Today's Top Five Games Impacting the Utah Utes

Brian NelsonCorrespondent ISeptember 5, 2009

NORMAN, OK - SEPTEMBER 27:  Quarterback Sam Bradford #14 of the Oklahoma Sooners during play against the TCU Horned Frogs at Oklahoma Memorial Stadium on September 27, 2008 in Norman, Oklahoma.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

One of the most fascinating byproducts of the crazy BCS is the "buddy system".

With the heavy emphasis on strength of schedule and computer rankings, fellow conference members and direct out-of-conference opponents can become your most powerful allies.

Except for the three hours you beat each other on the field.

The “buddy system” seems even more prominent with non-BCS teams and their links to victories over BCS teams.

Given all the controversy the Mountain West created during the off-season, expect each BCS vs. MWC contest to be under the microscope.

Each week I’ll track the five most compelling “other” games impacting the Utes season.

One of the most significant contributing factors to the Ute’s magnificent run in 2008, was the success of the Mountain West Conference and Utah’s out-of-conference foes…well, some of them at least.

Utah benefited tremendously from Oregon State’s upset over USC and the Beavers ensuing six game win streak in the Pac-10 and final top 25 ranking.

Additionally, upsets by lower-tier Mountain West over BCS programs were instrumental in driving critical computer rankings and national perception.

This BCS “ripple effect” is what makes out-of-conference games so compelling. Their impact can last a whole season.

The good news for Utah in this regard is that Utah State looked much improved with Gary Andersen at the helm. I thought the USU offense looked poised, unpredictable and effective.

Nonetheless, the Utes can now go on and cheer for Gary and his new team throughout the season. A winning record for the Aggies is well within reach.

Boise State -  19  Oregon – 8

The downside: Boise State looked terrific. On both sides of the ball. They are now the hands-down favorite to bust the BCS.

Any Mountain West hopeful will have to beat out the orange and blue. All three have the schedule and the opportunities to do it.

Boise really needs help from the WAC and from Oregon.

Oregon looked terrible on both sides of the ball but especially on the sidelines. I could tell very quickly Chip Kelly (Oregon Head Coach) has never been a head coach before.

If the Ducks show up and beat Utah, it will reflect poorly on the Utes and will be hard for Utah to pass up Boise in the BCS rankings.

Perhaps Boise State hurt their own cause by taunting Blount.

The Upside: LeGarrette Blount’s suspension seems to benefit Utah.

Masoli and the Oregon looked very vulnerable when one-dimensional.

The Ute defense is lethal when they know what the opponent is going to do. If Utah beats Oregon, it will virtually end Boise State’s BCS hopes.

And it will make the TCU-Utah game explode with BCS implications, assuming they both come in with one loss or less.

(I’d mention BYU here too, but the Cougars have to prove they can beat a top quality team first.)

The Utes five most impactful games for this weekend include:

BYU vs. Oklahoma - Arlington, TX

Utah needs: BYU victory (eek!) or at least a competitive game.

Impact potential: Astronomical

Likelihood: Low, but higher than most think.

Rooting for BYU is like nails to the chalkboard for most Ute fans. To each their own. I’m with Coach Whitt on this, a big win for BYU is a win for the conference.

It will almost guarantee a one-loss or undefeated MWC team in the BCS. It will build big-time credibility for the MWC and their bid for BCS inclusion.

Cheering for BYU will show that Utah fans have turned a corner and matured as a fan base. More than anything though, it’s like fattening a chicken before you roast it.

Let the Cougars wreak havoc on the Sooners and the Seminoles all day, it just makes Utah look better when they take the Y down.

It will especially be a slap in the face to Harvey Perlman—the Nebraska Chancellor who scoffed at Utah’s schedule last year (as if NU really has a leg to stand on).

(Does Harvey think the 2008 Utes are afraid to play Nebraska’s spooky 2008 schedule? Kansas State, Baylor, Iowa State, Colorado, New Mexico State, San Jose State and Western Michigan.)

Oklahoma is vulnerable. This is not out of reach. The Sooner’s replace four offensive linemen and lose TE Jermaine Gresham.

Sam Bradford and OU’s sensational running backs Chris Brown and DeMarco Murray will have to prove a lot on their own.

BYU can make a statement just by keeping it close, but the Cougs just can’t ever seem to play up to teams that are more talented.

The Cougars can out-execute and beat up on inferior teams all day long, but I don’t see them making the necessary adjustments and out-of-the-box moves to win.

Although it has been reported that Urban Meyer called Bronco Mendenhall to offer his advice.

San Jose State at USC

Utah needs: SJSU victory over the 4th ranked Trojans.

Impact Potential: Huge.

Likelihood: Very low, but higher than most think.

I’m not sold on Barkley. I watched his final high school game against Tesoro form last November. Matt was 12-for-33 with four interceptions in the loss.

His arm looked terrific. His poise was off the charts. However, his performance poor.

But if that’s how Matt plays when faced against a tougher defense it’s not get any easier against Dick Tomey.

Granted, it’s unfair to judge a player or his potential off of one game. But it was his last game and it was only nine months ago.

And in college football, all it takes is one bad game and USC has a disappointing year.

The Trojans are riddled with injuries, especially up front and wide receiver

If the Trojans weren’t so loaded in the backfield I might be calling for a long-shot upset. It will be closer than many think thought.

San Diego State at UCLA

Utah needs: SDSU victory over a solid Pac-10 team.

Impact potential: Big.

Likelihood: Medium, again, higher than most think.

I think San Diego State will surprise a lot of people. I also think the same about UCLA. Both teams did a great job filling voids, improving talent and building on last season's weaknesses.

It will create some surprise but the biggest challenge for the Bruins will be breaking in a new QB and several new O-linemen against Rocky Long’s stifling 3-3-5 defense.

Colorado State at Colorado

Utah needs: Colorado State victory over mid-tier Big Twelve.

Impact potential: Medium.

Likelihood: Low.

Any win over a BCS team for mid or lower tier Mountain West teams is a huge get for the conference.

Colorado State has struggled miserably to find a QB and I just don't the Rams pulling it off this year in Boulder.

New Mexico at Texas A&M

Utah needs: New Mexico victory over mid-tier Big Twelve.

Impact potential: Medium.

Likelihood: Low.

Again, any win over a BCS team for mid or lower tier Mountain West teams is a huge get for the conference. Mike Locksley begins his era at New Mexico with his no huddle spread offense.

I like Donovan Porterie. He will be terrific in this system, but New Mexico loses a ton of NFL talent that will be very hard to replace. (RB Rodney Ferguson and cornerbacks DeAndre Wright and Glover Quinn).


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