Young gets 6 TDs, No. 1 Alabama routs Utah State, 55-0

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Bryce Young‘s five touchdown passes were nothing all that new for Alabama’s Heisman Trophy winner.

That 63-yard sprint down the left sideline and other big runs presented a seldom seen side of his game.

Young didn’t just throw for those touchdowns – all in the first half – he even ran for 100 yards and a score in No. 1 Alabama’s 55-0 opening victory over Utah State on Saturday night.

It was, he said, a “cool” and “interesting” experience.

“I just try to do whatever is best for this team, whatever the defense gives us,” Young said. “That’s definitely interesting. It definitely wasn’t something I was planning. For me, it’s just taking whatever the defense gives us.

“Today that was just what was available. It’s cool.”

The Crimson Tide began their quest for national title redemption with a not unexpected start-to-finish domination of the six-touchdown underdog Aggies (1-1). Less anticipated: Young’s runs.

Known primarily as a passer with a penchant for scrambling and buying time, Young flashed his running ability more than he ever did last season, including a 63-yarder down the left sideline.

He also spread the ball around to Alabama’s new set of playmakers, with two touchdown passes to both Georgia transfer Jermaine Burton and Traeshon Holden and some handoffs to Jahmyr Gibbs.

Young ran five times after netting zero yards thanks to sacks last season with a previous long run of 16 yards. He also completed 18 of 28 passes for 195 yards before exiting one drive into the second half following his TD run.

“I see Bryce do that on the regular, so it wasn’t really new to me,” Alabama safety Brian Branch said. “Just watching him be himself out there is truly amazing. Playing with a Heisman winner, I can’t describe it.”

Gibbs, a much talked about transfer from Georgia Tech, flashed his speed with a 58-yard run on the first play after the half. He finished with 93 yards on nine rushes.

His backup, Jase McClellan, caught a pair of TD passes.

Alabama outgained the Aggies 559-136 in total yards.

“It is what it is, and I’ve seen people in the SEC come here and get treated exactly the same way,” Utah State coach Blake Anderson said. “We’re not built that way. We’re a long ways from being able to play that game physically and match up. Maybe we’ll never be able to.”

THE TAKEAWAY

Utah State, which finished last season ranked, had won two straight games against Power 5 teams and started off strong with a 23-yard gain. Then the offense stalled and the defense was overwhelmed by Young & Co. The Aggies couldn’t turn a late blocked punt into points.

Alabama: Spent the offseason stewing over a loss to Georgia in the national championship game and came in as the favorite to win the national title, according to FanDuel sportsbook. Then Alabama did pretty much what it wanted to against a mismatched opponent. The Tide put some new playmakers on display after losing receivers Jameson Williams and John Metchie III and tailback Brian Robinson Jr.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Alabama didn’t do anything to diminish its status as the team to beat, but No. 3 Georgia and No. 2 Ohio State got the chance to make much bigger statements. The Bulldogs beat 11th-ranked Oregon 49-3. The Buckeyes topped No. 5 Notre Dame, 21-10.

SIDELINED Louisville transfer wide receiver Tyler Harrell had a walking boot on his right foot and didn’t dress for the game. Tight end Cameron Latu also missed the game with a knee injury.

CHANNELING SABAN

Saban emphasized it wasn’t a perfect performance and there’s plenty of room for improvement. His players echoed that sentiment.

“It was good, but we still have stuff to work on,” Branch said. “It’s not like we played a perfect game.”

Added Saban: “No disrespect to Utah State – their players played hard, they’ve got a good little team. But we’re going to play teams that are much more physical and aggressive and talented than what they are, so we’re going to have to do things correctly.”

UP NEXT

Utah State hosts Weber State on Sept. 10.

Alabama visits a Texas team led by former Tide offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian.

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.”