Randy Hollis: 2012 is the year of the returning quarterback for Utah's 'Big 5'

Published: Saturday, Aug. 25 2012 8:21 p.m. MDT

Utah State: One thing the Aggies have going for them is that when Keeton, now a sophomore, got hurt last year, Adam Kennedy — who's back for his senior season — stepped into the void and Utah State never missed a beat.

The Aggies suffered a series of heartbreaking losses early last season, then got things rolling and reached a bowl game for the first time since John L. Smith was calling the shots in Logan.

After opening this season at home against Southern Utah, the Aggies face a couple of fierce challenges with a home game against Utah and a road trip to Wisconsin. Then they play at Colorado State, where they'll be out to avenge last year's hard-luck loss, and then try to do the same thing two weeks later at BYU.

But Utah State has a stretch of five very winnable games starting with Sept. 29 at home against perennial doormat UNLV. Then, after the BYU game on Oct. 5, the Aggies play in succession at San Jose State, at home against New Mexico State, at Texas-San Antonio and home against Texas State. If that's not a recipe for success, I dunno what is.

USU finishes up the regular season with a likely WAC title showdown at Louisiana Tech, followed by its final WAC game at home against Idaho before joining the Mountain West Conference next year.

Predicted finish: 8-4.

Weber State: Smith may have bailed on the Wildcats, but Hoke is back to try and bail out the Wildcats. The Throwin' Hawaiian says his surgically repaired shoulder is 100 percent, and he'll get a chance to test it when the Weebs open the season with road games (and almost assuredly an 0-2 start) against a couple of BCS schools, Fresno State and BYU.

Things get a little easier after that, with two home games (McNeese State and Eastern Washington), a road trip to UC Davis, and another home game vs. Cal Poly. That's followed by road games at Sacramento State and Big Sky newcomer Southern Utah, which beat the Wildcats last year in Ogden.

Home games against Montana and Northern Colorado, followed by a road game at Idaho State, close out the 'Cat campaign.

Predicted finish: 6-5.

Southern Utah: The Thunderbirds, like Weber State, start the season with back-to-back road games against BCS schools. In their case, it's Utah State and California of the Pac-12, where Sorensen will get a chance to show off his considerable passing skills in front of a big crowd.

SUU's schedule softens up considerably after that, though, with New Mexico Highlands coming to town, followed by its first-ever Big Sky game on the road at Portland State. Then Montana State and Sacramento State come to Cedar City in consecutive weeks, followed by a road game against always-powerful Montana.

Home games with Weber State and Eastern Washington are followed by season-ending road games at North Dakota and then Northern Arizona.

Predicted finish: 6-5.

And, lest you think this football forecast is about as accurate as the one you usually get on the 10 o'clock news, here's how we fared last year: BYU, predicted 9-3, finished regular season 9-3 and wound up 10-3 overall with its bowl win; Utah, predicted 8-4, finished regular season 7-5 and wound up 8-5 overall with its bowl win; Utah State, predicted 7-5, finished regular season 7-5 and wound up 7-6 overall with its bowl loss; Weber State, predicted 6-5, finished 5-6; Southern Utah, predicted 6-5, finished 6-5.

At the risk of tooting one's own horn, hey, that ain't too bad.

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