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6 takeaways from the weekend in college football

6 observations from the games on Oct. 31

Brigham Young Cougars running back Tyler Allgeier (25) caries the ball into the end zone for a touchdown, but the play was then called back due to a holding foul, during an NCAA football game at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Oct. 31, 2020.
Brigham Young Cougars running back Tyler Allgeier (25) caries the ball into the end zone for a touchdown, but the play was then called back due to a holding foul, during an NCAA football game at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Oct. 31, 2020.
Yukai Peng, Deseret News

BYU continued its undefeated start, improving to 7-0 after a win over Western Kentucky, while Utah State continued to struggle after a loss to San Diego State dropped them to 0-2.

Here are six takeaways from the Cougars’ and Aggies’ games, plus a look at how BYU’s future opponents are doing and a glance at the national scene — Trevor Lawrence and Clemson, plus Texas and Michigan State’s upsets during Week 9 of the college football season.

BYU continues its hot start

Brigham Young Cougars players celebrate after Brigham Young Cougars running back Lopini Katoa (4) scored a touchdown during an NCAA football game at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Oct. 31, 2020.
Brigham Young Cougars players celebrate after Brigham Young Cougars running back Lopini Katoa (4) scored a touchdown during an NCAA football game at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Oct. 31, 2020.
Yukai Peng, Deseret News

BYU continued to cruise through its schedule, accumulating another blowout victory with a 41-10 win over Western Kentucky. The Cougars raced out to a 35-3 lead at halftime before mostly taking their foot off the gas in the second half. It wasn’t quarterback Zach Wilson’s best performance of the season, but he got the job done, throwing for 224 yards and three touchdowns while rushing for another. It was Wilson’s least accurate game of the season as he completed 56.3% of his passes — the first time he’s had a completion percentage below 70% this year — and he also threw an interception, his second of the season.

Wilson and BYU simply overpowered Western Kentucky in the first half as the Cougars scored on their first five possessions. BYU’s offense didn’t look great in the second half, but they didn’t have to as the the defense held the Hilltoppers to just seven second-half points.

BYU hasn’t had many tests after an impressive opening-night victory against Navy, but now we’ll get to see just how good the Cougars are when they take on the Boise State Broncos in a Top 25 matchup on Friday.

Utah State falls to 0-2 after another uninspiring performance

San Diego State quarterback Carson Baker (3) runs as Utah State defensive lineman Marcus Moore (95) chases him during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 31, 2020, in Logan, Utah. (Eli Lucero/The Herald Journal via AP, Pool)
AP

The Aggies fell to 0-2 to start the season for the first time since 2009 — granted, COVID-19 did away with the “tune-up” wins usually found at the beginning of the season — behind another week of lackluster offense. Utah State managed just 215 yards of offense in a 38-7 loss against San Diego State. Trailing just 10-7 at halftime, the Aggies just got dominated in the second half as the Aztecs outscored USU 28-0.

Nothing is working for Gary Andersen’s team to start the season. Utah State’s offense couldn’t generate anything — just 215 yards of total offense (112, passing, 103 rushing). Jason Shelley was 13 for 21 with a touchdown pass and an interception for 88 yards, while backup Andrew Peasley was 5 of 9 for 24 yards and an interception. Things didn’t go great on the ground, either, with Devonta’e Henry-Cole, the team’s leading rusher, only gaining 27 yards. On defense, Utah State couldn’t stop SDSU for most of the second half as the game turned into a rout, a repeat of the defense’s poor showing against Boise State where the Aggies gave up 42 points.

Utah State has 2-0 Nevada next and so far, it’s looking like a steep uphill climb for the Aggies to turn their season around.

Texas, Michigan State pull off upsets to shake up the Top 25

Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger (11) celebrates a touchdown with offensive lineman Derek Kerstetter (68) and offensive lineman Denzel Okafor (78) in front of Oklahoma State linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez (20) during the second half of an NCAA college football game in Stillwater, Okla., Saturday, Oct. 31, 2020. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
AP

Down goes No. 6. Texas shocked highly ranked Oklahoma State in overtime as the Longhorns earned a road win over a top-10 team for the first time since 2010. Texas improved to 4-2 as a result of the 41-34 OT thriller.

With less than five minutes left in the game, Longhorns quarterback Sam Ehlinger found Jake Smith for a touchdown and then delivered the two-point conversion to Cade Brewer to give Texas a 34-31 lead. Oklahoma State drove down the field and kicked a 34-yard field goal to tie it and send the game to overtime. In the extra period, Ehlinger threw a touchdown to Joshua Moore and then the Longhorns sacked Cowboys quarterback Spencer Sanders on fourth down to seal the win.

Michigan State delivered No. 13 Michigan’s annual disappearance from the College Football Playoff conversation with a 27-24 win. Quarterback Rocky Lombardi threw for 323 yards and three touchdowns in the win.

Besides Oklahoma State, everyone else in the Top 10 — Clemson, Alabama, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Georgia, Cincinnati, Texas A&M and Florida — save for No. 9 Wisconsin, whose game against Nebraska was cancelled — took care of business. Oklahoma State’s loss means that the Cougars will probably be ranked in the AP Top 10.

Boise State improves to 2-0, setting up a Top 25 matchup against BYU

Boise State’s Avery Williams heads down the field for a touchdown after fielding a kickoff during the second half against Air Force in an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 31, 2020, at Air Force Academy, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
AP

No. 25 Boise State, without starting quarterback Hank Bachmeier, had no trouble putting away Air Force, 49-30, setting up the biggest challenge of 2020 for BYU. The No. 11 Cougars and Broncos will face off on Friday on the Smurf Turf at Boise State in a marquee matchup set to kick off at 7:45 p.m. BYU is currently favored in the matchup by ESPN’s Football Power Index, which gives them a 54.6% chance to win. It’s sure to be an exciting game in a line of memorable BYU-Boise State games. Since 2015, each Cougars-Broncos game has been competitive, including a 28-27 Boise State win in 2016 and a 28-25 BYU win last year.

Bachmeier did not travel with the team and the Broncos did not provide a reason why he wasn’t in the game, citing a policy of only explaining absences when it is season ending. Former USC quarterback Jack Sears filled in for Bachmeier at quarterback and did a great job, going 17 for 20 and throwing for 280 yards and three touchdowns. It remains to be seen whether Bachmeier or Sears will be the quarterback for the Broncos when they take on the Cougars, but one thing is for certain — it should be a fun matchup.

Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence misses Boston College game due to COVID-19, will miss next week’s Notre Dame game

Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence passes against LSU during the first half of a NCAA College Football Playoff national championship game Monday, Jan. 13, 2020, in New Orleans.
AP

Heisman Trophy front-runner Trevor Lawrence tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday, which knocked him out of Clemson’s game against Boston College. Without Lawrence under shotgun, the No. 1 Tigers were on upset alert at halftime as the Eagles led 28-13. Clemson was able to rally in the second half, outscoring Boston College 21-0 to remain undefeated. Freshman quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei was the catalyst behind the comeback, finishing with 342 yards and two touchdowns. Travis Etienne had 140 yards receiving and 84 yards rushing with two touchdowns.

Clemson’s comeback win and No. 4 Notre Dame’s 31-13 win against Georgia Teach set up the matchup of the week next year — a battle of two top-5 unbeatens. It’s unfortunate that it won’t feature Lawrence. Tigers head coach Dabo Swinney says that Lawrence will not be able to play against the Irish even though Lawerence gets out of quarantine on Thursday or Friday, per ESPN, because Lawrence will have to pass cardiac exams mandated by the ACC and will not have enough time to clear those exams before the game on Saturday.

Uiagalelei, a five-star recruit, proved that he is capable of leading the team, but college football fans will be robbed of seeing both teams at full strength.

San Diego State could prove to be another test for BYU

San Diego State running back Kaegun Williams (26) carries the ball as Utah State linebacker Kevin Meitzenheimer (33) defends during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 31, 2020, in Logan, Utah. (Eli Lucero/The Herald Journal via AP, Pool)
AP

San Diego State, the final game of the regular season for the Cougars, could provide another test for BYU after the Boise State game. After playing the Broncos, BYU will face North Alabama before finishing the schedule with the Aztecs. BYU will be favored to win against SDSU, but the game could prove to be a tougher test than it was when it was originally scheduled. The Aztecs have started the season 2-0, with a pair of blowout wins over 0-2 UNLV and Utah State.

Though they haven’t played the toughest teams, San Diego State has looked impressive on defense, led by linebacker Caden McDonald, who has eight tackles and 2.5 sacks this year. SDSU held the Aggies and Rebels to a combined 13 points while scoring a combined 72 points. Quarterback Carson Baker has thrown for 300 yards and three touchdowns this season, while running back Greg Bell has rushed for 268 yards and two touchdowns.