AUSTIN, Texas — The setup is like this: BYU is in the heart of the Big 12, where teams are cannibalizing one another, and the Utes are visiting the hallowed Coliseum, where the storied USC Trojans are battling NCAA sanctions as the Utes open an exciting future in the Pac-12.
Those should be the stories and focus this weekend with the Cougars and Utes, because those angles are so intriguing. But the most important action will be on the respective fields, and little else matters when all else is boiled away.
Both BYU and Utah are fully capable of beating the home teams today. They'll need almost flawless performances and must take charge in the trenches to do so.
But the real key? Two guys: quarterbacks Jake Heaps and Jordan Wynn.
These two games will be won or lost on how these two guys execute, show poise, make plays, keep drives alive and deliver big plays.
Simple as that?
If either one plays like they did in their previous games, Utah and BYU will return home with 1-1 records when they face one another a week from now in LaVell Edwards Stadium.
Is that fair?
And of course, it takes a lot more in the game of football for a quarterback to be successful and find timing — rhythm, the proper delivery of the hike, blocking, routes, etc. Both Heaps and Wynn will need solid running games to help them pass the ball and make plays with their arms. Both need their defenses to get stops and the kicking game has to be golden.
Still, when the pigskin hits the air, the cleats hit the turf, everybody starts hitting one another and the school bands play, this is one contest where the QBs will ultimately decide momentum, consistency, continuity and the point spread.
Other than turnovers, there will be no bigger factor today for Utah and BYU.
I think both Heaps and Wynn will play better than they did a week ago in the openers against Mississippi and Montana State. They have to. They've been through the opening jitters and have sat in film rooms and watched where they misfired, under- and overthrew passes, and they've seen what receivers were open.
If these QBs register a pass efficiency rating of 145 or higher, BYU and Utah will win. Right now, Heaps' rating is 116.32 and Wynn is 130.80.
Now, it is showtime. And they are going to face much tougher defenses.
Utah will get a USC defense that is talented, deep, tough and motivated to give the Utes a Pac-12 welcome — a new kid on the hazing block. And they're capable of it.
BYU will face a more talented, quicker defense in Texas than they got at Mississippi when the Cougars managed just one offensive touchdown.
You get the picture.
It is an uphill battle today and the odds say both will have a very tough time. This is the thought, even as Utah appears to hit the Pac-12 at a good time. After seeing Arizona against Oklahoma State Thursday night, and the less than inspiring openers by UCLA, Washington, Oregon State and Oregon, the competition is down.
With Wynn, it's mostly a matter of style points: arm strength, zip on the ball, challenging the entire field with his arm.
With Heaps, it's a matter of finishing drives, zeroing in on what he needs to get done with his so-called elite arm.
USC and Texas will bring the heat against these two. Major heat.
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