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6 takeaways from the weekend in college football

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Washington tight end Jack Westover, right, and wide receiver Ja’Lynn Polk celebrate a touchdown.

Washington tight end Jack Westover, right, and wide receiver Ja’Lynn Polk celebrate a touchdown against Michigan State during the second half of an NCAA football game Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022, in Seattle. Washington won 39-28.

Stephen Brashear, Associated Press

Three weeks in, and the 2022 college football season continues to entertain.

Week 3 didn’t have the upsets of Week 2, but that didn’t make it less entertaining. The landscape of the sport became much more clear, including where in-state schools like BYU and Utah stand and how good the Pac-12 and Mountain West conferences are this year.

Here are six takeaways from the latest in college football.

Utah is building to something


Utah tailback Micah Bernard (2) runs the ball for a first down and is tackled by Dez Malone (32) of the San Diego State Aztecs at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022. The Utes won 35-7.

Ben B. Braun, Deseret News

It is always hard early in the season to accurately capture how good a team is.

Preseason polls are based on past results and reputation more than anything else, plus there are no preseason games wherein teams can work out their kinks without repercussion.

After losing to Florida in Week 1, Utah’s College Football Playoff hopes were seemingly dealt a serious blow, as was the Utes’ general perception nationally.

Two weeks later, though, and Utah has settled in to be about what was expected — one of the best teams in the West and, if things break right, a potential CFB participant.

San Diego State is not the program it has been in years past, but the Utes handled the Aztecs 35-7, a score that doesn’t accurately convey how dominant Utah was.

Despite a slow start, Utah was simply better than SDSU in all three phases — offense, defense and special teams — and it wasn’t really that close.

Perhaps most encouraging, the Utes’ defensive front was stout against the run, which was not the case against Florida.

Neither Southern Utah nor SDSU are the caliber of opponent that Utah will face as the year goes on, but the Utes seem to have successfully bounced back from the loss to the Gators and settled in once again as a legitimately good team, with the potential to be great.

What to make of BYU’s resounding loss?


Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Jaren Hall (3) is hit by Oregon Ducks defensive end Brandon Dorlus (3) at Autzen Stadium in Eugene on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022. No foul was called.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

BYU had the chance to do something special Saturday in its trip to Oregon. A win over the Ducks likely would have vaulted the Cougars into the top 10 in the AP poll, and set BYU up to make a run at a berth in a New Year’s Six bowl.

After being convincingly outplayed by the Ducks, though, BYU’s hopes for a truly remarkable season were dealt a serious blow.

There is a still an avenue for BYU to make a premier bowl game and another double-digit win season remains a possibility. A win over the Ducks just could have (would have) given the Cougars an argument to being the best team in the West.

BYU has plenty to work on after the loss, including weaknesses that were exposed by Oregon.

As the Deseret News’ Jay Drew wrote, “The Cougars were overwhelmed in the trenches on both sides of the ball,” and “Oregon’s superiority on the edges in terms of talent, speed and quickness,” was readily apparent.

BYU head coach Kalani Sitake was in agreement about Oregon’s speed.

“They have tons of athleticism and speed on their team,” he said. “They are a great team. They are ranked for a reason, and they definitely should climb up the rankings.”

There is time for BYU to turn things around, though, with games against Wyoming and Utah State on the schedule before the Cougars face two of their three most significant tests remaining this season — Notre Dame and Arkansas.

The loss to the Ducks didn’t ruin BYU’s season, but the margin for error is significantly smaller now.

Can Utah State turn its season around?


Utah State coach Blake Anderson reacts as Alabama pulls ahead during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022, in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Vasha Hunt, Associated Press

Utah State didn’t play over the weekend, which afforded the Aggies the opportunity to lick their collective wounds after dismal losses to Alabama and Weber State in consecutive weeks.

At 1-2 overall, Utah State is currently far from the team that won the Mountain West championship last season, and the Aggies know it.

“The open week came at a good time for us,” Utah State head coach Blake Anderson said. “We were emotionally beat up. The season has not gone the way we want and we are still struggling to figure out the identity of this football team.”

There is cautious optimism in Logan after the bye and hope that the season can turn around in a hurry in the Aggies’ favor.

“We gotta figure out what this team can do, what we are good at, what we can hang our hat on,” Anderson said. “... We had a really good week. Guys were open to being coached. Guys were very accountable along the way.

“Great conversations with almost every guy who is getting on the field. ... We’ve had several really good practices, one of our best last night, and if we continue to work that way, this group is going to get better quickly.”

The Mountain West appears to be more wide open than ever this year, especially after Wyoming defeated Air Force, but with the Aggies beginning conference play against UNLV this upcoming weekend, any improvement has to happen now for Utah State or the season could get out of control.

Is the Pac-12 better this year?


Washington State running back Kannon Katzer carries the ball during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Colorado State, Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022, in Pullman, Wash.

Young Kwak, Associated Press

Don’t look now, but the Pac-12 might actually be a deep and solid conference this season.

After Week 1, that idea appeared to hold little to no validity, after Utah and Oregon lost games to Florida and Georgia, respectively.

Since then though, USC, Washington, Washington State and Oregon State have all impressed en route to 3-0 records.

The Trojans have dominated in all three of their contests, most recently against Mountain West power Fresno State. Washington has a win over Michigan State, while Washington State has a win at Wisconsin.

Oregon State, meanwhile, has wins over the two favorites to win the Mountain West — Boise State and Fresno State.

Throw in Utah and Oregon rebounding from their early season losses, and the Pac-12 has six teams that conceivably could, and should, contend for the conference crown (UCLA is undefeated but the Bruins have been perhaps the least impressive undefeated team in the country).

Is the Pac-12 on the same level as the SEC or Big Ten? Probably not, but the conference appears to be deeper than a season ago and could be good enough that an undefeated or one-loss conference champion could make some noise come season’s end.

Could the Mountain West be more open?


Wyoming quarterback Andrew Peasley carries the ball during an NCAA college football game against Illinois Saturday, Aug. 27, 2022, in Champaign, Ill.

Charles Rex Arbogast, Associated Press

On the surface, Wyoming’s victory over Air Force on Saturday wasn’t too surprising.

Sure, the Falcons are expected to contend for the Mountain West championship while the Cowboys are not, but upsets happen in conference play all the time.

Throw in the early season performances of traditional powers like Boise State, San Diego State and Fresno State — who are a combined 4-5 overall — though, and the Mountain West looks as open as it has been in years.

Through the first month of the season, no Mountain West team is undefeated, and every team but Colorado State has at least one victory.

No single team has impressed, except for maybe UNLV, which might have its best team in a decade.

The conference is wide open, or so believe those competing in it.

“I think it is really, really competitive across the board,” USU coach Anderson said. “I think it is anybody’s ball game on a given Saturday. We haven’t had the success against Power Fives as we did a year ago, but in terms of playing across conference lines against each other, I think everybody can win.

“The encouraging thing is we have a chance and the discouraging thing is everybody is good enough to beat you.”

Is there a better story than Kansas?


Kansas head coach Lance Leipold during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Houston, Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022, in Houston.

Eric Christian Smith, Associated Press

Kansas is undefeated. The Jayhawks are 3-0, with a win in Big 12 competition.

Once again, Kansas is undefeated.

For more than a decade, Kansas had been the worst Power Five program in college football, with apologies to teams like Vanderbilt, Arizona, Georgia Tech and others.

Not so much anymore, though.

Lance Leipold has worked wonders in Lawrence, turning the Jayhawks into a competitive team.

At the worst, the Jayhawks could ruin some seasons in the Big 12, and at the best they could legitimately finish towards the top the conference standings, which hasn’t happened since 2007.

Kansas has already matched its best win total in a season at any point in the last 12 years and is on pace to qualify for its first bowl game since 2009.

Leipold has been rumored as a candidate to become the next head coach at Nebraska, and for good reason. The Jayhawks are the best story in college football right now and host undefeated Duke on Saturday, with a chance to improve to 4-0 for the first time since 2007, the same year Kansas played and beat Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl.