Well, the bye week couldn't come soon enough for the Cougars. And from where I am standing, things are looking pretty good for a team that has been sweating bullets in each of its last four games.

The Hot and Cold trend was finally broken with a welcome shower of offensive highlights. Yes, the news media has literally squeezed the fuel of the second half of the BYU-Air Force game down to the last drop. I guess I am stuck running this one on fumes for whatever mileage I can muster.

I know, 38 points in one half is outstanding, and although Air Force may not be a threat for a conference championship, they do play solid football. What strikes me about this game is not necessarily the offensive production. That was definitely gravy. The things I noticed that really gave me hope for the future of this team aren't necessarily those things that really have received a lot of attention.

First of all, I actually believe that Beck has arrived as a veteran quarterback. I am not saying he will start to pour it on like Steve Young or Jim McMahon, but there was a Ty Detmer-like moment when Beck rolled to his right and adjusted back to the center because of penetration on the line.

As I watched him shuffle back to the left, another Falcon linebacker made his way through forcing Beck to adjust even further. What I saw next made me a believer. Beck, feeling the heat, simply tucked the ball and began to run to his left. He had space to gain a good 5 or 6 yards, which would have been acceptable since the play had broken down. Just as Beck was about to cross the line of scrimmage, he whipped the ball out from under his arm and threw a nicely controlled pass to a wide open Daniel Coats, who rambled for 26 yards downfield.

There were also several times when Beck was able to sell the stretch hand off to the defense and then work the play action. I know many Cougar faithful despise the stretch hand off – mostly because of how long it takes to develop, and also because it looks so vulnerable to attack.

Given the offensive line play over the past two seasons, it is understandable that fans would rather see a quick old fashion dive or power. Well, Cougar fans are just going to have to bite the bullet and get used to this development that comes from the pro game which, for some teams like the Green Bay Packers, is a money play.

To play the stretch handoff successfully, the team needs sharp execution from the offensive line, which not only has to fire out correctly blocking the right guy, but they have to maintain that block long enough for the play to develop. The longer they maintain it, the more staggered the line tends to become which opens up more possibilities when the back finally arrives. Pay attention to just how staggered the offensive line looks the next time Brown breaks for a 9 to 15 yard run.

A regular dive or power play would not work because the line would not have time to become staggered. To run the dive or power, the offensive line would need to fire out and begin driving their man off the line from the get-go.

What does all this mean? Well, if you've seen what I have been seeing, it means that BYU's offensive line is finally clicking in a pro style system.

Sure, they have a ways to go, but understanding that makes their current performance even more impressive. It also means that Beck is going to start to intuitively pick apart opposing defenses. The next few weeks will tell if I am wearing blue tinted glasses or not. By the way, my rims are gold and so is BYU football.


Last week's record: 19-8 (.704); season 19-8 (.704)

UTAH @ San Diego State:
Yeah, yeah, we all know; Utah is really good and the Aztecs are really bad. San Diego State, however, has been in every game except against UCLA. Their defense plays tough, but their offense has struggled due to a plethora of injuries. Six freshmen starting on the offense tends to make scoring difficult. They are being broken in for the next season.

The Ute offense has been stellar, but they will be tested in similar fashion as they were by the Lobos. Look for similar scoring in this game. The Ute defense isn't the New Mexico defense and the Aztec offense isn't the Lobo offense. Look for San Diego State to put some points up this Saturday. Utah 29, San Diego State 21.

New Mexico @ Colorado State:
If you had asked me a couple of weeks ago which MWC team had the worst offense, I would have probably picked UNLV. After further review, the stink coming out of Albuquerque is the Lobo offense, which boasts a conference average quarterback rating of 74.15.

To understand the disparity, the next step up from the bottom is UNLV with an average quarterback rating of 97.45. Colorado State will be spared any aerial pyrotechnics. What the Lobos do have is gimpy running back Dontrell Moore, who is doing his best to carry this team on his back. New Mexico, in spite of their malaise, is batting .500. Colorado State laid the wood in Laramie with defense. The Rams' defense scored 13 points while their offense provided an average, but balanced offense. Both defenses are coming on late, but CSU's strength of schedule may give them the edge in this battle. Home team edges this one out. New Mexico 23, Colorado State 28.

Air Force @ Wyoming:
Whew, this one will go past the wire before determining a winner. Both teams have budding offenses, but are vulnerable defensively. Wyoming's scheduling is beginning to expose the Cowboys as pretenders. Air Force was exposed last week by BYU as being weak on defense.

Wyoming cannot stop the run, which will be the Falcons' modus operandi after the way Shaun Carney struggled through the air. Air Force cannot stop the pass and Cowboy quarterback Corey Bramlett will be taking a chapter out of John Beck's book this week. Problem is determining which team will win. This is a toss up. Air Force, still reeling after BYU loss, will be the difference. Air Force 30, Wyoming 30 (Wyoming in OT).


Hawaii @ 18 Boise State:
Last week's Fresno State-Boise State matchup was anticlimactic from the get-go and proceeded to get worse. Boise State's defense is for real. Hawaii coach June Jones likes to spread it out, and Warriors quarterback Timmy Chang undeservedly breaks Ty Detmer's record. Hawaii has to wait another week as Boise State's defense and offense rolls on them. Broncos twisted the Bows in knots at home.

15 W. Virginia @ Rutgers:
The West Virginia Mountaineers have beaten the Scarlet Knights nine times in a row. Mountaineer quarterback Rasheed Marshall is being compared to Vick and McNabb. West Virginia run defense stifled the Orangemen and the Scarlet Knights get their Ruts kicked at home.

2 Oklahoma @ 20 Oklahoma State:
The Oklahoma State Cowboys are a bit of an enigma. Missouri allowed last week's game to get away from them after cruising to a 17 point first half lead. I picked the Cowboys to lose last week and I was caught by a field goal. I pick the Cowboys to lose this week even though the Sooners seem to struggle against in-state rival. That is how it should be. Cowboys hope to hang on, but not this week. Sooners buck Oklahoma State out of the saddle and out of the Top 25.

23 Iowa @ Illinois:
The Illini are bad … real bad. Iowa looks to pad the winning column with another W. The Hawkeyes have no offense, but Illinois can't stop anybody right now. Iowa climbs in the rankings this week, but look for the Hawkeyes to fly right back out again as they have Purdue, Minnesota and Wisconsin still in the pipeline.

17 Purdue @ Northwestern:
Two weeks ago, I would have laughed and marked this down as a gimme. Purdue's offensive fireworks were lighting up the Big Ten in a big way. Why the change of heart? This is why: 51, 59, 38, 41, 20, 17, and 14. Notice the trend? Purdue's point production is going in the wrong direction over the course of seven games. Northwestern was able to put 12 points on the stingiest defense in college football and still held Wisconsin to only 24. Purdue is shaken and struggling right now. A loss here could send them into a death spiral. Wildcats are used to taking it to overtime, and this may go the distance. Northwestern undefeated at home. Boilermakers get steamed in Evanston.

11 Tennessee @ S Carolina:
The Volunteers own South Carolina in Columbia, going 6-2 over their last eight games. South Carolina is another defensive challenge for the young Volunteer offense. The Volunteers, however, are up to the task of plucking the Gamecocks' tail feathers. Tennessee in a squawker.

24 Minnesota @ Indiana
The Gophers are finally ready to get this monkey off their back. They haven't won in Bloomington in nearly 20 years. After spanking Illinois last week in a clinic, things get tougher, just slightly. Hoosier football is a paradox. After a couple of tough losses followed by last week's scrimmage, Minnesota is ready to take the Hoosier by the horns. Gophers bury Indiana.

5 Florida State @ Maryland:
Well, the Friedgren love fest died last season and someone forgot to clean up the mess after the party. Maryland is riding a three game losing streak and the Seminoles are a tall order. Sorry, but Florida State flexes all over the Terrapins.

8 Texas @ Colorado:
After losing a heartbreaker last week against a highly favored Aggie squad, the Buffaloes return home to Boulder. The Buffaloes are still in contention for a division title, and the Longhorns don't do altitude that well. Both teams capable of lots of offense, but Colorado at home tilt the offensive production in their favor. Buffaloes stampede Longhorns.

Florida @ 10 Georgia:
Well, the Florida Gators finally got their one-way ticket out of the Top 25. There were flight delays as engineers couldn't find anything wrong with their plane, but a team that couldn't take off should never have been cleared in the first place. Georgia looking like a legitimate Top 10 team. Bulldogs chew on Gator steaks.

Michigan State @ 12 Michigan:
Rivalry games have a tendency of not working out the way you would think. There is too much riding on this one for both teams. The Spartans have looked stellar in lopsided wins over Illinois and No. 24 Minnesota. This game is by no means a gimme and Michigan better be prepared. The Spartans are coming off a bye, and this is always a bit sketchy, at best. Will they come out flat, or will they come out firing on all cylinders? Rivalry or no, I will pick the home favorites in Ann Arbor. Wolverines in a tight-fisted, tooth-gnashing affair.

4 Miami (FL) @ North Carolina:
Are the wheels falling off the Hurricane wagon? Miami's defense has allowed 69 points in two games and their offensive line lost two of their starters in last week's match up vs. N.C. State. The Tarheels are coming off a bye and are looking for an upset. This game is in Chapel Hill and that could be a factor. Somehow you know the Hurricanes will somehow pull this off. The game will be a close one, but there is still enough wind blowing to topple the Tarheels.

1 USC @ Washington State:
Ouch. Cougar quarterback Alex Brink will be on the brink all day long. The entire Wazzou backfield is inexperienced. Oregon State spanked them 38-19 last week. Enter USC, a team that has allowed only seven points in its last nine quarters of football. There is a realistic chance that after Saturdays game, USC will have gone 13 quarters allowing only seven points. Trojans trounce Wazzou.

16 Texas A&M @ Baylor:
The Aggies are winning and doing it in various ways. Last week's overtime victory vs. Colorado has the team believing. Will it be enough? This week it will. Baylor is 0-4 for a reason. The Bears are really bad. A&M is coming into the toughest part of their season with games against Oklahoma, Texas Tech and Texas. To be honest, a highly favored Aggie team barely scratching out a win at home last week to a team in turmoil doesn't instill confidence. There is a real possibility that A&M could end the regular season with three losses.

3 Auburn @ Mississippi:
Auburn has come alive and is a bonafide challenger to the BCS national championship. Ole Miss is running hot and cold. Tuberville's Tigers too much for the Rebels this Saturday.

Vanderbilt @ 19 LSU:
This one is a definite yawner. Louisiana State at home vs. the Commodores? Yuck. A one-sided affair with LSU's usual mistakes early to keep the game more interesting than it should be. Sorry, but there are better ways to spend a Saturday than watching this. Tigers tear apart Vandy's intramural squad.

20 Arizona State @ 7 California:
Two rocket launchers in Rodgers and Walter. Aaron vs. Andrew could mean a whole lotta points on the board. The Golden Bear slinger, Aaron Rodgers will be facing the worst passing defense in the Pac-10. Where California has been outclassing and destroying teams, Arizona State has been playing close calls vs. opponents. Sorry Walter, Golden Bears rip the Sun Devils at home.


URBAN MEYER – Head Coach Utah - Stock Rising
Urban is still ringing up the wins. If he can keep the team truly focused over the next four weeks, he just may pull off the BCS bust.

FISHER DEBERRY – Air Force – Stock Stable
Fisher now has to deal with a quarterback that may not be that efficient. Youth and lack of discipline could sink Fisher's season.

GARY CROWTON - Brigham Young - Stock Dipping
Is that consistency we see beginning to creep into Gary's world? Crowton is still on the fans' chopping block, but a couple more victories will turn the bandwagon around, real fast.

JOE GLENN – Wyoming – Stock Stable
Joe is faced with the real possibility that the Cowboys don't win another game the rest of the way. Wyoming's rush defense is looking really poor, and the coach needs to get it fixed now. Fortunately for Glenn, expectations in Laramie aren't that high yet, so two wins would have Cowboy fans storming the field.

SONNY LUBICK – Colorado State – Stock Stable
Last week's defensive show vs. Wyoming had to come as a great surprise. Lubick may pull out of this just yet. Two more wins and the Rams go bowling. It may not be pretty, but it will stave off any whisperings for the coach to retire.

ROCKY LONG – New Mexico – Stock beginning to dip
If defense were all that was necessary, New Mexico would be champions. Unfortunately for Rocky, he left his team bare of legitimate Div. 1 offensive players, especially at quarterback. If his team fails to qualify for a bowl this year, the seat could warm up.

JOHN ROBINSON – UNLV – Stock has been bought out
Yawn, do we really care anymore? J-Rob is gone. Who will the next contestant on Rebel management be? Until then, zzzzzzzzzzzzz.

TOM CRAFT – SDSU – Stock Falling
The ugly truth about injury epidemics is that they tend to infect the coaches. Craft could easily find himself on the outside. Yes, he has at least a year left on his rolling contract, but that may not matter as San Diego State could be finding someone else to roll Craft out the door.

Nothing hot enough for this BYE week.

Well, this week's message board "Fandumb" goes to UtahFanSir. Sugar plums have been replaced with delusions of grandeur on a scale that even I have a hard time trying to swallow them. Warning: The below quote contains stretches of the imagination that might cause retinal pain.

"…Urban Meyer has an opportunity for the first time in history to lead a mid-major team into a storied "BCS" bowl, which if he and his team win, may actually garner the squad a handful of first place votes (not finish) at the end of the season and perhaps a third place finish in the final poll. Now hang with me for a sec. That would virtually guarantee the Utes a top 10 or better ranking going into the 2005-2006 season and if they play as well in Alex Smith's senior season could return them to a major bowl even for a championship game. That is lofty stuff. Urban Meyer has done this without BCS affiliation...he has simply taken advantage of the two at-large bids available to any team, even if it was never anticipated to be for a non-BCS program. Let me reiterate, Urban Meyer's Utah does not need to be in the PAC-10 or Big-10 or SEC to play in the Rose Bowl or the Orange Bowl or the Sugar Bowl or the Fiesta Bowl. It can do it at Utah in the MWC with hard work, skills development, field strategy and a single-minded focus.

What set this up, besides stellar play in 2004, is Utah's bowl game win in 2003 and a national ranking in the preseason. All this was done with extant players, Mac's boys. But it has been facilitated by a new rating system that puts 2/3 of the weight on the AP and Coaches polls and 1/3 on six (removing the high and low) computer polls. And if Utah remains undefeated it stands to move up in the AP and Coaches polls, the two elements that actually prevent Utah's ascent currently in the total BCS ranking. Fortunately, Utah beat three BCS teams this season, one now ranked, and has played common opponents to other top ranked BCS teams (thinking both Cal and Wisconsin). Further, Utah has stomped its competition so far this year, the final year some of the computer rankings will benefit Utah in a way that will not happen in 2005-2006...margin of victory. For that reason, the "finish" (read BCS bowl win) by Utah this season is an imperative.

Now it occurs to me that a overachieving Utah benefits in several tangible ways. Better recruits, that is four star recruits, are interested in Utah. Really they are interested in Urban Meyer's leadership and his winning ways. But their eventual impact should be obvious, assuming the HC sticks around. Next, it facilitates Utah's BCS ambitions. Ask yourself why a dominating Utah--given that the academics are top drawer--with its improving facilities could not be invited to join the 11-team Big-10. (The operative word is dominating.) That conference splits into an east and west division, expands its TV audience to the Mountain West, Utah becomes the "Colorado" of the new Big-10. Ask yourself why a dominating Utah could not be invited to join the 10-team PAC-10 as the 11th team much as the Big-10 has now. In two short years, Utah has become a force in recruiting in Texas and California which will pay further dividends. Urban Meyer has jarred open the door to the big money bowls and, IMHO, to the doorstep of several conferences. This strategy, I assert, has been masterminded by Chris Hill with the help of Urban Meyer.

How could Urban Meyer have more influence over college football today than right here at Utah? Everyone would expect him to win at Notre Dame or Washington or Florida. But no one expects this fireball to win at Utah, not at this level, or to be co-opted by some BCS conference (to protect the system, of course, because the loss of just one BCS team in the premier bowls costs every conference school about $1,200,000). It is this grand scheme that I think is unfolding. It is the reason I lose no sleep over Urban Meyer's near-term plans. I think he has bigger ideas than even we imagine. So I reiterate from a post of a week or so ago, Ute fans in Utah do what Urban Meyer says, FILL THE STADIUM AND HE WILL STAY. There is a lot more happening here than simply putting butts into a seat."

Whew, that was a load of … I'll leave that one to your imagination.


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