SALT LAKE CITY — Utah's first win of 2014 was all but a formality.
In a classic bout of David vs. Goliath — the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) vs. the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS), the Pac-12 vs. the Big Sky, the haves vs. the have nots — the Utes did exactly what they were supposed to do: get a big lead, take the starters out and coast to an easy victory.
Sure, Utah's performance in its 56-14 season opening win over Idaho State last Thursday was far from perfect. The offense started the game with a quick three-and out, the run defense was average, at best, and the Utes lost the turnover battle to the Bengals. But for the most part, the Utes took care of business to start out 1-0.
Now that the preseason is over, it is time for the real season to begin — and what a tall task lies ahead for the Utes, facing one of the toughest strength of schedules in all of college football. Five of the Utes' upcoming conference opponents are ranked in the latest Top 25 Coaches Poll with Oregon at No. 4, Stanford at No. 10, UCLA at No. 11, USC at No. 14 and ASU at No. 16. And don't forget about Michigan, Oregon State and Arizona as they are on the bubble in the "receiving votes" category.
Yikes. To quote from the Utes' 2004 season slogan, now seems like a good time to "fasten your seat belts."
Next up for the Utes is a home date against Fresno State on Saturday. While the Bulldogs are coming into the game 0-1 on the season after an abysmal performance in a 52-13 loss against USC, Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham said that Fresno State is a much better team than last week's stats indicate.
"In college football, any given Saturday anything can happen. Last Saturday just wasn't (Fresno State's) day against the Trojans."
Whittingham points out that despite their loss, the Bulldogs still have good players and have won 20 games over the last two seasons. In fact, Fresno State was essentially only one game away from the BCS last year.
"Even though last week was not really competitive for them, we fully realize how good they are. They're well-coached and have plenty of really good players," Whittingham said. "All you have to do is look at the personnel man for man. They have a safety who is outstanding and a defensive lineman who is very good and their running back just about got 100 yards on USC."
Utah doesn't have a lengthy history playing Fresno State, with the two teams only meeting nine times. The Utes hold a slight edge in the series, 5-4, with the last matchup a Utah 17-16 win in the 1999 Las Vegas Bowl.
"We need to play our best football. We go into every game really respecting our opponent and not taking any other approach."
Robert Jackson is the cross platform sports and weather producer for ksl.com and KSL-TV. He has covered the Utes for KSL since 2008. You can catch him and co-host Brian Swinney Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7-9 p.m. on the Ute Sports Report 1320 KFAN.