Thursday, September 15, 2005

Nation’s 2nd longest winning streak in jeopardy

There is a little game day tension circulating in Salt Lake City. The Utes have knocked off 18 straight opponents. A streak that now extends into parts of three different seasons. Confidence is in the air, but today there is also something else. Tension. TCU’s victory over Oklahoma gave the Horned Frogs instant respect and has given everyone the impression that they will be conference contenders. Even though TCU wasted some of that respect with a loss to SMU the following week, their strong defense has people noticing.

The Utes are still favored to win, albeit narrowly, as Vegas has posted a 3 ½ point spread. The game will be televised nationally by ESPN and features a couple of great reasons to watch. First, Utah will try and push the nation’s 2nd longest winning streak to 19 games. USC is #1 and isn't expected to lose anytime in the near future. Second, this is TCU’s home opener and first ever game in the Mountain West Conference.

This is Utah’s first road game of the season and should be the toughest test thus far. Are the young guys ready to step up in a situation that is bound to present some adversity? Mainly, will Brian Johnson make the right decisions and help Utah’s offense be close to error free? Will Utah’s defense cause enough turnovers to keep TCU’s offense from breaking lose? This game actually has the feel of the New Mexico game last season. New Mexico was featuring a tough defense, the game was on ESPN, and everyone was wondering if Utah would be able to win a big road game. Utah answered the bell in a pretty physical game by winning 28-7. That game vaulted Utah to 6 straight games of scoring 45 or more points. Answering the challenge tonight could also vault this season’s Utes. However, what will happen to the young team and the bandwagon fans if things don’t go Utah’s way?

What will happen? I think Brian Johnson, who set a school record for efficiency in his last game by going 18-21 passing, will be solid and make enough big plays to keep the offense moving. Also, the Utes will actually test TCU’s defense. TCU’s defense is drawing praise for their performance the first two weeks, but I’m not sure we know how good they are. OU had no passing game and the Horned Frogs were able to stack the line of scrimmage to slow Adrian Peterson. SMU is better than in recent years, but also doesn’t possess a potent offense. Utah’s offense is much younger than last year, but is still explosive and features four big playmakers in Brian Johnson, Quinton Ganter (RB), Brent Casteel (RB/WR), and John Madsen (WR). TCU has the talent to win this, especially if QB Tye Gunn is able to play up to his reputation of a dangerous and poised leader. Turnovers will be a key as usual, but I would expect both teams will make a similar number of mistakes. I think this game will be close, but expect Utah to make just enough big plays to hold-on and keep the streak alive. Utah 23, TCU 16.

Mumbling about College Football and an Ex-Ute:

  • What is going on in Norman Oklahoma? The Sooners lost to TCU and didn’t play very well in beating Tulsa in week 2. This week OU is a 6 ½ point underdog at UCLA. How hard is it to get a QB when you have the national reputation the Sooners have? Apparently Jason White’s 12 years as QB left OU without the focus on recruiting for that position.
  • Urban Meyer is also in jeopardy of losing his first game in the last two years as Tennessee plays at Florida on Saturday. For all the nay-sayers who have said Urban’s spread offense was gimmicky and wouldn’t work against big time talent, this is a big week.
    Notre Dame isn’t crying over losing Urban Meyer. The Fighting Irish are coming off back to back wins under Charlie Wiess and draw Michigan State this week for a chance at 3-0.
  • From the “I wish you were here, and I bet you do too” category is Steve Savoy. Savoy was a big playmaker and all conference wide receiver for Utah last season. Savoy chose to go pro early, although the never was much of a press conference or explanation as to why he was making that decision. Savoy went undrafted and then made another bad choice by selecting Detroit as the team to attend camp with. Detroit featuring many young high draft selections at wideout was a dead end before he even go there. Savoy was cut and is not playing football on Sundays. Or Saturdays, or even Thursday nights on ESPN.

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