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Offensive line key to Utes' success in 2011
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The Utah Utes have long maintained they could handle a BCS schedule week in and week out. Are the rest of the teams in the Pac-12 about to call the Utes' bluff? Or will Utah back up all that talk with the ease in which it won the Fiesta and Sugar bowls?

We're all about to find out. The Utes, this season, anyway, will be the subject of one of college football's grandest experiments.

Unless you've spent the past five years under some freshly laid FieldTurf, you've heard the talk of teams closing the gap on the field talent-wise and the argument that mid-major teams are just as good as the top-tier BCS teams — and therefore deserve equal opportunity to get into the national title game.

Now here come the Utes, one of the most historically successful mid-major teams, with a chance to make the greatest statement yet for the little guys of college football.

Indeed, if the Utes do well in the Pac-12 this year, the team that might profit the most is Boise State, which thoroughly pummeled Utah in the Las Vegas Bowl and is positioned well enough that it could land in the national title game this year if it goes undefeated.

If that happens, expect to hear the Broncos bring up their win over Utah last year as part of their argument. They'll do that, as long as Utah holds its own in the Pac-12.

Utah caught a huge break this season in scheduling, since it doesn't have to play Oregon or Stanford until 2013 and it gets Arizona State, picked to finish ahead of Utah in the South division, at home.

But the Utes' success isn't about playing those teams head-to-head as much as it is being able to survive the season.

For instance, can the Utes handle playing ASU one week, traveling to Pitt and Cal the next two weeks, then come home and face an Oregon State team that always gives the Utes fits? Will the Utes have anything left for the crucial Arizona and UCLA games that follow?

Judging by fall camp, fans have a right to be a little nervous. The Utes' top priority will be keeping quarterback Jordan Wynn healthy.

However, the guys who are supposed to protect Wynn — the offensive line — have the most injuries during preseason practice, leaving the junior quarterback to work with a young and inconsistent lineup.

Less than two weeks before the start of the season, junior Joape Pela was moved from the defensive line to the offensive line, while newcomer Miles Mason was immediately listed as the backup at left tackle. Starting at left guard is Vyncent Jones, a sophomore who filled in just four games at center last season.

Wynn isn't supposed to be a running quarterback, but you have to wonder if he'll do even more scrambling this year than last season — particularly if injuries continue to mount.

If they do, Utah's argument that it is more than just a BCS buster could be busted before October.

lwodraska@sltrib.com

Long competing as a mid-major, Utah now turns to top-tier BCS.
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