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Mike Sorensen: Never too early to talk college football

Published: Sunday, May 15 2011 7:11 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — When I arrived home from a movie late Saturday night, a FedEx package was leaning against my front door.

Hmm, what could possibly be so important to be delivered to my house on a Saturday night? Why the 2011 edition of the Sporting News College Football preview, of course.

The articles in magazines like this are written by guys like me, which is why I got my early free copy. So you can take the predictions with a grain of salt.

However, most of us have done our homework, collecting information from the various schools and the leagues as well as some of the coaches, so at least we know more than the average guy on the street.

I checked with three different places in town that sell a lot of magazines and none had seen a copy of the Sporting News issue yet and I presume most readers haven't seen it yet either.

So today here in the middle of May, while the NBA playoffs have just reached their final four, while Major League Baseball is heating up and while Chad Ochocinco is riding bulls, we'll share some college football news, courtesy of the 224-page Sporting News College Football issue.

Utah, in its first year in the Pac-12, is picked to win the South Division, ahead of Arizona State, with USC third, followed by Arizona, Colorado and UCLA. The writeup on the Utes calls Utah's schedule with no Stanford or Oregon "a gift from heaven," and new offensive coordinator Norm Chow, experienced quarterback Jordan Wynn and a strong and deep defensive line are three reasons for the No. 1 prediction (and no, I didn't do the Pac-12 story).

The Utes get a two-page spread, which is what any BCS school picked in the top two of its league or division, gets. The lower-picked schools get one page. Besides more copy, the teams on the two-page spreads get a bigger picture, which unfortunately for Utah shows Devonte Christopher, wearing one of those ugly black/camouflage uniforms from last year's TCU game.

BYU is featured with the Independents, who aren't ranked in any order. However, the Cougars are the second team in the independent section behind Notre Dame and ahead of Army and Navy. And although BYU has been given the same bowl status as Army and Navy, rather than Notre Dame, in the Sporting News preview, they have a two-page spread like Notre Dame's with a large picture of JJ Di Luigi.

The Cougars are projected to go to the Armed Forces Bowl, and I'm betting this is one prediction that the magazine will get right for sure — unless the Cougs lose to Idaho State and Idaho late in the season.

Utah State is picked for fifth place in the Western Athletic Conference behind Fresno State, Hawaii, Louisiana Tech and Nevada, which are each projected to go to bowl games. Running back Robert Turbin, offensive lineman Tyler Larsen and linebacker Bobby Wagner were selected as first team all-WAC. Turbin was named "top NFL prospect" and wide receiver Kerwynn Williams was named "best athlete" in the WAC. As for the WAC's best road trip, shockingly, it didn't go to Logan. Somehow Hawaii won that one.

Southern Utah is picked to win the Great West Conference and is No. 17 in the FCS preseason rankings. The T-Birds are led by quarterback Brad Sorensen, who is picked to be the offensive player of the year and wide receiver Michael Clore is picked as the newcomer of the year.

Weber State, which lost several offensive starters from last year, is picked for the middle of the Big Sky, which is loaded this year with three teams picked in the FCS Top 10. Wildcat offensive lineman J.C. Oram is a first-team all-American pick.

Utah is picked No. 22 in the preseason poll. Stanford and Oregon, the two Pac-12 opponents the Utes get to avoid this year, are picked 4 and 5, while Arizona State is the only other Pac-12 school in the top 25 at No. 24.

The Utes are slotted to play in the Holiday Bowl, while Stanford is picked to go to the Rose Bowl and Oregon to the Fiesta Bowl. Stanford and Oregon are picked 1-2 in the North, followed by Oregon State, Washington, California and Washington State. Only one Ute is picked for the all-conference team — senior linebacker Chaz Walker

BYU's Matt Reynolds is a first-team all-America selection on the offensive line.

For those think Montana State will be an easy opening game for the Utes, think again. The Bobcats are tabbed as the No. 5 team in the preseason FCS rankings.

Boise State and TCU are picked 1-2 in the Mountain West Conference and are 6th and 20th, respectively, in the FBS preseason poll.

LSU, which has replaced Gary Crowton with Steve Kragthorpe as offensive coordinator, is picked No. 1 in the country, with Oklahoma second and Alabama third.

Maybe BYU's opening games aren't so tough after all. Ole Miss is picked for 6th (last) in the SEC West, while Texas is picked to finish 5th in the Big 12.

Pitt, one of Utah's non-conference opponents, is picked for third in the Big East, behind West Virginia and South Florida.

So there you have it, folks. Just 108 days until the opening games and about 80 days until players start reporting for fall practice.

Email: sor@desnews.com

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