Bleeding Red: QB battle the headliner as Utes ready for season-opener

College football has returned, and so have the Utes
All predictions require a look at the roots
There’s been too much turnover in Utah’s OC
Not enough turnover in Washington DC

COMMENTARY — I love this time of year! The kids are back in school (their loss is my gain). Only 17 more Mondays until Christmas (spend the intervening shopping days wisely). But most importantly, college football is about to kick off!

ESPN college football insider Brian Fremeau ranks Utah’s schedule as the toughest in the nation.

state-mapSix Pac-12 teams are ranked in ESPN’s Top 25, five of which are on Utah’s schedule (and three of them are road games). Throw in a road game at the Big House in Michigan, not to mention a game against a gritty Fresno State squad, and there is no disputing that the Utes have a tough row to hoe this year.

However, the challenge facing Utah also provides a great opportunity. I mean, all the Utes have to do is run the table and they are a shoo-in for the inaugural 4-team playoff, right? Right! (By the way, that last “right” was dripping with sarcasm if you couldn’t tell — think of Bill Cosby’s routine about Noah.)

So what kind of a season is Utah really in for this year?

Realistically, I think the Utes have a legitimate shot at a winning record and a bowl game, with anything more than that being pure icing on the cake. However, I have to admit that it is entirely possible that Utah could endure its third consecutive season with a losing record.

Still, anything can happen — which is the beauty of sports in general — and that is why they actually play the games instead of just relying upon polls and computer simulations.

Once again, the Utes’ defense will be solid and anchor the team as a whole. The biggest question mark is Utah’s offense.

New OC Dave Christensen
New OC Dave Christensen

In the last seven years, the Utes have had six different offensive coordinators (seven if you count Aaron Roderick as a “Co-Offensive Coordinator” in 2011, although Norm Chow did not have the “Co” attached to his title as “Offensive Coordinator”). That kind of turnover is not good for anyone (unless you are preparing for a prostate exam, which I certainly hope is not the case for Utah this year).

Speaking of turnover, on the other end of the spectrum you have the U.S. Congress. In 2012 Congress had a pitiful approval rating of 10%, yet that same year more than 90% of incumbents running for Congress were re-elected? Does anyone besides me think that is a problem?

Why do we demand immediate accountability in sports, but couldn’t care less when it comes to the politicians who are doing such a poor job running this country? Can the voters of Utah do me a personal favor on Nov. 4 and be as quick to pull the trigger on replacing its congressmen as the Utes are in replacing their offensive coordinators? Have I mentioned that I am running in the 1st Congressional District? But I digress.

Can Dave Christensen finally give the Utes an identity on the offensive side of the ball this year? We’ll know soon enough. Utah kicks off its season on Thursday, Aug. 28 with a home game against Idaho State.

The key to the Utes’ offense will be the play it gets at quarterback. Mirroring the carousel at offensive coordinator, Utah has not had the same quarterback begin and end the season since Brian Johnson did it back in 2008 (culminating in a sweet Sugar Bowl victory over Alabama on January 2, 2009).

In stark contrast to the lack of depth at this position in years past, this year the Utes have multiple very talented quarterbacks on the roster. Travis Wilson will get the start against Idaho State, with Kendal Thompson (a transfer from Oklahoma) backing him up. Head coach Kyle Whittingham has stated redshirt freshman Brandon Cox is currently third on the depth chart after outplaying fellow redshirt freshman Connor Manning in fall camp. In the wings are Jason Thompson (a transfer who previously played for Dave Christensen when he was the head coach at Wyoming), who has to sit out this year but will still have two years of eligibility left, and Donovan Isom (a true freshman from Louisiana) who is expected to redshirt this year. Also back this year is Adam Schulz.

Of course, having too many quarterbacks on the roster can be just as big of a problem as having too few, but given my choice of headaches to deal with I will always take more quarterbacks than not enough.

Travis Wilson
Travis Wilson

I’m still not convinced Travis Wilson is the man for the job. If I had to pick right now, I would start Kendal Thompson, with Brandon Cox nipping at his heels. Of course, the media only has limited access to Utah’s practices, so I have not been able to see the quarterbacks’ full body of work. Perhaps Wilson will prove me wrong; I certainly hope so for the sake of the Utes.

Here’s to another fun-filled college football season — keep your arms and legs inside the ride at all times and enjoy!

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @oldschoolag

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