The first week of college football was full of top plays, heartbreaks, close games, storm delays and just plain mania. Let’s look at what happened by the numbers. By teams from the Beehive State, there were a total of:
6 interceptions thrown
6 rushing touchdowns
5 passing touchdowns
3 made field goals
2 fumbles lost
1 storm delay
What will Week 2 bring? Well, the competition looks like it should ease up a little bit for all three schools but everything is unpredictable in college football. There have been key injuries, pleasant surprises and red flags for all teams in the state. Let’s see how it affects our predictions previously made in our season previews.
Northern Illinois at Utah
These Huskies might have felt like they were the Washington Huskies last year in Salt Lake City but really this version of the NIU Huskies are pups. This isn’t the same team that was a BCS buster with Jordan Lynch. The Utes looked great defensively against BYU but they will need to make sure to not rely solely on their defense to get points. They also can’t rely on Zack Moss to be their whole offense. He can only run so much. His runs are allowing the defense to rest up though as he carried the ball 29 times for 187 yards.
The key to the game will be the turnover margin. So far the Utes have been perfect as they had 0 turnovers against BYU. If they can win the turnover margin by at least 2 then this should be a double digit game. If Tyler Huntley is going to win this game in game manager fashion again then he will have to have 100+ yards passing and 0 turnovers. For every 100 yards more he passes for, he is allowed an interception. Obviously one should never aim the ball at the other team but it’s only natural to make a few errant throws the more yards a quarterback throws for. Last year the Utes beat NIU on three scores: A Zack Moss touchdown, a Matt Gay kick and a pick 6 by Chase Hansen.
This year a bare minimum of three similar scores will be required to beat NIU especially on the road. This is an upper tier MAC team so they aren’t getting shut out. They will have at least a field goal and touchdown. The Utes don’t have a kicker the caliber of Matt Gay but he needs to be a bit more consistent than he was at BYU if the Utes are going to win big. He needs at least one field goal and 100 percent on extra points to get there. You don’t have to worry about Zack Moss. He will come to play to make up for last year when he recorded only 66 rushing yards against the Northern Illinois Huskies. You can also count on a solid defender like Julian Blackmon to capitalize big on a turnover. It doesn’t mater if it’s a safety, fumble or interception. The Utes will find ways to beat you.
The Utes beat BYU by a little more than last year so based on how their momentum is, I see them beating Northern Illinois by at least the same, if not more than last year. I am sticking with my pick. BYU woke up the sleeping giant earlier than normal this season. NIU might play better than BYU did last week with all the nerves but the Utes are going to be ready right from the start. It isn’t November yet so their nerves should be fine.
Final Score Prediction: Utes 28 NIU 10
Stony Brook at Utah State
The lone FBS vs FCS home game in the state this week will be in Logan but this isn’t your average FCS team the Aggies are facing. They are playing a good Stony Brook team who won their first matchup over Bryant 35 to 10.
They were an impressive 8-4 last year but this was against mostly FCS competition. Air Force beat them 38 to 0 so don’t expect this to be a nailbiter for the Aggies. Instead, it will be a good learning experience like the one they had last year when they pounced on Tennessee Tech 73 to 12. Besides the loss against Boise State at the end of the season, Utah State never lost after Michigan State once they got an easy New Mexico State and FCS team on their schedule. This will be a perfect transition into Mountain West play when the Aggies face San Diego State after their bye week next week. San Diego State struggled to fend off Weber State and Colorado State got beat by Colorado pretty handily so it looks like the Aggies could very well win out the rest of September before their showdown at LSU to start October.
After seeing USU’s secondary I’m still going with a big win but I’m giving Stony brook one more touchdown.
Final Score Prediction: USU 52 Stony Brook 17
BYU at Tennessee: I will admit I was a little disrespectful to BYU in the preseason football preview. I had the Vols winning 24 to 7. After watching Georgia State beat Tennessee I think they will come motivated to play but I think the Vols will have to win a dogfight if they don’t want to start the season 0-2. The Cougars on paper should be better than a Sun Belt team so they should make Tennessee sweat more than the Georgia State coach was literally sweating last week in the humidity of Knoxville.
I like BYU’s offensive line over Tennessee’s and their defense is solid. The question is can they survive the humidity and beat the quick SEC athletes for more than 3 hours? It will be Eastern Standard time but it is still projected to be over 80 degrees Fahrenheit by the time the game kicks off at 7:30 EST on ESPN. With 42% humidity though it should feel a couple degrees hotter. The Cougars are lucky they aren’t playing earlier in the day when it is supposed to be as high as 85 percent humidity.
Another key to the game will be the turnover battle. Georgia State beat Tennessee 3 to 1 in the turnover battle 3 to 1. BYU’s turnovers hurt them against Utah. I think Zach Wilson will be a bit calmer in the pocket this week but Coake Sitake won’t pull the reins in all the way. I think this is a game where the Cougars will feed their running back Ty’son Williams a lot more than 7 carries. I think he flirts with 100 yards. I will say 88. If he gets at least that many yards and Zach can limit the interceptions to 1 max then I think BYU has a chance. If Tennessee can tie or even win the turnover battle then I think they sneak out with a win. The only way I could see them beating BYU big like I originally predicted is if they play perfect and BYU continues to be careless with the football and have three turnovers again.
I think the Vols and Cougars will both clean it up and have one turnover apiece and Rocky Top defeats the Rocky Mountains by a field goal, leaving Zach Wilson just a minute left on the clock which won’t be enough time. I’m still holding to BYU’s upset of the season being at home vs USC because that program is more vulnerable after losing their starting quarterback than a motivated SEC team who got upset in week 1. If Tennessee has any sort of fight in them they will come to play on Saturday. SEC teams can afford one non-conference loss and still be fine but if you lose two then good luck.
Final Score Prediction: Tennessee 24 BYU 21
Southern Utah at Northern Iowa: I hate to break it to Thunderbird fans out in Cedar City but they aren’t beating a Northern Iowa team that took a Top 25 Iowa State team to overtime and nearly won. They have a good program there but fans might want to take a quick trip to Vegas to get over this one.
Final Score Prediction: Southern Utah 10 Northern Iowa 31
Cal Poly at Weber State: Last year Weber State won by a touchdown. This year they are at home so I’ll pick them by two touchdowns. Their defense is insane as they made it deep into the FCS playoffs last year and held a Mountain West opponent in San Diego State to just 6 points. Granted they didn’t manage to score a point but they weren’t expected to beat an FBS team.
Weber State will be the last of teams in the Beehive State to kick off so expect them to give the state a more impressive 3-2 record in Week 2. The record looked worse last week because of an in-state rivalry as Utah was the only school to get a win but the schedule eases up a bit here just enough to improve the record of teams in the state.
Final Score Prediction: Weber State 24 Cal Poly 10