No. 9 Baylor braces for loud noise, late night at No. 21 BYU

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The marquee matchup featuring No. 9 Baylor and No. 21 BYU will be a loud one and a late one. Not to mention the last one as nonconference adversaries.

To prepare for BYU on Saturday night (kickoff: 10:15 p.m. EDT) and the thunderous clatter inside LaVell Edwards Stadium, the Bears have been blaring crowd noise at practice.

“They’re going to be juiced up,” Baylor wide receiver/kick returner Gavin Holmes said as the Bears make their first trek to Provo, Utah, since 1984. “But we can’t let the outside noise get into our circle. … It’s definitely going to be a big test for us.”

For the Cougars (1-0), this will be a final glimpse into the world of Big 12 football before joining the league next season. The Bears (1-0) are no ordinary team out of the Big 12 – they’re the defending champions. They’re a 12-win team from a year ago, which included a 38-24 win over BYU in Waco, Texas, and a victory in the Sugar Bowl.

This will be a good gauge to measure how they stack up. But the Cougars downplayed that sort of angle in a contest where they’re a 3 1/2-point favorite, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.

“All I have to say about that is that I’m just excited to play them,” BYU offensive lineman Blake Freeland said.

In the aftermath of Baylor’s win last season, one message resounded: The Cougars needed to get even stronger with a Big 12 schedule looming.

“I think we have done that,” defensive lineman Lorenzo Fauatea said. “On both sides of the ball, everybody looks better, feels better and is playing better.”

The last time Baylor’s football team played in Provo was 1984, when the LaVell Edwards-coached Cougars won 47-13 on their way to a 13-0 season and a national title. The Bears know full well what’s in store at the roaring stadium named after the legendary coach.

“It’s packed. It’s loud,” Baylor coach Dave Aranda said. “That’s a storm we have to run into, and we’ve been talking about and preparing for that.”

SHAPEN SHARP

Baylor sophomore quarterback Blake Shapen was sharp in a 69-10 win over the University at Albany, throwing for 214 yards and two scores while running for another TD. Shapen’s poise certainly caught the attention of BYU coach Kalani Sitake.

“He looks like a veteran back there even though he’s still young,” Sitake said. “Baylor is a tough team to deal with especially when you mix that with a quarterback that’s accurate and has great composure.”

HALL SHARP, TOO

BYU QB Jaren Hall threw for 261 yards and two scores in a 50-21 win at South Florida. His experience stood out to Aranda.

“He’s going to be one of the better quarterbacks we’ll play all year,” Aranda said. “The film’s impressive in terms of the decisions he makes, and the throws he doesn’t take. He doesn’t put the team at risk. He was good last year. He’s better now.”

FAMILIAR FACES

The Cougars know all about Baylor offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes, who held the same role with BYU from 2018 to 2020. He helped mentor BYU standout and New York Jets QB Zach Wilson. Wilson was in the running for the Heisman Trophy in 2020 as he threw for 3,692 yards and 33 TDs.

Bears offensive line coach Eric Mateos also makes his return to Provo. He was in the same position with the Cougars.

NUMBERS, PART I

Over the program’s history, the Cougars are 5-22-1 against top-10 teams. Their last win was 24-21 at sixth-ranked Wisconsin in 2018.

The Bears are 26-33-1 as a ranked team versus another ranked team.

NUMBERS, PART II

Aranda isn’t reading too much into Baylor’s 5-1 record against ranked teams from a season ago.

“We don’t really look at the opponent that way,” the third-year Baylor coach said. “We talked about narrowing the focus, upping the quality and increasing the speed. Those are the things that can travel and can play when it’s third down there and you can’t hear anything.”

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

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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

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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.”