This past weekend, the temperature for Utah sports was hot, cold, and lukewarm, all at the same time. The University of Utah football team was very hot, and looked virtually perfect as they trounced 11th ranked UCLA 44-6. Real Salt Lake managed a lukewarm 0-0 draw against Toronto, but considering they were down a man for most of the game and playing in Canada, the effort was hot. BYU’s offensive statistics were hot (they got in the end zone seven times), but the rest of the team was lukewarm at best (they still lost by more than a touchdown), and the special teams were downright cold. Utah State, sorry to say, is neither hot, nor cold. Following a 54-3 drubbing at the hands of the Oklahoma Sooners, the only word to describe them is: bad. Not bad that they lost to the #3 team in college football – bad that the overwhelming defeat was expected by everyone.
The question lurking in the midst of all this is: which of the many teams we have seen are the real ones? Is Utah the team that is capable of demolishing strong Pac-10 opponents? It wasn’t just a loss, either – Utah beat them in every possible way, and made UCLA hang their heads. Or are they the team that can’t manage more than one touchdown against a lesser-talented (but very hard-working) Air Force defense? Which BYU will take the field next Saturday – the team that worked over Arizona? Or will it be the team that racks up lots of offensive yards but also lots of penalties and turnovers? Even RSL has had flashes of brilliance in the midst of their dismal season. At least Utah State is consistent, even if it is consistently awful.
The upcoming games will provide interesting tests for the two biggest college programs. Utah’s game will not be as much a test of athletic ability as an indication of preparation and concentration. The same team that can wipe out a significant Pac-10 school should have no problems with a bottom-of-the-pack conference foe. If Utah does play well and beat UNLV in Las Vegas, then we have reason to hope they could recover from a shaky start and produce a good-if-not-great season. The injuries have been significant, but Utah has shown that they have enough talent to make up for the missing players.
The Cougars have a bit more significant of a test, hosting Air Force this Saturday. The Falcons are on a tear right now, having beaten the other two “elite” schools in the Mountain West Conference (Utah and TCU) in the past two games. If they could knock off BYU, that would complete the task and put Air Force as the standing favorites to win the conference. Among the problems BYU will face is that Air Force runs an unusual offense designed to keep opposing defenses off-balance. If that sounds familiar, consider this reminder: Tulsa 55, BYU 47. BYU’s defense has been questionable since the Arizona game, and their special teams are just bad. Field position is important when facing a ball-control offense like Air Force, and the Cougars have had their struggles winning that battle. On the other hand, the offense is still high-powered enough that they may just be able to outscore the Falcons. The bottom line is BYU needs to win this game, and if they can do it with convincing defense, the light at the end of the tunnel may not be a freight train after all.
Our Top 3 in Utah for this week:
3. Nick Rimando
2. Darrell Mack
1. Robert Johnson