Best of the CFB West: BYU ascends to No. 1, followed by USC

BYU’s title defense begins this week.

What title, you ask? The Cougars stands as the two-time defending champions of the West — unofficially, of course.

In 2020, they were the best team in the western third of the country by default. Unlike Pac-12 and Mountain West schools, BYU played played a full season and finished with a 10-1 record.

Last year, the Cougars were behind Utah in the end-of-season AP top-25 poll but earned the fictitious crown with a five-game sweep of the Pac-12, including a head-to-head victory over the Utes.

Their pursuit of a three-peat starts Saturday in Eugene with the first of two matchups against the Pac-12. (The second comes late in the season, at Stanford.)

If the Cougars collect another head-to-head sweep of the conference that wanted no part of them as a member, and if they end the year ranked higher than anyone from the Pac-12 or MW, we would proclaim them back-to-back-to-back champions without hesitation.

Okay, maybe there would be a little hesitation …

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

1. Brigham Young (2-0)

Result: beat Baylor 26-20 (OT)
Next up: at Oregon (12:30 p.m. on FOX)
Line: BYU +3.5
Comment: Hard to believe this is BYU’s first trip to Eugene since 1990 and the first meeting (anywhere) since 2006. We don’t expect either program will have the schedule flexibility (or desire) to make it a regular event.

2. USC (2-0/1-0 Pac-12)

Result: won at Stanford 41-28
Next up: vs. Fresno State (7:30 p.m. on FOX)
Line: USC -12.5
Comment: Through two games, the Trojans have punted just three times and faced only 15 third-down situations. Which makes total sense when you average 8.6 yards per play.

3. Utah (1-1)

Result: beat Southern Utah 73-3
Next up: vs. San Diego State
Line: Utah -21
Comment: The result last year — an overtime win for the Aztecs — was an outlier. The former Mountain West rivals are on different tiers, which will become crystal clear when the Utes dominate.

4. Washington State (2-0)

Result: won at Wisconsin 17-14
Next up: vs. Colorado State (2 p.m. on Pac-12 Networks)
Line: WSU -17
Comment: The Pac-12 is 4-1 against the Mountain West thus far. It should be 7-1 after this weekend.

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5. Oregon State (2-0)

Result: won at Fresno State 35-32
Next up: vs. Montana State (5 p.m. on Pac-12 Networks)
Line: no line (FCS opponent)
Comment: Dangerous game for the Beavers. Dangerous, dangerous game. They just walked-off Fresno State and host USC next week and, by the way, the Bobcats are good.

6. Fresno State (1-1)

Result: lost to Oregon State 35-32
Next up: at USC (7:30 p.m. on FOX)
Line: Fresno State +12.5
Comment: The Jake Haener Aerial Circus and Touchdown Tour had best be operating at maximum capacity. Because if the Bulldogs couldn’t hold Oregon State under 30, they won’t hold USC under 40.

7. UCLA (2-0)

Result: beat Alabama State 45-7
Next up: vs. South Alabama (11 a.m. on Pac-12 Networks)
Line: UCLA -15.5
Comment: Bored with the Bruins? Us, too.

8. Washington (2-0)

Result: beat Portland State 52-6
Next up: vs. Michigan State (4:30 p.m. on ABC)
Line: Washington -3.5
Comment: This time next week, the Huskies could be No. 1 in these rankings.

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