I am very optimistic about Utah Football this year. My reason? Quarterback. I know since joining the Pac12 Utah has underperformed but I feel like one of the biggest factors for it was quarterback play. I think this year, quarterback play will be significantly better.
I think that the Utes will return to a bowl game and will be in the 8-5 range.
I came across this quote in a RJ Bell Grantland article talking about Johhny Manziel that reinforced my belief that quarterback play is vital and that Utah should be much better this year:
"Exactly how much is Manziel worth? Seven points per game is the consensus Las Vegas opinion. Keep in mind that each game is different — specifically, an elite player is worth more against an elite team. And each situation is different — for example, consider the quality of the player’s backup. Old-timers recall the most extreme example of this: How many points was Joe Montana, perhaps the best quarterback ever, worth? Not many when backed up by Steve Young. By the way, Manziel’s backup, Matt Joeckel, has thrown only 11 passes in his college career. On the other hand, as pro bettor Bryan Leonard notes, Manziel himself entered last season expected to be nothing more than a backup. As of Tuesday morning, Johnny Manziel has a 33 percent chance of not playing at all in 2013, based on odds from online sportsbook 5 Dimes. If he doesn’t play, Texas A&M’s projected regular-season wins would drop from 9.5 down to 7, according to William Hill bookmaker Jimmy Vaccaro. No less than a needle in the balloon for the team that has been bet more than any other to win the BCS title. Yes, quarterbacks rule. Golden Nugget’s Aaron Kessler says the best non-QBs in college football are worth no more than three points — and all-world defensive player Jadeveon Clowney is worth only two points."
2011 & 2012 Seasons
In 2011 and 2012 Utah’s QB situation was horrible. Jordan Wynn was coming of major injuries both years with a DII skilled backup. Now to start I am not saying that a healthy Jordan Wynn or Travis Wilson are in the same league as Johhny Football but they have or had the potential to impact the game just as much. Especially since the drop between Wilson or a Healthy Wynn was so much as compared to a unhealthy Wynn or John Hayes (see the Montana Young example).
Coming out of high school here is how each of the quarterbacks were ranked. Johnny Manziel 190th nationally, 29th best in Texas; Jordan Wynn 103rd nationally, 14th best in California; Travis Wilson 20th nationally 5th best in California; Jon Hays 6418 nationally 578 California.
So how many points would a healthy Wynn or Wilson starting in 2011 be worth? Watching Wynn play in the USC game, I think you could argue that if he were healthy they would have won. I also think that a healthy Wynn or Wilson would have won the Colorado game. So Utah could have been 9-3 a much better record. They also would have been playing in the Pac12 Championship game and could have finished the season 10-4.
What about 2012. I think that Utah would have won the USU game. They were also right in the USC game until a really bad turnover by the quarterback in the 4th quarter. If the difference between a mediocre QB and a good one is 7 points they also could have won the UCLA game. They could have been 7-5 or 8-4 to finish the season and been playing in a bowl game. If Utah was good for 7 points with a starting quarterback (or even 5 points)
Starting the 2013 season Utah is stacked at the QB position. They have Wilson returning, Schulz who has looked very good in spring (and has a cannon), Connor Manning, and Brandon Cox all who are BCS level athletes. I think Utah will have a much better year this year.