Utah owns the nation's longest winning streak at 18 games, but Utes coach Kyle Whittingham hasn't been pleased with his team in the first two games this season.
"We're miles away from having all the answers," he told reporters after last Saturday's desultory 24-14 victory over San Jose State that wasn't clinched until late in the fourth quarter.
But the Utes can erase the memory of the first two games by winning at Oregon on Saturday night. This will be the second road game in a five-game stretch where the Utes play on the road four times.
"I'm itching for a big win," Utes starting center Zane Taylor told The Salt Lake Tribune. "I know everyone else is, too. The last two wins have been ugly, but they've been wins. But this team is really hungry for a big win against a good team."
Does Oregon count as a "good team" this season? The Ducks' offense was a no-show in the opener against Boise State ; last week, the defense got shredded in a two-point victory over Purdue.
Still, a win on the road against a Pac-10 team would burnish Utah's resume and put them back in the national consciousness. The Utes were the nation's only unbeaten team last season, but have fallen down the potential "BCS buster" list this fall because of big wins by Boise, archrival BYU and Houston.
Since the beginning of the 2003 season, Utah has won six of its past eight games against Pac-10 foes.
The Utes may be without two key starters against the Ducks. Running back Matt Asiata has a sore shoulder and guard Caleb Schlauderaff has an injured knee. Eddie Wide and Sausan Shakerin would team up to replace Asiata. Wide has good speed, but isn't as effective between the tackles; Shakerin is a good between-the-tackles guy.
If Schlauderaff can't go, Taylor likely moves to guard and Tyler Williams would start at center.
Key matchup: Fresno State run offense vs. Boise State run defense. Fresno State does not want to put Friday night's game in the hands of redshirt freshman QB Ryan Colburn, so the Bulldogs must run well if they're to stay close, much less win. Junior RB Ryan Mathews has opened the season with back-to-back 100-yard games, including a 107-yard performance at Wisconsin last week, and he needs to produce against the Broncos. While Boise State isn't overly big along the defensive front, the Broncos are quick on defense and have allowed just 69 rushing yards in two games. Last season, Boise held Fresno to 83 rushing yards and won the game by 51 points; in 2007, Fresno managed just 89 rushing yards in a game Boise won by 13.
On the spot: Nevada QB Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick and the Wolf Pack opened with a 35-0 loss at Notre Dame two weeks ago and were off last week. If Nevada is to get its first win of the season Saturday at Colorado State, Kaepernick needs to come through with a big performance. Kaepernick threw for 149 yards and ran for 39 against the Irish; the second number will be the key against the Rams in what is one of three Mountain West-WAC contests this week. Colorado State has allowed just 87 rushing yards in two games, but Nevada will make a concerted effort to run the ball. And Kaepernick is the key.
Numbers game: Boise State is 7-1 against Fresno State since it joined the WAC. The Broncos have won eight in a row in the WAC and six in a row on the road.
What they're saying
"We knew it was going to happen, and we planned for that. It doesn't matter what you want; it's what you have. There are positives and negatives to everything. To me, it's harder to sit out a bye week after a loss than a win." - Houston coach Kevin Sumlin, on not playing after shocking Oklahoma State last week.
"You know you're going to get it from the spread teams and you know it's coming. But conventional, what I call typical Big Ten power teams like a Virginia Tech - that that was a nice move on their part. They came out smart after that loss to Alabama." - Marshall coach Mark Snyder, on Virginia Tech using a hurry-up offense during their win over the Thundering Herd.
"As a player or coach, you do not get caught up in the revenge or 'payback.' That is more in the fan base." - Middle Tennessee coach Rick Stockstill, on the idea that Maryland - this week's opponent - will be looking for revenge for last season's loss to MTSU.
"I was impressed with his poise, strength, power, athletic ability and the way he threw the ball. I told somebody after the game that I think I'd rather play Pat White than play Brown again." - East Carolina coach Skip Holtz, on new West Virginia QB Jarrett Brown. ECU beat WVU last season, but WVU turned the tables on Saturday.
"Many of our players were told they weren't good enough to play at North Carolina. This will be a game that they put a chip on their shoulders for. I'm excited to go play this game." - Holtz, on playing at North Carolina this Saturday.
"Being the quarterback is a little bit like being the coach; when things aren't good, you have to shoulder the blame. Right now, we are a bad offensive football team." - Memphis coach Tommy West, on benching Arkelon Hall and naming Tyler Bass the new starting quarterback.
Etc.: Akron is playing host to a Big Ten school for the first time in school history Saturday, when Indiana visits. ... Boise State beat Miami University 48-0 last week, its first-ever shutout of an FBS non-conference opponent. ... UTEP S Da'Mon Cromartie Smith leads the nation with 34 tackles in two games. ... Hawaii is in the midst of a three-game road trip, which is the first time since 1964 the Warriors are playing three in a row on the road. ... SMU is 2-0 for the first time since 1996, and last week's victory at UAB snapped a 17-game Conference USA losing streak and a 15-game road losing streak. ... Louisiana Tech senior FS Antonio Baker has 320 career tackles, tied with Baylor LB Joe Pawelek for the most among active players. ... San Jose State rushed for just 22 yards against Utah last week - but that was the highest total for the Spartans in their past four games. They're at Stanford this week. ... Central Michigan WR Bryan Anderson has caught a pass in 42 consecutive games, the nation's longest such streak. ... Akron's 41-0 win over Morgan State last Saturday was the Zips' first shutout since 1992 and its first home shutout since 1989. ... Hawaii's win over Washington State last week was its first road win over a Pac-10 opponent since 1994. ... Utah State, which plays at Texas A&M this week, has lost seven in a row on the road. ... SMU has nine interceptions, one more than it had all of last season. ... Buffalo QB Zach Maynard threw for 400 yards in the Bulls' loss to Pittsburgh, the most passing yards by a Bull since the school moved to Division I-A (now called FBS). ... San Diego State has not allowed a sack in five consecutive games.
Mike Huguenin is the college sports editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.