Have you had enough politics for one week? It’s been crazy watching the Republican National Convention go after the Democrats and then hear the Democrats respond. Back and forth like spoiled children squabbling over a football — everyone wants to play the game, just in their own way. Teamwork is an essential part of success whether it’s in Congress or on the playing field. I hope they someday figure that out — yeah, I know — who am I kidding?
While the Republican nominee Mitt Romney is giving his acceptance speech, college football will be kicking off tonight in Utah with all five Division 1 teams in action this weekend. It’s time to grill brats, barbecue some beans, break out the Apple Beer and watch some football.
Utah will kick off tonight at 5:15 p.m. and get the party going against Northern Colorado. Of all the games this weekend, this one’s a give-me. The Bears were the doormat of the Big Sky Conference last season going 0-11. The outcome to this game is a foregone conclusion. The big question here is how well the new 25-year-old offensive coordinator Brian Johnson will debut for the Utes? He was good at adapting and calling plays on the field as quarterback for Utah, but can he stay a couple of steps ahead of the game from the booth? This game will provide a good warm-up before BYU rolls into town, not to mention Utah State and Arizona State on the road.
Junior quarterback Jordon Wynn and senior running back John White are the guys to watch for the Utes. Wynn is bigger, stronger and healthier now that both shoulders have been repaired, and he looks ready to go. He will be critiqued throughout the game by every commentator, sports writer and Ute fan alive, so the Bears were a good pick for the opener. White is the Ute’s rushing leader and he will put on a show tonight at Rice Eccles. This is a no brainer, Utes will win big.
The Utah State Aggies host the Southern Utah Thunderbirds tonight at 6 p.m. in Romney Stadium — now that’s a coincidence. This will be it for USU and the Western Athletic Conference. The WAC is dropping football after 2012. The Aggies will join the Mountain West Conference in 2013 along with San Jose State. The remaining WAC teams will head to Conference USA, the Sun Belt or will be exploring other options. Nevertheless, tonight USU will be taking on SUU from the Big Sky, which is arguably the premier conference in the West now that the WAC is folding and the big names of the MWC have gone independent or jumped to BCS conferences.
This game should be a thriller. SUU tipped over UNLV last season 41-16 and are looking to do the same against the Aggies. USU beat the Thunderbirds in their last meeting, in 2009, 53-34.
Watch for SUU’s quarterback Brad Sorensen and Utah State’s quarterbacks Adam Kennedy and Chuckie Keeton. Sorensen has 549 completions out of 815 passing attempts for 6,306 yards and 38 touchdowns and will assault the record book again during his final season. At 6’ 5” and 235 pounds he‘s a pro-style quarterback getting NFL attention — heck, BYU even wants him back.
Head coach Gary Anderson has not named a starting quarterback yet, but whoever it is, they’re praying the “last one to score wins” curse is over. Kennedy is a senior and relieved injured Chuckie Keeton during the Hawaii game last season and spearheaded a 35-31 come-from-behind victory. Kennedy started thereafter, leading the Aggies to a bowl game for the first time since 1997. Sophomore quarterback Chuckie Keeton would like to have another Auburn game, only winning it this time. We won’t know either way until coach Anderson makes his game time decision — I love this guy.
Two brothers will be playing literally heads-up against each other tonight — Aggie junior center Tyler Larsen and his older brother, SUU senior defensive tackle Cody Larsen. Both earned first-team all-state honors at Jordan High School, while Cody is a pre-season All-American and Tyler is on every watch list from the Outland Trophy to the Rimington Trophy. This should be an epic battle of brothers tonight, but I’m looking for a T-Bird upset.
The fur will be flying in the battle of the Cougars as BYU hosts Washington State at LaVell Edwards Stadium. Kickoff is at 8:15 tonight. Washington State’s head coach Mike Leach will be returning to BYU, his alma mater. He was a successful yet controversial coach at Texas Tech and I expect to see that same wide-open offense from WSU tonight.
BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall describes his squad this year as “special.” Well, we’ve heard that before. We will see how special when BYU plays the Utes on Sept.15. If the Cougars can stop the Utes then I might agree with Mendenhall. However, until then, I’ll reserve judgment and enjoy my bratwurst.
Keep an eye on BYU senior quarterback Riley Nelson and junior running back Mike Alisa. If the BYU offense is going to click these are the two guys that will make it happen. BYU needs the rushing game early and junior linebacker Kyle Van Noy rallying the defense. If that happens, put a fork in Washington State, they’re done! BYU will win it, though others think I’m crazy.
The Weber State Wildcats are waiting until Saturday to tackle the Fresno State Bulldogs. Kickoff is at 8 p.m. The Wildcats have been playing coach roulette with Ron McBride retiring, John L. Smith running off to Arkansas, and ending up with interim coach Jody Sears. Three coaches in less than 12 months can rattle a team. So can the Bulldogs. Look for senior quarterback Mike Hoke to be healthy and ready to go for the Wildcats after shoulder surgery. His leadership is critical to Weber State’s success. Sophomore fullback Tevia Tolutau and junior running back Josh Booker also make a formable pair coming out of the backfield. As much as I like Weber State and offensive coordinator Matt Hammer, I’ve got to go with the Bulldogs on this one.
So try not to channel surf between the RNC and your favorite team. It will be a rare night tonight for our Utah schools and we’ll have all day Saturday to talk about them, along with Mitt Romney’s speech, while we’re watching the Wildcats. Man, I love this time of year. I’ll see you from the sidelines.