Randy Hollis: College football: 'Big Five' preseason picks have become a crow-eating meal
Tom Smart, University of Utah Athletics
SALT LAKE CITY —
Sports writers love to make predictions. It's a way for us to put all of our vast knowledge, great insight and tremendous expertise on display for everyone to see.
Six weeks ago, I made my annual season predictions for each of the state's "Big Five" college football programs. I was highly optimistic that all five schools — BYU, Utah, Utah State, Weber State and Southern Utah — would enjoy solid success this season, and I boldly picked all five of them to wind up with winning records this year.
Indeed, it was a college football forecast full of (as that old 1960's song says) sunshine, lollipops and rainbows.
Well, midway through the 2012 campaign, it looks like at least a couple of those schools are facing some pretty stormy skies, with more rainy days ahead.
And it certainly appears that much of my optimism was unfounded, my knowledge sorely lacking, and my alleged insight and expertise more wayward than a Utah State field goal attempt.
Yep, unfortunately, it's time to eat some crow.
For the record, my preseason predictions for the 2012 regular season were: Utah would go 10-2, BYU 9-3, Utah State 8-4, and Weber State and Southern Utah, both 6-5.
Well, a quick glance at their records six weeks into this season shows Utah at 2-3, BYU and Utah State both 4-2, Southern Utah 2-4 and Weber State off to an ugh (as in very ugh-ly) 0-6 start.
And in this season of the returning quarterback — all five schools featured QBs who had previously started for their respective teams, although three of them were returning from injuries that sidelined them last season — only Utah State's Chuckie Keeton and SUU's Brad Sorensen have played anywhere near up to preseason expectations.
In the Utes' loss to the Aggies, Utah's Jordan Wynn suffered a severe shoulder injury for the fourth time in two-plus years and decided to call it a career. BYU's Riley Nelson hurt his back against Weber State and hasn't been the same since, sitting out the Cougars' last two games. And Weber State's Mike Hoke has had an up-and-down season so far for the winless Wildcats.
Utah's vaunted defense got torched by USC's Heisman-hopeful quarterback Matt Barkley, and the Utes have given up a combined 75 points in their last two games. Already with three losses, it's painfully obvious that virtually everyone's preseason prognostications overestimated the strength of Utah's team, which still faces tough Pac-12 games against UCLA, Oregon State, Arizona and Washington. Heck, even those so-called gimmes against Cal, Washington State and Colorado look like anything but a sure thing right now.
Sadly, that lofty 10-2 prediction is as faulty as a politician's false promises, and a final 7-5 mark might be much closer to the truth.
BYU and Utah State could both still reach the level of success which was predicted of them before the season. But the Cougars must figure out their quarterback dilemma — Nelson or Taysom Hill — and while their defense has been downright dominating, their offense has sputtered badly at times and managed a paltry six points in a loss to Boise State and again in a win over Utah State, sandwiched around a rout of Hawaii.
But if BYU can win two of its next three games — Oregon State at home, Notre Dame and Georgia Tech away — that 9-3 finish is still a strong possibility.
Utah State is precisely halfway to its predicted 8-4 finish, and the Aggies are a couple of missed field goals away from a possible 6-0 start and a national Top 25 ranking. They should win their next four games and, with a WAC showdown against Louisiana Tech looming as the toughest remaining game on the Aggies' schedule, a 10-2 or 9-3 showing seems very attainable.
The only breaks Weber State seems to get this season are in their players' bones — or hearts — and interim head coach Jody Sears is still searching for answers. With remaining games against Sacramento State, Southern Utah, Montana, Northern Colorado and Idaho State, the Weebs are likely staring at a 3-8 finish at best — and very possibly even worse — making that 6-5 prediction look pretty darned silly right now.
Southern Utah still has a shot to match that 6-5 finish which was pegged for the Thunderbirds, but now they must win four of their last five games to do it . That'll be no easy task, to be sure.
But hey, it's gotta be easier than eating a double-helping of crow. So please pass the Grey Poupon — and hold the onions.
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