Utah offensive coordinator Norm Chow speaks with his players before Saturday's… (Kirby Lee / U.S. Presswire )
Utah was the Pacific 12 story line of last week, the new-to-the-conference Utes playing USC in the first Pac-12 football game.
The spotlight stays there this week. Utah plays Brigham Young on Saturday in what Utes Coach Kyle Whittingham called "the biggest sporting event in the state every year."
Yet, the rivalry is changing.
With Utah now in the Pac-12 and BYU an independent, conference ramifications are no longer involved. The schools were Western Athletic Conference members from 1962-99 and left together when the Mountain West Conference was formed.
"There is no conference affiliation, no conference championship on the line, it is no longer the last game of the season," Whittingham said Tuesday during the weekly Pac-12 football coaches' conference call. "There's a different flavor, different feel."
Whittingham said that BYU was always on the Utes' minds in years past, as the season built toward the showdown in the finale. The schools combined to win or share eight Mountain West championships in 12 seasons.
"You always keep an eye on the top teams in the conference and analyze the standings," Whittingham said. "We'd be aware of which big games they had coming up."
But it's out of sight and out of mind after this weekend, the first step in what some tradition-loving fans fear is a drifting apart of the programs. Most college football rivals are between teams in the same conference.
Whittingham doesn't think so, though. "I think it will remain every bit as intense," he said.
Learning on the run
Former Los Angeles Crenshaw High star De'Anthony Thomas disappointed USC fans in February when he chose to play at Oregon after months of purportedly being committed to USC.
His performance Saturday against Nevada showed what all the fuss was about.
Thomas recorded 204 total yards — 81 rushing, 93 receiving, 30 on kick returns — and two touchdowns in Oregon's 69-20 win.
Oregon Coach Chip Kelly said Thomas is not only talented, but also a student of the game.
"It's very easy to coach him," Kelly said. "He's a one-time kid: You correct him once and very rarely does he make the same mistake twice."
If you thought Gardena Serra High had produced some good wide receivers in Robert Woods, Marqise Lee and George Farmer of USC, don't forget Paul Richardson.
Richardson, a sophomore at Colorado who played with the three current Trojans during Serra's 2008 and 2009 seasons, is tied for the national lead with 333 yards receiving after catching 11 passes for a school-record 284 yards and two touchdowns in the Buffaloes' 36-33 loss to California.
After a game like that, Colorado Coach Jon Embree figures Richardson won't be in Boulder long.
"I hope to have him his full time," Embree said, "but you know how those things go."