Ravell Call, Deseret News
You could certainly call 2011 "The Year of the Quarterbacks" for Utah's "Big Five" collegiate football teams because, much to absolutely nobody's surprise, the signal-callers at BYU, Utah, Utah State, Weber State and Southern Utah hold the key to each school's success this season.
Indeed, this is definitely "The Year of the Quarterbacks" because:
After coming on strong as a freshman last year, Jake Heaps appears primed for a spectacular sophomore season as Brigham Young University begins its brave new era of football independence.
Utah fans are holding their collective breath and hoping that junior QB Jordan Wynn, coming back from shoulder surgery, can stay healthy all year as the Utes embark on their Pac-12 journey.
Less than a week before its season-opener, Utah State still can't decide on its starting quarterback. Or, at least, the Aggies aren't saying so just yet.
After a four-year run with Cameron Higgins calling the shots at Weber State, junior Mike Hoke steps in to take control of the Wildcats' offense.
Following a monster season in 2010, when he led SUU to its first Great West Conference title, junior QB Brad Sorensen is back to do more damage to opposing defenses. Yep, those four players named above — plus whoever the Aggies pick — could control the destiny of their respective programs when the 2011 campaign gets under way later this week.
Heaps, Wynn and and Sorensen are already proven commodities, each of them piling up impressive statistics during past performances that give their schools reason to be plenty optimistic this season. And Hoke has the tools to step into Higginson's shoes and do so admirably.
Only in Logan, where junior Adam Kennedy and freshman Chuckie Keeton have been battling for the Aggies' starting job, are things still up in the air.
And with the 2011 season just four days away when Utah takes on Montana State on Thursday evening, it's time to look at each school's schedule and make some predictions.
BYU: The Cougars' first three games — at Mississippi, at Texas and home against Utah — could leave them 3-0, 0-3 or more likely somewhere in between.
After that, though, BYU's schedule gets considerably easier with consecutive home games against Central Florida, Utah State and San Jose State. Then, after a trip to Oregon State, the Cougars host lowly Idaho State before facing TCU on the road. After that comes home games with Idaho and New Mexico State, and they finish up the regular season at Hawaii. They should win at least six of their seven home games, and possibly all seven of them. Road wins at Texas, Oregon State, TCU and Hawaii could pose a problem, but eight, nine or even 10 wins are a distinct possibility.
And Heaps will begin his bid to join the long list of great Cougar QBs of the past.
Predicted finish: 9-3.
Utah: After Thursday night's walk-over against Montana State of the Big Sky, the Utes jump into the Pac-12 pool the following week with a game against Southern Cal which could serve as a barometer for the entire season.
Then comes the annual grudge match with BYU — playing that game in September will be tough to get used to — followed by Pac-12 home games with Washington and Arizona State. Road games at Pittsburgh and California follow, and then they alternate home-and-away games against Oregon State, Arizona, UCLA, Washington State and Colorado.
No, Toto, we're definitely not in the Mountain West Conference any more. And if Wynn goes down, the Utes' chances for a solid season could very well go with him.
Predicted finish: 8-4.
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