Week Two: Top Five Games Impacting the Utes

Brian NelsonCorrespondent ISeptember 9, 2009

Last week's top five turned out well for the Utes.

Despite a 2-3 record.

BYU's highly visible win over OU was epic for the conference.

The third straight victory for the MWC over a top ten, non-conference foe.

That's elite territory.

Under the radar was a huge win by Colorado State over rival Colorado, in Boulder. The Buffaloes were seven point favorites.

Again showing that mid-tier MWC is on par, if not better, than that of the other conferences.

While the Big 12 looked terrific with a stellar 10-2 start as a conference, both losses came from the MWC.

Does that make the MWC the second best conference?

Perhaps, at least they have a legit argument. Who's better?

With the current BCS system, increased attention is directed at out-of-confernce foes, strength of schedule and strength of conference.

That in mind, I'll continue to focus each week on the top five "other" games that have the greatest impact on Utah football.

Deep into out-of-conference play, week two figures to be another telling week.

(Ranked in order of victory likelihood).

1. TCU at Virginia

Utah needs: An "upset" by TCU over an ACC team.
Impact Potential: Big. The MWC needs to tally up wins against BCS opponents.
Likelihood: Guaranteed.

Coming off a stellar No. 7 ranking from 2008, TCU opens the 2009 season against a soft FCS school Virginia Cavalier team who lost last week to conference rival William & Mary.

Oh wait!

Isn't Virginia an ACC team? Isn't ACC a BCS conference? Then how did they lose to a D-1-AA school? By two touchdowns!

It must be one of those leagues where a champion goes 5-3, 9-4 on the year with one win against ranked opponent but still collects a BCS berth.

Then claim they are BCS-worthy because of the solidity from top to bottom. If parity is the narrative of the conference, losses to Richmond, William & Mary and Baylor to open the season do not reflect a sound conference from top-to-bottom.

All while ACC Commissioner John Swofford remains one of the MWC's most vocal critics. 

Notwithstanding the ACC's 2-9 record in BCS Bowls.

Shh! Don't tell Mr. Swofford that the undeserving Utes have more BCS Bowl wins than his whole conference. Combined. Over a 10 year period. In nine fewer tries.


This should be an easy win over a named opponent for TCU. The first of three MWC vs. ACC match-ups.

With TCU going to Virginia and Clemson and the Seminoles traveling to Provo, the MWC is well-positioned to finish 3-0 or 2-1 against the ACC.

It will be fun to hear Mr. Swofford's spin.

Texas Christian—28

2. Air Force at Minnesota

Utah Needs: Solid win by a MWC team over a solid BCS team.
Impact potential:
Moderately high.

Air Force is one of the more underrated teams in the country. Just as Ohio State learned this last week with Navy, you really can't overlook the discipline and execution of the Armed Forces.

Especially with the triple option. The Falcons are particularly tough the first time teams play them.

The Falcons put up 72 points against Nicholls St. last week. Rushing for 474 yards. That's almost as much as SEC fans predicted the Tide would run on Utah last year. Almost.

A nice warm-up before a big game at TCF Bank stadium. The first game ever at the Gopher's new stadium. Expect a tough crowd.

While the Gophers pulled out an exciting victory over Greg Paulus and a revived Syracuse team. Minnesota also has a terrific offense.

An old school pro-style offense loaded with talent at the skill positions.

WR Eric Decker will be looking for his 28th consecutive game with a reception. He will be a tough out for the Falcons.

This is classic mid-tier MWC versus mid-tier Big Ten. For the MWC, this is a big game. Very telling.

With all the attention BYU, Utah and TCU have been getting, the only attack point BCS apologists have is the MWC's lack of depth.

In fact, Sagarin bases much of his prestigious conference rankings on the strength of conference's middle tier. 

I'll admit, if AFA wins, it would be very hard for Big Ten homers to claim supremacy over the MWC.

But they will.

Shh! Don't tell them that the Utes have more BCS Bowl wins since 2005 than the entire Big Ten conference (2-5).

Air Force—27

3. Purdue at Oregon

Utah needs: Strong win for Oregon. This Ducks are on the rebound. Their opener couldn't have been uglier. This is the perfect type of game to bounce back.
Impact potential: Big. Utah really needs the Ducks to look good in this game.
High. Autzen is a very tough place to play. Oregon is still loaded on "O".

Let the Post-Blount era begin in Eugene. This is a huge game for the Ducks and for their season. Just a week ago, some had the Ducks ranked as high as No. 5.

Chip Kelly was dismal in his debut as a head coach. The offense was anemic. And now without LeGarrette Blount.

This is a good game for them. The Boilermakers are good but beatable. 

An impressive performance and the Ducks just might sneak back into the Top 25. Always nice to fatten the Ducks before they meet Utah.


4. Louisville at Kentucky

Utah needs: Louisville, one of the Utes' two out-of-conference BCS opponents. This could be a nice win for the Cardinals over a rising but sometimes vulnerable SEC team.
Impact potential: Huge. Any win over an SEC team is a big get. It helps dampen the "SEC grind" peddling.
40/60. In favor of the 'Cats.

Louisville has struggled to find an identity since Petrino left. They finished 5-7 last year which included an upset over No. 16 South Florida and a 24-2 loss to Kentucky. At home. 

The Governor's Cup is an oft overlooked rivalry that the Cards have dominated for most of the decade. Until last year.

The Wildcats stingy defense dominated the Cardinals forcing five turnovers. Including two fumble recoveries returned for touchdowns.

Expect more of the same from the Wildcats, who finished 7-6 last year but battled tough teams tough. Losing to Alabama by three and Georgia by four.


5. Oregon State at UNLV

Utah needs: Victory over ranked Pac-10 opponent.
Impact potential:
Low. I think the Beavers are the most underrated team in the country.

This one is almost identical to the Rebels upset of Arizona State last year. Highly ranked Pac-10 team heavily favored against a dangerous UNLV team.

This time it's in Las Vegas. But the Rebels won't have bruiser Frank Summers to chew up the clock and keep the Beaver's awesome offense on the sidelines.

Oregon State was nothing short of dominant when Quizz Rodgers was healthy last year.

The little RB that could not only beat USC but went on to lead the Beaver to six straight Pac-10 wins until he was injured before the Civil War and the Sun Bowl.

It's been said that the ASU win saved Sanford's job at UNLV last year. A win over the Beavers could do the same.

But it would do wonders for the MWC and continue to make news stories for the conference.


Oregon State—41

Others to watch: BYU-Tulane. Not to be outdone, the "me-too" Cougars get to play in the Superdome in New Orleans. I think the BYU faithful will enjoy Bourbon Street.

Texas at Wyoming. Tulsa at New Mexico. You never know what will happen when the Lobos or Cowboys play at home. The whole state rallies behind them.

But Texas should have no problem disposing the Pokes, even though the 'Boys have a surprisingly tough D.

The Lobos struggled in Locksley's debut against Texas A&M. Only putting up six points. Expect more of the same with Tulsa. Don't be too hard on the Lobos D.

They lost two cornerbacks in Quinn and Wright that are now playing Sundays.


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