Utah needs to find face of program
Notebook: Arizona teams on fire; Oregon St. ready to play again
Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham has a question to answer: Who is the starting quarterback for the Utes? The sooner he can answer, the better. After last week's loss to in-state rival Utah State, the Utes sit at 1-1 with an ailing starting quarterback and two burgeoning young guns ready to take his place.
In his two years at the helm, junior quarterback Jordan Wynn’s most important statistic is not his 4,590 passing yards. It’s not his 33 touchdowns. The stat with the most impact is Wynn's three shoulder surgeries.
Wynn played well against Northern Colorado in Week 1 with 200 passing yards and a pair of touchdowns, despite one interception. Friday did not start as hot. The Utes couldn’t pick up first downs and Wynn’s arm looked weak. Utah State blocked a punt in the first quarter, scoring on the ricochet to draw first blood.
Protection problems were a recurring theme for the Utes throughout the first half. Wynn was sacked three times to go along with the blocked punt. The defense got to him on almost every play. The final time Wynn went down in the backfield, he stayed down. When he finally made it to his feet to jog off the field, he came up painting a picture all too familiar for Utes fans. Wynn slowly trotted to the sideline, his fist tight under the breastplate of his shoulder pads, his shoulder stationary.
Wynn looked quite different in the second half, clad in a black Utah polo and a black sling keeping his shoulder in a stationary upright position. He was clearly finished for the night.
Now the question is, how long will Wynn be sidelined, whether it be due to injury or due to the play of fellow quarterbacks Jon Hays and Travis Wilson? The Utes’ offense, after the steady performance of Week 1, was stagnant in the first half against Utah State. When Hays entered the game, the offense was almost immediately sparked, scoring a field goal on the first drive. Wilson’s only pass was a perfectly placed 28-yard touchdown strike, his third score by air or ground in two games.
With the Pac-12 season in sight, the Utes need a quarterback decision quickly to salvage their hope of a shot at the conference title.
• If unpredictability were a statistic, Arizona may be the league leader. In Week 1, fans saw the Wildcats narrowly escape MAC foe Toledo in overtime. This week, Arizona toppled a ranked opponent by three scores, bashing No. 18 Oklahoma State 52-39.
• Matt Scott passes for a lot of yards -- a lot of yards. Scott has racked up 707 yards in two games. Pair that with five total scores by air and by ground and Scott is on his way to potential year-end recognition.
Next Game: vs. South Carolina State Sept. 15
Arizona State (2-0)
• Perhaps the most potent offense no one is talking about: Arizona State. The Sun Devils have 108 points in two games, good for fifth best in the FBS.
• Four different players have punched the ball into the end zone on the ground for Arizona State, while the team has 305 rushing yards through two games.
• The Sun Devils travel to Missouri in Week 3. Mizzou suffered a crushing loss to Georgia in its first SEC competition and will be looking to rebound.
Next Game: at Missouri Sept. 15
• Week 3 could easily make or break Cal. The Horseshoe in Columbus, Ohio, will be packed tight with more than 100,000 fans, making it one of the toughest venues in in college footbal. Not to mention the Buckeyes (2-0) are playing relentless this season behind the emergence of QB Braxton Miller.
• Quarterback Zach Maynard must be crisp against the Buckeyes. One mistake by Maynard could turn the game -- and perhaps the season -- upside down for the Bears.
Next Game: at Ohio State Sept. 15
• Quarterback Jordan Webb’s completion percentage was even lower this week than the season opener against Colorado State. Webb dropped from 54 percent in Week 1 to 50 percent in Week 2 -- against Sacramento State.
• The Buffs haven’t had an entirely warm welcome to the Pac-12. After going 3-10 last season, the Buffs are off to an 0-2 start to 2012, not the picture Colorado planned to paint with its conference switch.
Next Game: at Fresno State Sept. 15
• Few would call a 2-0 start a cause for concern, but Oregon’s two wins have not been the prettiest as the Ducks have surrendered 59 points. But scoring more is their only goal. After all, last season the Ducks gave up 47 points in their first two games.
• The Ducks’ offense is as potent as ever. Oregon ran for 366 yards Saturday against Fresno State. The Ducks have also scored 99 points in their first two games. Last season the total was 109 points after two games.
• Here’s the kicker: Oregon’s first two opponents this season were Arkansas State and Fresno State. Last season, LSU and Nevada. The Ducks have given up more points and scored fewer this season against arguably weaker competition. Is this enough to result in nervousness in Eugene, Ore.? Maybe.
Next Game: vs. Tennessee Tech Sept. 15
Oregon State (1-0)
• Oregon State has yet to reschedule its matchup with Nicholls State after it was postponed due to Hurricane Isaac in Week 1. But after defeating a highly ranked Wisconsin team in the Beavers’ first action of the season, they may want to reschedule as soon as possible to add another likely tally to the win column.
• The Beavers’ defense showed grit Saturday, stopping former Heisman finalist Montee Ball and allowing him only 63 rushing yards. It marked the first time he has been held under 80 yards in 14 games extending into last season.
• Oregon State has another week off, as the team is idle next week. The question again: is the rest good or bad for the Beavers? They're hoping it works like it did in Week 2.
Next Game: at UCLA Sept. 22
Southern Cal (2-0)
• Syracuse (1-1) was less a bump in the road than it was a pebble for USC. More than anything, the Orange gave the Trojans a shock by holding them scoreless for the first quarter. Six touchdown passes later, QB Matt Barkley had the last laugh in USC’s victory.
• USC might run the bubble screen to Marquise Lee or Robert Woods as often as any team in the country. The Trojans nickel-and-dimed Syracuse down the field and while Barkley finished with only 187 yards, Stanford may want to spend a bit of time defending one certain play in practice this week.
Next Game: at Stanford Sept. 15
• Stanford needs to figure out a way to limit USC’s weapons which is easier said than done. The Cardinal have held opponents to 17 and 13 points, respectively, in their first two games. But that may be wishful thinking against USC.
• Quarterback Josh Nunes must take advantage of a vulnerable Trojan secondary. Syracuse’s Ryan Nassib did with 322 yards and a pair of touchdowns. If Nassib can, Nunes can.
Next Game: vs. Southern California Sept. 15
• The idea of heading into the conference schedule 3-0 could fuel an impressive fire beneath the Bruins. The only obstacle in their way is 0-2 Houston in Week 3.
• UCLA’s first conference game will be against Oregon State which, at that point, will still have only played one game. It should give the Bruins an opportunity to have momentum on its side, barring a slip-up against the lackluster Cougars.
Next Game: vs. Houston Sept. 15
• John White will need to continue running the ball well (215 yards in two games) for the Utes to be successful. He’s the rock of this offense.
• After losing for the first time in 12 years to in-state rival Utah State last week, the Utes want to get back in the win column quickly with Arizona State, USC and UCLA lining up on the schedule following this weekend's matchup.
Next Game: vs. BYU Sept. 15
• The Huskies can find some good in the 41-3 loss to LSU. The Huskies competed hard, and they will not likely face many -- if any -- defenses as good as the Tigers'.
• With Saturday's game against Portland State, UW is looking to boost its confidence before the Pac-12 season. No one likes being manhandled at the hands of a top-ranked team before the long grind of the conference schedule begins.
Next Game: vs. Portland State Sept. 15
Washington State (1-1)
• The Cougars constantly have their fans on pins and needles as they did against FCS opponent Eastern Washington. After being trounced in Week 1 by BYU on a national stage, a narrow escape against a team famous solely for its red turf field leaves WSU needing a pick-me-up.
• Washington State will have that shot against winless UNLV. If QB Jeff Tuel plays like he did against EWU (20 of 26 for 171 yards and two touchdowns), the Cougars can pick up a second win and potentially get back on their feet.
Next Game: at UNLV Sept. 14