Pac-12: Mountain West

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A breakdown of what went down as No. 22 Utah took down Colorado State in the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl 45-10.

How the game was won: A fast, strong start that was sustained throughout all four quarters. In the first period, Utah scored 21 points on the heels of quarterback Travis Wilson’s 5-of-6 passing for 71 yards and one touchdown (as well as a Wilson rushing touchdown). The Utah defense held Colorado State in check throughout. The Rams (10-3) got 10 points in the first quarter but none the rest of the way. The Utes held them to 12 yards rushing for the day and allowed them to convert only 1 of 10 third downs.

Game ball goes to: Wilson. He finished with 158 passing yards (17-of-26) and one touchdown. He added 91 yards on the ground and three touchdowns on just five carries. He made big plays for the Utes, putting him in the front-runner spot for the starting job in 2015.

However, for a moment it looked like it was going to be more of the same for the Utes (read: more quarterback injuries and games with a back and forth between Wilson and another QB), as early in the third quarter Wilson left briefly with a lower leg injury. This prompted Utah coach Kyle Whittingham to put junior quarterback Jason Thompson into the game. However, unlike previous games, it didn’t last long. Wilson shook off the injury and got back on the field, making big rushing plays for the Utes (9-4).

It was over when: The Rams struggled to find any kind of an offensive spark, save their first-quarter scoring drive in which they went 77 yards on five plays, ending in a 39-yard receiving touchdown. When Colorado State didn’t strike early after halftime, the game seemed out of reach and was completely over when Garrett Grayson fumbled an early fourth-quarter snap on second-and-10. Wilson scored on the ensuing play, rushing for a 12-yard touchdown.

Stat of the game: 347 -- that's the difference in rushing yards between the Utes and the Rams. Utah was led by Devontae Booker, who finished with one rushing touchdown and 162 rushing yards -- his seventh 100-yard rushing game in the Utes' last 10. Meanwhile, the Utah front seven -- led by All-Everything defensive end Nate Orchard -- kept Colorado State's rushing attack in check. Coming into this bowl game, the Rams were averaging 172 rushing yards a game. To hold a team like that to just 12 yards is quite the feat.

Best play: We’re going with two -- a pair of trick plays (one from each team) that came early in the game.

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This was the Utes’ first play. Whittingham wasn’t joking around and he wanted to come out guns blazin’, so he did just that. Thompson ended up with the ball on a reverse early in the first quarter, threw a lateral to Wilson, who then connected with wide receiver Kaelin Clay on a first down. It was only a 17-yard completion but in the grand scheme of things this certainly set the tone for the Utes offensively.

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And two can play that game. Though this was the Rams’ only touchdown, it was a flashy and memorable one. Grayson threw to wide receiver Charles Lovett who threw a lateral back to Grayson, who then took the ball the final 42 yards to the end zone. This score pulled Colorado State within a TD of the Utes and, like Utah, set a tone early. Though, unlike the Utes, the Rams just weren’t able to sustain it.

SEC extends lead in Power Rankings

September, 3, 2014
9/03/14
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AP Photo/Tony GutierrezSEC teams went 8-1 in Week 1 as the race for the national championship trophy began.
A quick refresher: Last week, ESPN Stats & Information released its preseason conference power rankings, a formula that equally weighs the rankings from the AP Poll and ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI) in order to determine the best and worst conferences in the country. For more information on the rankings and FPI, click here and here.

After an exciting slate of non-conference games in Week 1, the SEC proved why it was considered the top conference in the nation entering the season. The SEC went 8-1 in non-conference games, the best winning percentage of any FBS conference.

Ole Miss, Georgia and LSU all beat opponents ranked in the top 50 in the preseason Football Power Index, while Tennessee and Alabama took care of business against improved FBS teams. What may be surprising is the way that some of these SEC teams won the games, though.

The SEC was not nearly as dominant in its wins as some may have expected. LSU had the lowest average in-game win probability (34%) of any team that won this weekend, and Alabama, Ole Miss and Georgia were all in one-score games in the second half.

Nonetheless, the SEC pulled out these wins and jumped 1.4 points in the conference power rankings. The strength of the top of the conference (six teams in top 15 of the AP Poll) is unmatched by any other conference.

Big Ten falls despite strong Week 1
The Big Ten had the second-best winning percentage in non-conference games of any of FBS conference. Notable wins include: Rutgers beating Washington State in Seattle, Penn State defeating UCF in Ireland, and Ohio State outlasting Navy in Baltimore.

However, the other nine wins for the Big Ten were against six FCS teams and three lower-tier FBS opponents.

The main reason that the Big Ten fell in the ratings, however, is that last week’s numbers were based off of the preseason AP Poll that did not account for Braxton Miller’s injury.

Ohio State struggled in the first half against Navy without Miller, and as a result, the AP voters dropped the Buckeyes from fifth to eighth despite a win. That was the second largest drop in AP ranking for a team that won last weekend (UCLA went from 7 to 11).

ACC falls further behind rest of Power Five
The ACC dropped five more points in the conference power rankings after Wake Forest lost to Louisiana-Monroe, Syracuse almost lost to Villanova, North Carolina struggled against Liberty and Florida State played a closer-than-expected game against Oklahoma State.

Clemson's loss to Georgia also significantly affected the ACC in the ratings because the top of the ACC is considered even weaker than when it began the season.

Florida State is the only team from the ACC ranked in the top 20 of the AP Poll; every other Power Five conference has at least three top-20 teams.

In terms of the bottom of the ACC, Syracuse, Boston College, North Carolina State and Wake Forest all have an FPI below zero (zero is considered an average FBS team by FPI). No other Power Five conference has more than two such teams.

Big Week for Big Ten/Pac-12
Week 2 is a big week to prove conference superiority. Highlighted by Michigan State traveling to Oregon, the Big Ten is a part of three marquee games next weekend.

Michigan will look to build upon a strong Week 1 at Notre Dame and Ohio State will look to prove it can be successful without Braxton Miller as it hosts Virginia Tech.

In the Pac-12, Oregon likely needs to win at home against Michigan State in order for it to stay alive in the playoff.

Also out west, USC and Stanford will meet in one of the top Pac-12 games of the season.

MAACO Las Vegas Bowl

December, 2, 2012
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Washington Huskies (7-5) vs. Boise State Broncos (10-2)

Dec. 22, 3:30 p.m. ET, Las Vegas (ESPN)

Washington take from HuskyNation's Mason Kelley: The roller-coaster ride that has been Steve Sarkisian’s fourth year as Washington’s coach started early.

In fall camp, the Huskies worked through injuries before entering an early-season gantlet that included games against ranked opponents in LSU, Stanford, Oregon and USC.

Washington weathered the wave of injuries and high-powered opponents and had a 3-3 record after six games. But when the Huskies were blown out at Arizona, 52-17, on Oct. 20, their season was tipping in the wrong direction.

Then they regrouped, ripping off four straight wins. They got the campaign back on track, starting with a 20-17 upset of Oregon State at CenturyLink Field in late October. The program’s young players started to mature with game experience and the early-season losses were quickly forgotten.

But the uncertainty surrounding the progress of this program returned when Washington State rallied from an 18-point, fourth-quarter deficit to upend the Huskies in the Apple Cup.

Washington heads into the bowl game with plenty to prove. The Huskies’ defense has been rejuvenated under defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox, but the offense has been inconsistent and plagued by slow starts.

But, despite junior quarterback Keith Price’s periodic turnover trouble, and even though Washington has been hit with 106 penalties for 959 yards, the Huskies still have an opportunity to finish with their first eight-win season since 2001.

All things considered, Sarkisian has continued to make progress with a program that is heading to a bowl game for the third year in a row.




Boise State take from Pac-12 blogger Ted Miller: The margin for error with Boise State is always small. That means a 10-2 season feels like a down year for the Broncos.

The season started with a tight loss at Michigan State. The Spartans were perceived as a Big Ten front-runner in the preseason, but when they struggled to reach .500 in the Big Ten, the performance lost some luster for the Broncos as the season went on.

The Broncos mostly cruised to a 7-1 start, and their BCS bowl hopes remained alive. But they lost at home to San Diego State, 22-19, which ended that. That was Boise State's second regular-season loss in 73 home games.

The win over Nevada in the season finale gave the Broncos a share of the Mountain West Conference title and ensured their nation's-best seventh consecutive 10-win season.

Things didn't come as easy this year, however, without quarterback Kellen Moore. The Broncos ranked 80th in the nation in passing, and they leaned heavily on a defense that surrendered just 14.9 points per game.

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