Best team in the West? It’s Utah, but USC and BYU are close behind

Welcome to a new weekly feature on the Hotline that focuses on the top major college teams across the Mountain and Pacific Time Zones.

And if Hawaii ever gets its football program turned around, we’ll happily expand our scope.

The Best of the West rankings will be published each Wednesday through the season.

If the response warrants, we’ll do a basketball version, too.

(All times Pacific. Point spreads taken from vegasinsider.com)

1. Utah (0-1)

Result: lost at Florida 29-26
Next up: vs. Southern Utah (10:30 a.m. on Pac-12 Network)
Line: none (FCS opponent)
Comment: Sure, the Utes wasted a great chance in Gainesville — actually, two great chances (inside the Gators’ 10-yard line). But if you started a Mountain-Pacific football playoff tomorrow, our money would be on Cam Rising and Co.

2. USC (1-0)

Result: beat Rice 66-14
Next up: at Stanford (4:30 p.m. on ABC)
Line: USC -9.5
Comment: The rebuilt defense faces its first serious test this week, courtesy of Cardinal quarterback Tanner McKee. The second comes next week, when the Jake Haener Aerial Circus and Touchdown Tour touches down in the Coliseum

3. Brigham Young (1-0)

Result: beat USF 50-21
Next up: vs. Baylor (7:15 p.m. on ESPN)
Line: BYU -3.5
Comment: Week Two provides a peek into BYU’s future as a member of the Big 12 and a rematch of Baylor’s 38-24 victory last year in Waco. The Cougars were held to 67 rushing yards, their lowest output, by far, of the 2021 season

4. Fresno State (1-0)

Result: beat Cal Poly 35-17
Next up: vs. Oregon State (7:30 p.m. on CBSSN)
Line: Fresno State +1
Comment: Not sure the evening swelter will be much of an edge for the Bulldogs: It’s supposed to be 95 degrees in Corvallis on Friday. (Heat dome!) However, the 65,000 fans packed into 41,000-seat Bulldog Stadium — or whatever the SRO number is — should be an advantage for the home team.

5. UCLA (1-0)

Result: beat Bowling Green 45-17
Next up: vs. Alabama State (2 p.m. on Pac-12 Network)
Line: none (FCS opponent)
Comment: The announced attendance for the opener was 27,143, the lowest in UCLA’s history at the Rose Bowl. And so we wonder: Will the combined crowds in the first three games (Bowling Green, Alabama State and South Alabama) equal the stadium’s current capacity of 91,136? We’re skeptical.

6. Oregon (0-1)

Result: lost to Georgia 49-3
Next up: vs. Eastern Washington (5:30 p.m. on Pac-12 Network)
Line: none (FCS opponent)
Comment: Oregon’s Week Three date with Brigham Young will tell us far more about the Ducks’ fate within the Pac-12 than the Georgia debacle.

7. Air Force (1-0)

Result: beat Northern Iowa 48-17
Next up: vs. Colorado (12:30 p.m. on CBS)
Line: Air Force -17
Comment: Since Troy Calhoun was hired to run the Air Force program on Dec. 22, 2006, Colorado has employed five head coaches. The first four were fired; the fifth is struggling.

8. Oregon State (1-0)

Result: beat Boise State 34-17
Next up: at Fresno State (7:30 p.m. on CBSSN)
Line: Oregon State -1
Comment: Trent Bray’s defense in his first regular-season game as OSU’s playcaller looked a lot like Trent Bray’s defenses in all his games as an OSU player: Fast, physical and relentless.

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