Kragthorpe: Compelling weekend for Aggies, Cougars, Utes
Utah State is trying to remain unbeaten in the Western Athletic Conference. So is BYU, actually. And Utah is fighting for bowl eligibility.
It may not have appeared that way during the summer, but Nov. 17 has become the most compelling Saturday of the local college football season at least since Sept. 15, when the Utah-BYU and USU-Wisconsin games came down to missed field goals. A look at Saturday's games:
Utah State at Louisiana Tech, 2 p.m. MST
The Aggies can clinch a WAC championship with a win over No. 19 Louisiana Tech. Doing so will require scoring a bunch of points.
USU's defense has played solidly, but the Bulldogs have scored against everybody, including 57 points in a loss to Texas A&M. So the responsibility falls to quarterback Chuckie Keeton, running back Kerwynn Williams and the rest of the Aggie offense to keep up on the scoreboard.
Say what you want about the weakened WAC, having lost Fresno State and Nevada to the Mountain West, but the presence of USU and Louisiana Tech will validate a title for one of them. They're genuinely good teams. USU has a better balance of offense and defense, but Tech's offense is so productive that its one dimension might be sufficient.
BYU at San Jose State, 8:30 p.m. MST
The Cougars have beaten Utah State and Idaho and close their partial WAC schedule next week at New Mexico State. They haven't played Louisiana Tech, which would have been an interesting matchup. San Jose State offers a somewhat similar test, though.
The Spartans can throw the ball effectively, with quarterback David Fales. He shredded USU's defense for 467 yards, but the Aggies countered with 13 sacks in a 49-27 win on Oct. 13. That's the same day when Oregon State passed for 332 yards in beating BYU, the only time the Cougar defense really has been exposed.
So this will be a decent test for a BYU secondary, with safety Joe Sampson having withdrawn from school.
Arizona at Utah, 8 p.m.
The theme is emerging: Here comes another high-powered offense. Arizona is dynamic and multidimensional, led by quarterback Matt Scott (assuming he returns after missing last week's game with a concussion) and running back Ka'Deem Carey. Utah will need either its best offensive performance of the season to match the Wildcats or a phenomenal effort from the defense.
It's true that Arizona has not won a road game, but the Wildcats' schedule has included trips to Oregon and Stanford where they scored 48 points in regulation, before losing in overtime. The one variable in this game is how each team will respond to its situation. Arizona has clinched bowl eligibility and plays rival Arizona State next week. Does that take pressure off the Wildcats, or make that complacent?
As for the Utes, they're desperate, needing two wins for bowl eligibility. Historically, coach Kyle Whittingham's teams have performed well in such circumstances.
A loss not only would destroy Utah's bowl hopes, but would create doubt about its ability to compete in the Pac-12. In two years of league play, the Utes are 6-10 overall and 2-6 against South division rivals.