Tom Smart, Deseret News
Utah Utes quarterback Jordan Wynn (3) walks off the field at the end of the game as the University of Utah football team is defeated by Utah State University 27-20 in overtime Friday, Sept. 7, 2012,in Logan, Utah.

Jordan Wynn retired this week after another potentially season-ending shoulder injury, leaving the Utes in the hands of either Jon Hays or Travis Wilson.

Wynn happened to be the pawn in the Utah game that many sports analysts chose as a Utah key factor.

"If people want to say it lies on me, that's fine," Wynn said last March in an article by ESPN's Ted Miller. "If you look at any great college team, they usually have great quarterback play."

Early predictions across the board for the Utes were mostly positive and all mentioned some version of the phrase, "With a healthy Jordan Wynn..."

If Wynn were injured at the beginning of the season, Utah might not have been expected to be a Pac-12 "dark horse," but once he was taken out of the game during Utah's unexpected loss at Utah State, ESPN's Pac-12 power rankings dropped Utah from third to ninth.

Prior to this season-altering game, ESPN 700's Tyler Gray said, "The Utes are poised as a dark horse candidate to make some noise in the Pac-12. With a strong defense and a healthy quarterback, anything goes when USC comes rolling into town."

Now Ute fans have to wonder if the team can prove preseason predictions accurate and remain top contenders in the Pac-12 South without Wynn.

Fortunately, Utah still has a strong defense. It might be enough to carry them through while the quarterback position is uncertain. While coach Kyle Whittingham decides between senior Jon Hays and freshman Travis Wilson, the Utes still have plenty of promising talent.

Utah's defense was expected to be stellar this season.'s Kevin Gemmell mentioned them with Pac-12 fellows USC and Oregon and said they have "elite" defenses heading into 2012. So far the defense has mostly performed up to par, including a shutout in the Utes' first game of the season.

A large part of the defense is senior tackle Star Lotulelei who has been highlighted nationally for Utah and has been designated as a defensive leader this season.

"We've got all the tools," said Lotulelei earlier this season. "I think once we put it all together, we have a real good chance of being the best."

Utah might just have enough going for them defensively to carry them through until their quarterback issues are resolved.