Mike Sorensen: Three big-time football programs visit Utah this Saturday
Otto Kitsinger, AP
SALT LAKE CITY — After two straight weeks of the three big schools in Utah not playing any football games on Saturday, this upcoming weekend will arguably be the best Saturday of football the state of Utah has ever seen as far as the quality of teams coming in to play on the same day.
Stanford, Georgia Tech and Boise State are all big-name football schools that have a combined record of 11-4 — with all four losses coming to currently ranked teams.
Stanford, which plays at Utah Saturday afternoon, is ranked No 5 in the country with a perfect 5-0 mark. Georgia Tech, which plays BYU Saturday evening, comes in at 3-2, with close losses to Virginia Tech (No. 24) and Miami (No. 13) the past two weeks. Boise State, which plays at Utah State, is 3-2, with losses to No. 16 Washington and No. 23 Fresno State.
If you’re wondering if Stanford is the highest ranked team that has ever played in Salt Lake City or in the state of Utah, it’s not even close. Most folks remember that the highest ranked team to play in Utah was No. 1 Miami in 1990 against BYU in Provo, a game the Cougars won 28-21.
The highest-ranked team Utah has ever played at home was No. 3 BYU in 1984, a game the Utes lost 24-14. In 2010, the Utes lost to No. 4 TCU when the Horned Frogs blew out the then-sixth-ranked Utes 47-7.
Utah State has twice played No. 6-ranked teams at home — Oregon in 2001 and Boise State in 2009. The Aggies have also played two No. 1-ranked teams on the road, Nebraska in 1971 and BYU in 1984.
Of course it is impossible to go to all three games, but you can spend six hours or so in front of your high-definition TV Saturday watching the games, as Utah-Stanford kicks off at 4 p.m (Pac-12 Networks), BYU-Georgia Tech at 5 p.m. (ESPNU) and Utah State-Boise State at 6 p.m (CBS Sports Network).
TOO BAD FOR CHUCKIE: What a difference one player can make to a team.
Before Saturday, I had seen Chuckie Keeton play three games this year in person and thought he was one of the most exciting college quarterbacks I’ve ever seen. Everyone talks about his running ability, but he also is very accurate with his arm as his 69 percent completion rate this year indicates.
But without Keeton, Utah State looked just like an average team for three quarters against BYU after he left with a serious knee injury. Now instead of a likely run at the Mountain West Conference championship, the Aggies may have to be content just to qualify for one of the six MWC-affiliated bowl games.
As average as the offense looked without Keeton, it still makes you wonder what happened to the Aggie defense, which held USC to 17 points and less than 300 yards two weeks ago and a potent San Jose State team to just 12 points a week earlier. The loss of Keeton may have had a negative effect on the defense, or perhaps the BYU offense is just that much better than the offenses of the Trojans and Spartans.
COUGAR BOWL HOPES: BYU should make its bowl game now that it has taken care of Utah State to improve to 3-2 on the year.
With an offense that can run and throw to go along with a strong defense, the Cougars should be in any game they play from here on out. On the other hand, except for the Idaho State game, they could also lose almost any game. Wisconsin and Notre Dame will be difficult on the road; Georgia Tech and Boise State will be challenges at home; and Houston (4-0) and Nevada (3-3), which scored 44 against San Diego State Friday night, won’t be pushovers on the road.
The Cougs wish they could get a do-over on that Virginia loss on opening weekend. The Cavs are looking worse by the week as they were blown out at home by Ball State Saturday, 48-27, to fall to 2-3.
UTES HAVE TOUGH ROAD: The Utah Utes, on the other hand, have their work cut out for them to get back to a bowl game.
The Utes will need to beat either Arizona or USC on the road and Washington State and Colorado to get to six wins and go bowling. Games against top-five teams Stanford and Oregon and an Arizona State team that has been ranked much of the year are going to be awfully hard to win. While the Utes have to be encouraged by last week’s close loss to UCLA — staying in the game until the final minute despite six interceptions — they have a tough road coming up.
WILDCATS, SEARS NEED WINS: You’ve got to give it to Weber State Jody Sears for his enthusiasm and positive attitude. But that doesn’t go very far without a good quarterback or decent offense.
The Wildcats lost their fifth straight game Saturday and although the offense finally scored a couple of touchdowns, Weber lost by 22 points to Eastern Washington. Before scoring 19 Saturday, the Wildcats had scored just 22 points in their previous four games combined.
Sears, you might remember, signed a three-year contract after last season that stipulates he can be fired without any more compensation if his team doesn’t win at least four games this year.
With contests coming up against Big Sky powers Montana and Montana State, along with Cal Poly, Portland State, Southern Utah and Idaho State, Sears needs to find a way to squeeze out three more wins if he wants to be in Ogden next year.
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