What a week it was in college football.
Seven ranked teams went down this week, with none bigger than Auburn's incredible 34-28 win over rival Alabama. With the game tied 28-28, and with one second left, Alabama attempted a game-winning field goal. The field goal came up just short and Auburn's Chris Davis returned the ball 109 yards for the game-winning score. With the loss, Alabama’s shot at a perfect season and a third straight BCS title is over.
That wasn't the only rivalry game that came down to the wire. The 110th meeting between Ohio State and Michigan ended with Ohio State winning 42-41. Michigan scored a touchdown with 32 seconds left and elected to go for the win with a two-point conversion. The two-point conversion failed, keeping Ohio State's unbeaten streak alive for the second consecutive season.
So how did the local in-state teams do? While the local games were not quite as dramatic, Utah State, BYU and Utah all won last Saturday.
In its first year in the Mountain West Conference, the Utah State Aggies will be playing in the inaugural MWC championship game, thanks to their 35-7 victory over Wyoming on Saturday.
The Aggies' defense held the Cowboys to just seven points, created two turnovers, capitalized on offense with more than 310 total yards and most importantly, scored five touchdowns. The Aggies made sure they did not squander a big opportunity at home in front of 21,325 fans at Romney Stadium.
“It’s one of the best feelings I’ve ever felt,” Utah State head coach Matt Wells said. “It’s what you get into this for, to play for a championship."
The win clinched the Mountain Division title for Utah State. The Aggies will now take on No. 23 Fresno State in the first-ever Mountain West championship game. The game will be played in Fresno, Calif., Saturday at Bulldog Stadium at 8 p.m. MST.
The Cougars got off to a slow start against Nevada in a homecoming game for all-American linebacker Kyle Van Noy. Heading into halftime, the Cougars trailed 7-0.
Bronco Mendenhall wanted his team to get the message at halftime as he voiced his displeasure with the team.
“What happens in the locker room stays in the locker room,” he said. “I try to be fairly calm on the sideline in these settings. But that wasn’t the moment to be calm. I was furious.”
“It wasn’t pretty,” Van Noy said of the halftime atmosphere.
The team certainly got the message as it scored on its first four possessions in the second half. The Cougars were led by running back Jamaal Williams, who rushed for a career-high 219 yards and a touchdown. Taysom Hill ran for 154 yards and a touchdown to go along with 98 passing yards and two touchdowns. Hill and Williams now have more than 1,200 rushing yards apiece on the season.
BYU has already set a new record for rushing yards this season with 3,295 yards. This broke the old record set in 2001 when the Cougars rushed for 2,832 yards.
Right now, Hill and Williams are fifth and sixth when it comes to rushing yards in a season. With a big bowl game, either one could climb into second place for most rushing yards in a single season.
Although the Utes are not going bowling this year, the team sent the seniors out the right way with a 24-17 win over Colorado on Saturday.
“We are moving forward and will take this as a positive. We sent the seniors off how they should go,” said quarterback Adam Schulz. “However, we didn’t make a bowl game and should use this as motivation in the offseason.”
Several seniors made key contributions in the win against Colorado. Trevor Reilly led the way with 14 tackles, including an interception at the end of the game to seal the win. Defensive tackles Tenny Palepoi and LT Tuipolutu had eight tackles and two fumble recoveries, respectively, and running back Kelvin York ran for a career-high 132 yards and two touchdowns.
The Utes, who faced their toughest football schedule in school history, need better play from their perimeter players if they want to make a splash in the Pac-12.
“It’s all about the perimeter players, and we’ve got to get it done in recruiting to make that happen,” said Whittingham, who added that it’ll also involve guys already in the program (redshirts and young players) stepping up and being factors.
So what does the national media think about how the local teams have fared this season?
Every week, USA Today's Paul Myerberg re-ranks all the college football teams. Utah State made the biggest jump as the Aggies jumped seven spots to come in at No. 48. BYU comes in at No. 34, while Utah checks in at No. 76.
BYU is the first team to check in, coming in at No. 38. The Cougars’ victory over Nevada didn't shock anybody and not surprising, didn't sway voters either. Utah State jumped 15 spots after beating Wyoming and claiming the top spot in the Mountain Division for the right to play Fresno State in the inaugural MWC championship game. As for the Utes, last weekend's win over Colorado didn't do much for them as they dropped two spots to check in at No. 67.
The Sagarin rankings come from Jeff Sagarin, a well-known sports statistician who developed a methodology for ranking and rating a variety of sports. The NCAA has used his ratings for events such as the NCAA tournament, as well as the BCS.
Looking over his latest rankings, the Cougars check in at No. 28 and the Utes come in at No. 33, while the Aggies come in at No. 42. Looking at strength of schedule, the Utes have faced the toughest schedule nationally, easily beating BYU's (32nd) and USU's (90th) schedules.
While the season didn't go as expected for fans across the state, the college football season brought plenty of great games and victories to the state of Utah. The Utes beat then-No. 5 Stanford at home, while the Cougars beat then-No. 15 Texas at home. There's also the Cougars' victory over Boise State that broke the streak of teams from the state of Utah losing to the Broncos.
Justin Giles is a recent graduate with a bachelor's degree in communications with an emphasis in journalism and sports communication. Twitter: Justingiles22 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org