It's one down and 11 to go for the Utah and BYU football teams in their "quests" for perfect regular seasons and a possible BCS bowl game.
After watching the first halves of their games Saturday, you could see how the two rivals may well end up going unbeaten until they play each other in late November. The Utes absolutely dominated Michigan on both sides of the ball in rolling to a 12-point lead that should have been more, while the Cougars toyed with Northern Iowa in racing to a 24-point lead.
Then came the second halves.
The Cougars were sloppy, dropping four fumbles and getting outscored 14-0, while the Utes started playing scared again, blowing another big lead as they've done numerous times under coach Kyle Whittingham.
Still there were enough good things that happened in Ann Arbor and Provo to believe the Utes and Cougars are on a collision course that could find them unbeaten and in the Top-10 come late November.
The key for Utah and BYU getting to a BCS bowl game on New Year's Day team will likely depend on how they do against their BCS opponents. Because the Mountain West Conference shouldn't be a big problem for the Utes and Cougars and no one will be impressed by those victories anyway.
It appears the Mountain West Conference has just one other team TCU that should be a real challenge this season. The Horned Frogs looked impressive in opening with a 26-3 thrashing of New Mexico in Albuquerque Saturday. The Lobos had been picked for fourth in the league, but their offense was anemic against TCU's defense.
As for the rest of the MWC, well ...
Wyoming barely escaped with a one-point win at home over Ohio of the Mid American Conference. San Diego State was upset at home by Cal Poly, for crying out loud. UNLV struggled to beat Utah State at home. Who knows about Air Force, which had little problem with Southern Utah as expected. The Falcons could be OK.
Utah must play at Air Force Sept. 20, but even though they lost to the Falcons last year, AFA isn't as scary without the wishbone. The Utes' next big challenge could be Oct. 2 when Oregon State comes to town for a Thursday night contest. But the Beavers were picked for sixth in the Pac-10 and didn't look great in an opening loss to Stanford.
The Utes could come out of that game 6-0 when they'll have to go to Wyoming, where the Cowboys and the whole town of Laramie will be waiting to avenge last year's 50-0 embarrassment and and onsides kick fiasco. Then after a home game against Colorado State, Utah gets a fortuitous bye week before going to Albuquerque, where it always seem to struggle. After that it's a Thursday night home game against TCU, followed by a trip to San Diego before the big game against you-know-who.
The Cougars have a chance to prove their mettle against a pair of so-so Pac-10 teams the next two weeks. Washington was picked to finish eighth and was crushed by Oregon 44-10, while UCLA, picked for fifth under new head coach Rick Neuheisel, plays tonight at home against Tennessee.
BYU's toughest game will come in a Thursday night game in Fort Worth on Oct. 16. The Horned Frogs won't be undefeated by then, seeing as they must play at Oklahoma later this month, but could very well be 6-1. The other game to watch out for will be a Nov. 15 game at Air Force.
Whittingham is right to call talk about a BCS bowl game "absurd" and BYU's Bronco Mendenhall always downplays such talk.
The chances are, something will happen during the next three months to prevent the ultimate showdown between the Utes and Cougars. A turnover at the wrong time of a close game ... an injury to a quarterback or another key player ... just an overall bad game. A lot could happen to derail the possible matchup of unbeaten rivals on Nov. 22.Still, it's fun to dream, isn't it?
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