This is the first Saturday of the season when BYU, Utah and Utah State are playing three out-of-state teams.
There’s some mutual interest in these games, with BYU meeting next week’s Utah opponent (Oregon State) and USU playing a future BYU opponent (San Jose State). The other common theme: Quarterback play is a huge issue for each team this week.
Oregon State at BYU
Here we go with another Riley Referendum. The issue is no longer how much backup quarterback Taysom Hill deserves to play, following his season-ending knee injury. We’re back to the question of whether Riley Nelson can beat a high-quality opponent. Just in time for Nelson’s return from a back injury, here come the No. 10 Beavers into Provo.
Yes, Nelson beat OSU last October, but that was a much different team, one that finished 3-9. The current Beavers are 4-0, although they have their own quarterbacking questions, with Sean Mannion temporarily sidelined by a knee injury. That gives junior Cody Vaz his first career start.
Utah at UCLA
The clock is ticking for Utah senior Jon Hays, regarding how long he’ll keep his starting job, with freshman Travis Wilson pressing for playing time. Wilson undoubtedly will get some snaps at the Rose Bowl, much as another southern California native, Tommy Grady, did in 2006. Of course, Grady threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown in the second quarter, and that was pretty much that.
Wilson should be better prepared to play, and Utah’s 114th-ranked offense certainly needs whatever jolt he can provide.
Utah State at San Jose State
The Aggies needed one of their series of comebacks to beat SJSU in Logan last season, and the Spartans are much improved. USU opens Western Athletic Conference play with a tough test, and it’s a challenge for quarterback Chuckie Keeton to respond after posting 243 total yards and three points last week at BYU.
The Spartan defense coordinated by Cache Valley native Kent Baer held Stanford to 20 points in the season opener and has played solidly all season.