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Utah Utes Football: Pac-12 Conference Clipboard

Utah Utes Football: Pac-12 Conference Clipboard

By Patrick Sheltra, KSL.com Contributor | Posted - Sep. 14, 2011 at 11:40 a.m.



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SALT LAKE CITY — We'll see if we can wrap up the Pac-12's slate of games in Week 2 in less time it took the conference's officials to decide on the final score of Utah-USC.

Let's start with Thursday's game between Oklahoma State and Arizona. The promise of a high-scoring shootout took a serious blow when Wildcat wide receiver Juron Criner underwent an emergency appendectomy the Monday prior to the game. Dismiss OSU's 37-14 victory when it comes to what the Wildcats will bring to the table Nov. 5 when they host Utah. If anything, Arizona's 439 yards is evidence that the Wildcats remain a capable offensive force — with or without Criner.

The following night, ESPN showcased another team from the Grand Canyon State when Arizona State hosted No. 21 Missouri. ASU's 37-30 overtime victory was key for two reasons: It was the kind of close game that the Sun Devils were on the wrong end of last year, and ASU's offense will easily be the most potent unit Utah faces this year. But what was with Missouri coach Gary Pinkel calling back-to-back timeouts with his own kicker lined up for the game-winning kick at the end of regulation?

Colorado could be the Pac-12's biggest Jekyll-and-Hyde act this year. The Buffs were much better against Cal than they were on the islands at Hawaii and beat the Bears statistically in almost every category, but 12 penalties for 98 yards proved costly. The Buffs have the toughest schedule in the Pac-12, but showed well enough at home to indicate that they will be a tough out against anyone they play at Folsom Field. Fortunately for Utah, the Buffs travel to Salt Lake City.

Then again, maybe Colorado will have some company in UCLA, which, as 21-point favorites, was fought to a draw for 3.5 quarters by San Jose State before pulling away for a 27-17 victory. Up next for UCLA is Texas, another young team still trying to find its way but was routed last year by the Bruins in Austin.

Washington easily had the biggest improvement from first to second game, rolling to a big lead early against Hawaii and hanging on for a 40-32 victory. Chris Polk made his season debut with a 105-yard, 22-carry, 1-touchdown effort and Keith Price averaged a whopping 12.1 yards per attempt. Does anyone in Seattle miss Jake Locker?

Two teams headed in opposite directions are Oregon State and Washington State. OSU proved its opening-week loss to FCS Sacramento State was no fluke by losing 35-0 to Wisconsin. As mentioned here last week, the Beavers are beat up and unsettled at quarterback. It has a bye to solve those issues before hosting UCLA in its Pac-12 opener.

As for the Cougars, they've had the benefit of playing one of the 10 worst teams in both FBS (UNLV) and FCS (Idaho State), but at least they are blowing those teams out. The same couldn't be said last year. WSU moves a clear step up in class this week with a game at San Diego State — a game that can have it thinking of making a bowl, should it win convincingly. But at the rate WSU is putting up points, Utah's Nov. 19 trip to Pullman is looking a lot less like the lock many assumed when the schedule was released.

As for Stanford and Oregon, nothing from last week suggested that they are anything but the class of the Pac-12.

Patrick Sheltra is sports editor of the Twin Falls (Idaho) Times-News and the author of "100 Things Utes Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die." (September release) Read more of his thoughts on University of Utah sports at scriptutah.blogspot.com.

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Patrick Sheltra

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