Let’s see. Toledo beat Arkansas, Jacksonville State took Auburn to overtime, and Northern Illinois pushed defending national champion Ohio State to the brink in Columbus.

And those were just in the first three weeks of the season.

Is it fair to say that the gap between the titans and mid-tier teams in college football is narrowing?

“I think that is a fair assessment,” Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “I think that particularly in the Power 5 conferences, I think there’s – I don’t want to use the word ‘parity’ because I don’t think there’s parity – but there definitely is a bridging of that gap. I can’t tell you why. The scholarship reductions that have been around for a lot of years played into it somewhat.”

Brandon Tierney believes the spread offense has played a major factor.

“It could be that as well,” Whittingham said. “That’s a great equalizer. The utilization of the quarterback in the spread offense, running the football has opened up opportunities for a lot of teams. And so there’s probably a few reasons for it, but you’re right. The traditional powers, there’s not as much separation between those guys and the rest of the field as there once was.”

Whittingham knows all about it. He’s been with Utah since 1994. This is his eleventh season as head coach. He coached under Urban Meyer and helped Utah go from Mountain West upstart to Pac-12 contender. In recent years, the Utes have beaten Alabama, Cal and Georgia Tech in bowl games and are currently ranked 18th in the AP Poll and 17th in the Coaches Poll.

“When we entered the Pac-12 (in 2011), it was like I got a new job,” Whittingham said. “The bar was raised in every single area across the board. I think we’ve transitioned well into the Pac-12, and nothing took us by surprise. We knew it was going to be a process and that we were going to have to build and catch up in certain ways with the other teams, and I think we’ve done a good job of that. Now, the league itself is markedly better right now than when we joined. I think that’s without question. And so everybody’s been a moving target, but we feel like we have closed that gap and are on more of a level playing field with the other teams in the league right now than we ever have been.”

Utah (3-0), which opened the year with a win over Michigan, has arguably its toughest test of the season this Saturday against No. 13 Oregon (2-1) in Eugene.

What would a win over the Ducks mean for Utah’s program?

“Well, it’ll be big,” Whittingham said. “We’ve had big road wins in the past. We had some great road wins last year, went down to UCLA in the Rose Bowl and got a win, and up to Stanford. We’ve made some progress through the years, but this would be right up there with the biggest wins on the road certainly in recent history. But Oregon’s a talented team. They got a lot going for them. They got explosive players across the board on offense. I mean, they got so many guys that can flat get it done that it’s scary. But our guys will be ready. We’re working hard. We’re coming out of non-conference play 3-0 with a little bit of confidence right now. We’ll see. We’ll see what happens.”

Kickoff is at 8:30 p.m. ET.


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