Random college football thoughts ... and a preview of next week

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Random college football thoughts ... and a preview of next week
Here are some random thoughts on this past weekend of college football with my thoughts on BYU's game at Washington next weekend.
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1) Utah defeating Michigan. I said it was going to happen, I was accosted for it, and now I’m going to gloat. Nobody wanted to give Utah a chance against Michigan on Saturday. Why? Because there’s no way a Mountain West Conference team could defeat a Big Ten powerhouse like Michigan in its backyard. This is what everybody said. Forget that said “powerhouse” lost QB Chad Henne, RB Mike Hart and WR Mario Manningham after last season. Forget that Lloyd Carr retired and the Wolverines were having to adapt to a new coach with a new style. None of that mattered. There was just no way a little tiny non-BCS team like Utah could beat Michigan. That’s what everybody said. Everybody who doesn’t know anything about college football that is. See, when a team loses amazing talent at skill positions like quarterback, running back and wide receiver, and replaces that talent with younger athletes with very little, if any, in-game experience, they are going to struggle. Unless they are playing someone like Northern Iowa (that’s a rant for later), the offense is going to struggle. Utah is NOT Northern Iowa. This is a team that held BYU, which boasted one of the most powerful offensive attacks in all of Division I-A last year, to just three field goals for much of their rivalry game last year. This is a team with a formidable defense. So even though they don’t play against the strongest of competition being in the Mountain West Conference, they are very, VERY good. I knew that. And now Michigan and the rest of college football does as well.
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2) BYU spanking Northern Iowa. “Northern Iowa is one of the top teams in the Football Championship Subdivision.” “Northern Iowa has a better Sagarian rating than many of the teams in the MWC.” “BYU will win, but it won’t be easy.” The only reason this game wasn’t any easier (and winning by 24 means it was pretty easy), was because BYU had no idea how to hold onto the football. It didn’t help that 18-year-old silly heads like O’Neill Chambers were fair-catching punts inside the five, while running out kickoffs from deep in the end zone. I like Chambers. You just watch him for two seconds and you know the guy is electric. It’s not often you have a guy standing back to return punts who could on any given play take it to the house. And his numbers yesterday backed that talent up. Three kick returns for a total of 101 yards. So I’m not gonna harp on him too much. Actually, I’m going to credit Northern Iowa for their relentless ‘always go for the strip’ attitude. I know Bronco Mendenhall said it was lack of concentration, but maybe Northern Iowa was just really good at causing turnovers. After all, how else were they going to stop Max Hall from completing a 40-yard pass to tight end Dennis Pitta? The Panthers didn’t even belong on the same field as the Cougars yesterday. Consider this. BYU punted only three times Saturday compared to Northern Iowa, which punted seven times. Also consider the drives that three of the four fumbles occurred on. Seven plays, 45 yards to the NIU 24. Four plays, 64 yards to the NIU 27. Seven plays, 65 yards to the NIU 5. That means that there were quite possibly 21 points that the Cougars likely would have had if they just protected the football. One play after one of the fumbles, the Panthers completed a 76-yard touchdown pass off a double reverse, which totally caught the Cougars off guard, but probably wouldn’t have happened if the Cougars hadn’t turned the ball over. Another touchdown for the Panthers came on a sack of Max Hall that resulted in a fumble that the Panthers picked up in the end zone for a touchdown. That’s 14 points they got off turnovers. Yet, Hall still completed 34-of-41 passes for 486 yards and two touchdowns, Pitta still had 11 receptions for 213 yards and the Cougars still won by 24. Northern Iowa should be grateful this was just 41-17 and not 63-3, which it probably should have been. No. 3 team in the Football Championship Subdivision. Pfffffft. Once again, there’s a reason they are there. They just don’t have the talent to compete with premier programs like BYU.
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3) Clemson losing to Alabama. Okay, so this one kind of surprised me. I’ll admit it, I bought into the early-season hype about Clemson just like everybody else did. But I was always skeptical, and now I realize why. Every year the pollsters pick a team they think is just going to be the most amazing thing to ever happen for no apparent reason. Two years ago it was Notre Dame. Last year it was UCLA. This year, apparently Clemson was the trendy pick. Now, Clemson has a talented team. The last three years they’ve been right at the edge of the ACC Championship. But No. 9??? The Tigers went 9-4 last year, lost to Auburn in the Chick-fil-A Bowl and finished the season ranked No. 21. Then suddenly, without doing anything at all, they are No. 9? Ahead of teams like Auburn, Texas, Texas Tech and Kansas? Please! This was an upset, but not by as much as some think.
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Virginia Tech and Pittsburgh losing were also stunners, but once again, not by as much as some think. East Carolina and Bowling Green are two VERY talented football teams which I think have an excellent shot at running the table in their respective conferences. You’d expect Virginia Tech and Pittsburgh to be able to handle them nonetheless, but if you know anything about mid-major teams, you’d realize these weren’t gimme games.
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Now for next week. BYU at Washington. I think the majority of BYU fans expect the Cougars to be able to pull this off. And they would be right, BYU should win this game. Against Oregon last night, Washington had 24 true or redshirt freshman on the roster. So even though Dennis Dixon and Jonathan Stewart are long-gone, Ducks starting quarterback Nate Costa was injured before the game even started, and backup quarterback Justin Roper suffered an injury in the second quarter, the Ducks still had enough talent to win by 34. It also helped that they were able to hold UW running back Chris Polk to just 19 yards on 14 carries and QB Jake Locker to 57 yards on 16 carries. What does that mean for Husky fans? It should mean seeing BYU put up 50 next week in a win at Husky Stadium with Hall and Pitta putting on an encore presentation of yesterday. Of course, nothing is ever that simple. One may look at the fact that through just three quarters last night, Oregon was leading just 21-10. UW coach Tyrone Willingham is convinced his Huskies are better than they showed last night and with some adjustments, they may be better prepared against BYU to prevent such a fourth-quarter meltdown. If you’re a BYU fan, you may be worried about runs like the one Northern Iowa QB Patrick Grace had in the first quarter Saturday that went for 69 yards. That was a designed run that BYU was atrociously ill-prepared for. If the Cougars thought THAT was ugly, imagine what it will be like in Seattle next weekend when they see Locker come out with about twenty of those. Because trust me, he will. Oregon showed it could stop Locker. Can BYU? It will definitely be interesting to see because if not, UW may have a chance yet, no matter now much the people in Provo may laugh at them.
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