Brown, DeVito lead Illinois past Wyoming 38-6 in opener

Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – Chase Brown scored three touchdowns and rushed for 151 yards and Tommy DeVito completed 27 of 37 passes for 192 yards and two scores in his debut as Illinois breezed past Wyoming 38-6 in a season-opener on Saturday.

Only 41 seconds elapsed before Brown found his way into the end zone, latching on to a 14-yard pass from DeVito to put Illinois in front.

“I thought Tommy really showed great composure,” Illinois coach Bret Bielema said. “He’s a very accurate passer. He had some glitches today, but things we can definitely clean up.”

Brown surpassed 2,000 career rushing yards – including his freshman season at Western Michigan – on an 18-yard run in the second quarter. Brown followed with an 11-yard TD run and kicker Caleb Griffin connected from 27 yards out to give Illinois a 17-3 halftime lead.

“A lot of times, running backs jump the gun on their keys and their reads, and he’s just really patient and I think playing at a high level,” Bielema said.

Brown is the 19th Illinois running back to hit the 2,000-yard career mark.

“We’ve got to be better going into Big Ten play to really make a statement,” Brown said. “We did what we were supposed to today. We all knew that we would win this game, but it’s going in there next week against Indiana where we can really make a statement.”

Wyoming quarterback Andrew Peasley completed just six of 21 passes for 40 yards in his debut.

Cowboys running back Titus Swen rushed for 98 yards on 17 carries, while Peasley added 76 rushing yards on eight attempts.

“Our guys are trying. We just didn’t play very well and we didn’t coach very well,” Wyoming coach Craig Bohl said.

Swen left the game with what Bohl said could be a rib injury after a 6-yard run in the fourth.

The Cowboys converted just 1 of 12 third-down attempts, while the Illini were successful on 7 of 16.

John Hoyland had field goals of 22 and 46 yards for the Cowboys.

“It’s hard right now, but I do know this, we’ve got a lot of resolve in the locker room,” Bohl said. “(We have) coaches that want to work hard, and we’re going to come back. But yeah, it’s real frustrating.”

Illinois upped its lead to 31-6 early in the fourth quarter when Brown scored on a 5-yard run. Reggie Love tacked on late score with a 33-yard rush after he narrowly stayed on his feet and avoided the sideline.

DeVito, who transferred to Illinois from Syracuse, said he had enough time in the pocket to sift through his third and fourth options on certain passing downs.

“I’m not taking any shots here, but I think this is the first game that I’ve been in where I did not get sacked,” DeVito said. “Am I fair to say that?”

Sixth-year offensive tackle Alex Palczewski made his program record 53rd career start to break a tie with former teammate and current Minnesota Vikings tackle Vederian Lowe.

First-year offensive coordinator Barry Lunney Jr. sped up the tempo at times, regularly going no-huddle in a bid to wear down Wyoming’s defensive front.

“We’re a no-huddle team now, there’s a lot of things that go into that,” Bielema said. “Barry is just extremely gifted in the way he thinks and communicates with our players. I think that definitely showed up today with the number of guys that played.”

Illini cornerback Jartavius Martin made a team-high seven tackles and broke up three passes.

THE TAKEAWAY

DeVito looked confident in his debut, even if there is room for improvement, connecting with a dozen different receivers. If Illinois gets steady quarterback play, it could fair well in the Big Ten West thanks to its stingy defense.

The Cowboys look a few steps behind 2021 after losing much of their top talent to the portal.

“If you want to play against these type of opponents, then you’ve got to perform,” Bohl said. “Maybe the want-to was there, but the competency as a whole wasn’t.”

UP NEXT

Illinois: The Illini open Big Ten Conference play on Friday night when they travel to Indiana to take on the Hoosiers.

Wyoming: The Cowboys will host Tulsa next Saturday in a nonconference match-up.

Pac-12 looking stronger at top after early-season losses

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
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When Oregon got throttled by top-ranked Georgia and Utah lost at Florida, it appeared as though the Pac-12 was headed toward another College Football Playoff miss.

One week into the season and two of the conference’s top teams had already failed big early tests.

Flash forward three weeks and it seems the Pac-12 might be in good shape after all.

The Ducks and Utes bounced back with big wins and the top of the conference looks strong, with four teams in the top 15 for the first time since 2016.

It’s still early, but the Pac-12 is putting itself in position to get a team through to the CFP for the first time since Washington in 2016-17.

A look at how the top of the Pac-12 is stacking up headed into the first weekend of October:

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

The No. 6 Trojans (4-0, 2-0 Pac-12) seem to have quickly returned to glory in their first season under Lincoln Riley. The former Oklahoma coach brought quarterback Caleb Williams with him to Southern California and they have thrived through the first four games.

Williams has thrown for 1,054 yards and nine touchdowns, adding 100 yards and two more scores rushing. USC’s defense has been opportunistic, leading the nation with 11 interceptions while tied for the lead with 14 takeaways.

The Trojans survived a scare against scrappy Oregon State over the weekend to start 4-0 for the first time since 2012. USC has to play at Utah on Oct. 15, but avoids Washington and Oregon this season.

UTAH

The 12th-ranked Utes opened the season with a tough road loss at The Swamp in Florida, but have won three straight lopsided games.

Outside of a costly interception late against the Gators, quarterback Cam Rising has been sharp, throwing for 954 yards and 10 TDs. Utah (3-1, 1-0) has a physical defense and is third in the FBS, allowing 132.8 yards passing per game.

The Utes also have a veteran team that won the Pac-12 championship last season. The bad news: tight end Brant Kuithe, their leading receiver, is out for the season with a knee injury.

Utah plays Oregon State this weekend and has tough games against USC and Oregon still on the schedule.

OREGON

The Ducks’ playoff chances took an immediate hit with a 49-3 loss to reigning national champion Georgia in their opener.

No. 13 Oregon (3-1, 1-0) bounced back with a decisive win over a good BYU team and outlasted previously undefeated Washington State 44-41 last week.

The Ducks were no match for the Bulldogs in any aspect – few teams are – but have averaged 51.6 points the past three games. Oregon’s biggest weakness is its pass defense. The Ducks are allowing 72.5% of passes to be completed, third worst in the country.

Oregon’s biggest tests left in the season will come in back to back games against Washington and Utah.

WASHINGTON

The Huskies have made a quick turnaround in their first season under coach Kalen DeBoer.

Quarterback Michael Penix Jr. has been superb now that he’s healthy, throwing for an FBS-best 1,388 yards and 12 TDs with one interception. No. 15 Washington (4-0, 1-0) picked up a solid home win against Michigan State and has 15 sacks this season, including eight against Stanford last week.

The Huskies play their first road game at undefeated UCLA on Saturday and have to face Oregon on Nov. 12.

UCLA

After winning at Colorado for the first time since 2014 last Saturday, the Bruins (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12) have their longest winning streak since winning the first eight games in 2005.

UCLA had a hard time getting past South Alabama and opened its Pac-12 schedule with a win against the struggling Buffaloes.

The Bruins will find out how good they are over the next three weeks, a brutal stretch that includes home games against Washington and Utah before heading to Eugene to play the Ducks on Oct. 22.

CFP expansion talks head toward October after 7-hour meeting

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
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ROSEMONT, Ill. — The conference commissioners who manage the College Football Playoff met for almost seven hours Tuesday to work on expanding the postseason system from four to 12 teams as soon as the 2024 season.

There is still much work to be done.

“We will not wrap up this week,” CFP Executive Director Bill Hancock said.

The CFP management committee, comprised of 10 conference commissioners and Notre Dame’s athletic director, is scheduled to convene again at the Big Ten offices for a few hours Wednesday morning. They are set to meet again in person in Dallas on Oct. 20.

“That’ll be important,” Hancock said.

Expansion talks were revived by the university presidents and chancellors who oversee the College Football Playoff last month.

By adopting a 12-team plan that had been on the table since the spring of 2021, the presidents pushed the commissioners to try to implement a new format before the end of the CFP’s current contract with ESPN. That deal ends after the 2025 season.

Expanding from four to 12 in 2024 and ’25 will require rescheduling semifinals and championship games that already have dates and sites set, plus adding four new first-round games in mid-December to be played on campus sites.

Squeezing it all into about a month and working around the NFL for television will be challenging.

Hancock said the idea of moving up the start of the college football season to the week before Labor Day to create more room at the end for the playoff has been discussed, but more for beyond the 2025 season.

“I think most people view that as a future item. As long-term item and not an immediacy item,” Hancock said. “Remember, there’s so many details.”

Hancock said CFP officials have spoken to bowl partners and hosts cities that are set to hold semifinals and championship games after the 2024 and ’25 seasons, but they have not been presented definitive new dates.

Atlanta already has been chosen as the host city for the championship game to be played following the 2024 season, on Jan. 6, 2025. The game would have to be pushed back about two weeks if the playoff grows from four teams to 12.

“(Atlanta organizers) have some work to do because of other businesses in the community,” Hancock said. “Other meeting-type business, hotel business and Convention Center business there. They’ve been great to work with.”