Utah football: Utes have two wins, but lots of questions
In a perfect situation, the No. 17 Utah Utes would have easily dispatched with San Jose State on Saturday, gaining confidence and familiarity with one another as they go into the showdown at Oregon.
But the Utes (2-0) returned home from beating San Jose State 24-14 far from perfect, even if the record remains untarnished after two games. Evidently some voters are a little skeptical, too, after Saturday's showing, since Utah moved up to No. 16 in the USA Today coaches poll but was jumped by Cincinnati in the Associated Press poll to fall to No. 18.
In a way, the Utes have even more questions after the game than before it, with offensive lineman Caleb Schlauderaff (knee) and star running back Matt Asiata (shoulder) leaving Saturday's game earlier than planned because of injuries.
Both will be evaluated further, but their availability is at least in question for Utah's contest in Eugene.
That means the duty of carrying Utah's offense falls more to quarterback Terrance Cain.
Against the Spartans, Cain looked like a dynamic player at times, just average in other moments and too cautious in other crucial plays.
While he did show more variance in his offense, looking downfield more as he promised he would, he wasn't as successful as the Utes had hoped against the Spartans' defense.
He'll be tested again in Eugene by a team that has its own struggles but nevertheless should be a more formidable opponent in a more hostile atmosphere than what the Utes experienced in San Jose.
The Ducks had a second straight game filled with drama Saturday, but at least this one was centralized to the field, unlike their opening loss at Boise State when running back LeGarrette Blount punched a Boise State player.
That move earned him a yearlong suspension and gave the Ducks the sudden task of finding a new offensive weapon.
Judging by Saturday's 38-36 win over Purdue, it's a work in progress as the Ducks' offense had two turnovers and was just 4-for-12 in third down conversions.
Quarterback Jeremiah Masoli was 11-for-21 for 163 yards and led the rushing attack with 14 carries for 84 yards.
Purdue scored with a minute left, but failed on the conversion that would have tied the game.
Before they go about concerning themselves with the Ducks, the Utes first must spend time on their own deficiencies, Utah coach Kyle Whittingham indicated following Saturday's game.
"It'll keep us busy, no doubt," he said. "We hung in there, though, and the bottom line is that we came out with a win, although we didn't play as efficiently as we should have."
How the Utes can improve in efficiency if Schlauderaff and Asiata are out is the pressing question.
Utah's offensive line has seen several adjustments after Schlauderaff was hurt in camp. Adjustments at running back are a little more uncertain since Asiata was expected to be the main carrier this season.
If he can't go, who the Utes use in his place may depend on what kind of look they want to give the Ducks. Junior Eddie Wide has the most experience, but isn't a north-south runner like Asiata. Freshman Sausan Shakerin is more of a power runner, as he showed Saturday when he busted through San Jose State's defense for a 46-yard gain with his first collegiate carry.
(Times are Mountain)
Sept. 3 » def. Utah State, 35-17
Sept. 12 » def. San Jose State, 24-14
Sat. » at Oregon, 1:30 p.m., ESPN
Sept. 26 » vs. Louisville, 5:30 p.m., CBS C
Oct. 3 » bye
Oct. 10 » at Colorado State, 4 p.m., The mtn.
Oct. 17 » at UNLV, 7 p.m., The mtn.
Oct. 24 » vs. Air Force, 2 p.m., VERSUS
Oct. 31 » vs. Wyoming, 6 p.m., The mtn.
Nov. 7 » vs. New Mexico, 4 p.m., The mtn.
Nov. 14 » at TCU, 6:30 p.m., CBS C
Nov. 21 » vs. San Diego State, 2 p.m., Versus
Nov. 28 » at BYU, 3 p.m., CBS C, The mtn.