Among the many side effects of Stanford’s annual upset of Oregon is how the Cardinal’s victory Thursday night alters the view of Utah.
The Utes may remain the only team to beat Stanford all season. As long as the Utes become bowl-eligible, they can claim a successful season with that victory as the centerpiece. If not, that game becomes an indictment. In other words, if they were good enough to beat Stanford, how could they finish 2-7 (or worse) in the Pac-12?
The further effect of Stanford’s win is the Utes will catch Oregon coming off a loss next week in Eugene.
As for Saturday’s game with Arizona State at Rice-Eccles Stadium, consider that Utah led Stanford 27-14 at one point in October and Stanford led ASU 39-7 in September. And then disregard those scores. Watching the Pac-12 for three seasons, I’ve become a big believer in matchups. Utah matched up well physically and athletically against Stanford, but ASU simply has been too fast for the Utes. The Sun Devils overwhelmed Utah in a 37-7 win last season, and it really wasn’t that close. Utah will be more competitive at home, but unless quarterback Travis Wilson suddenly returns to his Stanford-upsetting form, the Utes won’t keep up offensively. The pick: Arizona State 38, Utah 24.
BYU at Wisconsin
This is an intriguing game on many levels, starting with Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen’s 16th meeting with BYU in 17 seasons. In terms of playing styles, the matchup resembles Stanford vs. Oregon. Wisconsin wants to sustain long drives and BYU wants to extend the game with as many plays and possessions as possible. I’ve never out too much emphasis on time of possession — each team gets the ball the same number of times, right? — but it definitely worked to Stanford’s advantage against Oregon, because the Cardinal kept scoring touchdowns or field goals and their long drives took Oregon’s offense out of rhythm. But the most important factor was Stanford’s keeping keeping Oregon from scoring on two trips inside the 5-yard line in the first half.
To use Andersen’s favorite adjective, a tremendous amount of credibility is available to BYU in this game. If the Cougars are overwhelmed in Madison, they’ll revert to having just a nice season. A win could vault them into the Top 25. BYU will be competitive, but actually pulling off an upset at Wisconsin — as Andersen’s Utah State team discovered last season — will be difficult. The pick: Wisconsin 28, BYU 21.
Utah State at UNLV
Before the season, this looked like an easy win for the Aggies. But then the Rebels finally showed some life under coach Bobby Hauck and USU lost quarterback Chuckie Keeton to a knee injury. That combination should make for a decent contest, but the Aggies still look like the better team.
USU’s defense shut down Hawaii’s passing attack last week after allowing a touchdown on the opening drive of the second half. The Aggie secondary will be tested again, but USU’s offense should overcome anything the Rebels can produce. The pick: Utah State 35, UNLV 24.
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