A week ago, the game between Washington State and Utah looked as though it might be a showdown between ranked and undefeated teams, and perhaps even a preview of the conference championship.
The Cougars (3-1, 0-1 Pac-12) and the Utes (3-1, 0-1) are limping into Saturday's game in Salt Lake City coming off disheartening losses.
Washington State imploded in a 67-63 loss at home to UCLA. The previously winless Bruins scored 50 points in 19 minutes, rallying from a 32-point deficit.
Coach Mike Leach was still stunned days later.
"I think there were some guys that got satisfied and got sloppy," Leach said this week. "They got satisfied, looked at the scoreboard, which is precisely what we tell them not to do, and then they got sloppy and soft."
The loss spoiled a record-setting night for Cougars quarterback Anthony Gordon, who threw for a Pac-12 best nine touchdowns. It also dropped Washington State out of the Top 25.
Utah dropped from No. 10 to No. 19 in the rankings after its 30-23 loss in Los Angeles to the Trojans, who had to turn to third-string quarterback Matt Fink. Kedon Slovis, who took over as starter for the Trojans when they lost J.T. Daniels for the season in the opener, left the game early with a possible concussion.
Tyler Huntley passed for 210 yards and ran for 60 more, but the Utes committed 16 penalties for 120 yards and struggled to get key defensive stops. The team was also hurt when running back Zack Moss left in the first half with an apparent shoulder injury.
"It was disappointing to start conference play 0-1, but it is what it is," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. "We've been there before and we've had some pretty good results at the end. Like I've said before, it is one 12-game season not 12 one-game seasons. I don't think anyone in the South will go undefeated, could be wrong, but I think the last several years prove that is unlikely. There is a ton of football left."
Washington State has a four-game winning streak over Utah. The Utes' last win in the series came at home in 2012.
Other things to watch on Saturday when the Cougars visit the Utes:
UTAH INJURIES: It is unclear whether Moss will be back for the game. Huntley, who was limping late in the loss to USC, was also a question mark but he told reporters this week at practice that he planned to play.
If Moss doesn't return, Utah will lean on Jordan Wilmore, Devin Brumfield and Devonta'e Henry-Cole to run the ball.
AIR RAID PART II: This will be the second straight week the Utes face an Air Raid offense. New offensive coordinator Graham Harrell has installed the Air Raid at USC, and of course it's the hallmark of Leach's offenses.
"We've got to try to solve the same kind of offense this week that we played last week. They do it better than anybody in the country as far as what they do — throwing the football. Year-in and year-out, wherever Mike Leach is coaching they are going to be near the top in the country in throwing the ball," Whittingham said.
ALL ABOUT ANTHONY: Speaking of the Air Raid, Gordon has thrown for more than 400 yards in each of his first four games and is the first WSU quarterback to do so. He is the national leader among FBS quarterbacks for completions per game with 32.45, passing yards per game with 473.5 and total offense at 483.5.
Leach couldn't recall if he'd ever coached a QB who threw for nine touchdowns in a single game. "I'm not sure but I don't think so," he said.
ADMIRATION SOCIETY: Whittingham was asked this week about what it's like to have a conversation with Leach, who is known for a certain degree of quirkiness.
"He is the most entertaining coach you will come across. He is as smart as a whip and personable. You can literally choose any topic and you will get a couple of hours' worth of dialogue," Whittingham said. "He knows a lot. He must read a lot."
Before Leach's weekly news conference, he tweeted an article about treetop cabins in Norway.
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