the rushing attack. Oregon ran for 269 yards and three touchdowns, averaging 7.1 yards per carry.
If BYU over Utah was big, Oregon over Ohio State was something else entirely, and it sets up the Ducks as a legitimate College Football Playoff contender.
To that point, and per ESPN’s Heather Dinich, Oregon’s chances to reach the CFP were 33% after the win over OSU, the fifth best mark of any team. Before the win, had a 4% chance to make the playoff and only had a 12% chance to beat the Buckeyes. Oregon is also favored in all of its remaining games except for a trip to UCLA.
For the first time since 2016, the Pac-12 has a legitimate playoff contender.
“We’ve been building towards this for a while now, but we’re not there yet,” Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal told ESPN. “I don’t want to in any way, shape or form give that impression. We’re not, and our guys know that too.
“But we’ve taken massive steps, and I think even more importantly, we’ve taken massive psychological steps, understanding how important that is going to be on Saturdays ... all those things, they just come into play and they just further strengthen the culture and the direction of the program.”
Stanford has entered the chat, as has Pac-12 mayhem
Oregon and UCLA might be the Pac-12’s best hopes to have a team make the playoff — ASU has as good a chance as any team, too — and much of that is due to Stanford.
The Cardinal was awful in its Week 1 loss to Kansas State, so in pure Pac-12 fashion, what’d it do Week 2? Upset Pac-12 South favorite USC 42-28.
Former 5-star recruit Tanner McKee was a difference maker. Named the starting quarterback days before the game in replacement of Jack West, McKee completed 16 of 23 passes for 234 yards and two touchdowns while also rushing for another touchdown, helping Stanford lead from start to finish.
“It shows who we are as a team,” Stanford’s Nathaniel Peat told ESPN. “We have a lot of playmakers and a lot of potential. Last week, we really didn’t show who we were.”
For anyone who has followed the Pac-12 over the years, Stanford’s win shouldn’t be surprising. Not because the Cardinal is good, but because parity routinely has kept the Pac-12 out of the national discourse — think playoff — save for Pac-12 After Dark fandom.
The conference regularly cannibalizes its own, which is thrilling on a week-to-week basis, but it makes non-conference showings by Pac-12 teams all the more important.
Week 1 was rough in that regard. Week 2 was a little better. Oregon, of course, was the brightest spot, but Oregon State, Washington State and ASU all recorded wins. Colorado lost to 5th-ranked Texas A&M but probably raised the Pac-12’s profile in the process, and Utah’s loss to BYU likely won’t be held against anyone.
The big loss once again belonged to Washington, which wasn’t competitive on the road against Michigan, and Cal dropped a winnable game against TCU.
Still, the Pac-12 definitely rose in profile from last week.
Jay Hill continues to make history at Weber State
There was much more that happened during Week 2 at the FBS level, whether it be Notre Dame barely surviving Toledo, Iowa becoming the new Big Ten favorite thanks to a convincing win over rival Iowa State, Florida unearthing the next Tim Tebow/Cam Newton in Anthony Richardson and Arkansas humiliating Texas.
Oh, and the foursome of schools the Big 12 just added — BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and UCF — went 4-0 and are a combined 7-1 on the season.
Some history was made at the FCS level in Utah, though, that should not be ignored.
Since his arrival at Weber State, Jay Hill has transformed the Wildcats’ program into an FCS power, and on Saturday against Dixie State, Hill picked up the 53rd win of his career, tying him with Dave Arslanian for the most in school history.
Hill already was the greatest coach in Weber State history after having taken the Wildcats to the FCS playoffs every year since 2016. Only one other Weber State coach — Ron McBride — ever took the Wildcats to the playoff more than once. Tying Arslanian for the most wins is just more of the same.
The game on Saturday wasn’t much to look at — Weber State won handily, 41-3 — but Hill has demonstrated that he is one of the great coaches at the FCS level, if not Division I football on the whole.