If you happened to watch some performances this past weekend, you're probably aware of how well many FCS teams did against their FBS counterparts. In all, eight FCS teams upset FBS opponents - including two who were coming off substantial seasons (Oregon State, who lost to Eastern Washington, and Kansas State, who lost to North Dakota State). The Beavers, Utah's opponent next week, actually entered the game ranked.
So, while we may look at the Weber St. Wildcats as a guaranteed win, week one's results tell us another story. Yes, Utah will be favored (currently, they're a three touchdown favorite) and yes, the Utes should win handily, but a loss to a FCS opponent isn't unheard of and even though Utah looked improved in their win over Utah State, nothing could derail a season faster than a stunning upset loss to the Wildcats.
Do I think it'll happen? No. Utah, under Kyle Whittingham, has been about as automatic as one could be against the FCS - with the program cruising to wins over Northern Arizona, Weber State, Montana State and Northern Colorado. The same couldn't be said for coaches like Mike Riley and Bill Snyder. Riley, two years ago, lost his opener to Sacramento State, and Snyder , who is a hall of fame coach, barely managed to hang on against Massachusetts (back when they were FCS) in his first game back as KSU's coach. So, there is precedents there, even if it's limited.
Whittingham, though, has scored lopsided victories in every game against FCS teams. That includes a tough Montana State team that finished the 2011 season seventh. Certainly the Wildcats, who won all of 2 games last year, are nowhere near the level of those Bobcats who managed to lose by 17 at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
What I hope we see Saturday, beyond a decisive victory, is a continued progress on both the offense and defense. In fact, I like playing a FCS team at this point because it does allow you to know who you are, since the team opened the season with a solid win over instate rival USU, but also work out the needed kinks to satisfy the coaches. Last year, when Utah opened the season against Northern Colorado, not much was answered in that victory. Because of that, a week later, against the Aggies in Logan, the Utes were exposed and the loss pretty much set the tone for the remainder of the season.
The chance for Utah to be exposed remains, but last Thursday's win over Utah State certainly quieted concerns. This Saturday, against what should be an overwhelmed opponent, they can build on that, allow for the tune-up needed before they dig deep in a very pivotal home conference opener against Oregon State.
In the end, I just want to see this offense continue its evolution. They did some good things Thursday and now, against a far lesser foe, they can maybe try a few more wrinkles out and help smooth over a great deal of the problems that plagued the team in their opener.
There is a saying in college football that the most improvement a team sees is between week one and week two. Last year that was absolutely not the case for Utah. They regressed greatly in their loss to the Aggies, but also hadn't proven much prior to that game anyway. This year, even with some unanswered questions, that isn't the case. I think the Utes proved some things last week - especially involving their offense. This week is a great opportunity to further their improvement and set a stronger foundation for the Oregon State game and beyond.
Anything less than a blowout win will be disappointing.