Utah Utes-New Mexico Lobos: Stepping Stone For TCU

Brian NelsonCorrespondent INovember 6, 2009

Let's get the cliches and coach-speak out of the way first.

Utah should keep their eye on the ball, approach one game at a time, respect their opponent, and take care of business tomorrow against up-and-coming New Mexico.

Now that that's out of the way, let's discuss what this game really means to Utah and how they plan to use it as a stepping stone or a litmus test for the rest of the season.

Without question, great coaches like Kyle Whittingham will not overlook an opponent. But there is something to be said when a 7-1, No. 14-ranked team squares off at home against an 0-7 team lacking an identity and has made more headlines off the field than on it.

Not to mention the Utes will be looking for their 16th straight home win and 13th straight conference win.

Even though the Lobos have historically been a thorn in the side of Utah Utes, don’t expect anything but a Utah win on Saturday. That's why the Utes can afford to use a game like this to test the waters with new QB Jordan Wynn and a new offensive play-caller in Aaron Roderick.

And therein lies the advantage of being Utah. Style points have little impact on where Utah ends up this year—Ws are everything.

That has put Coach Kyle Whittingham in the midst of a very intriguing QB battle between Terrance Cain and Jordan Wynn. One, a proven commodity with a winning record; the other, a precocious freshman with tremendous upside.

The reality is either QB would steer Utah to victory tomorrow.

So why not give the freshman a shot? See what we have and if he can’t make a a very good team that much better. Especially now, in the wake of next week's monumental showdown with No. 6 TCU.

We already know the current offense is good enough to beat inferior opponents, but as we saw in Eugene, Ore., perhaps not strong enough to beat superior teams.

It makes perfect sense.

Utah has nothing to lose—certainly not a home game to New Mexico—and plenty to gain. A win over TCU could put Utah within a Boise State loss of returning to the BCS. It would also promise fresh deliveries of flowers and chocolates from Boise, Iowa City and Cincinnati zip codes.

A loss to TCU would all but clinch the Frogs’ first-ever BCS bowl berth and still leave Utah the favorite to head to Las Vegas. Or, if Boise State gets shutout of the BCS, Utah could end up with an out-of-the-box meeting with the Broncos in the Poinsettia Bowl, like TCU did last year.

Either Bowl would be a terrific get for Utah in what was supposed to be a “rebuilding” season. It would also keep Utah poised and positioned to make a run for national prominence in 2010—especially if Wynn comes close to realize his potential.