October 30, 2013 Updated: October 30, 2013 at 8:35 pm
The significance of who wins the quarterback battle this week for Air Force carries more weight than who might start against Army and the next three games.
It also gives the winner a potential leg up in what could be an extremely crowded competition in the spring and into next season.
"You've got to state a case," freshman Nate Romine said. "Not only state a case for myself though, we've got to win. Right now I'm trying to do things for the 17 seniors on the team, the coaches and everyone else who's working hard and trying to get a W."
Romine was taking first-team snaps for the most part over sophomore Karson Roberts, but the total repetitions were equal.
This spring the pair might be joined by sophomore Jaleel Awini if he is reinstated and remains at the academy. All indications are that Awini is continuing to attend classes, though he has not been meeting with the football team or practicing. Awini started three games this season before losing his good standing as a cadet.
The team's original starter, junior Kale Pearson, likely won't practice again until August as he recovers from an ACL tear. Freshman Jerod Evans, an intriguing talent, will also miss time with an injury.
In short, there will be as many as four quarterbacks with experience as starters in the mix, plus Evans, current No. 3 quarterback Pate Davis and any incoming freshmen.
So, the next four weeks could be crucial in establishing an edge, particularly since the team will miss out on December practice time now that a run of six consecutive bowl appearances has been snapped.
"That will be good to see," fullback Broam Hart said. "Competition is always good. It will spark some energy with the team. It's exciting to see guys who are hungry. Kale's already hungry having been hurt since the first game of the season. It's going to be great competition."
Another wrinkle is that Pearson could pursue another semester at the academy, which would give all of the players vying for the position at least two years of eligibility remaining. Coach Troy Calhoun said Tuesday that there was no update on Pearson's plan.
It's a unique situation that has resulted from uncommon turnover at the position this year and will certainly provide plenty for the coaching staff to ponder.
But Roberts, who has at least temporarily lost his position because of an injury, said any future competition can wait until the future.
"I haven't thought about that," he said. "Our main focus right now is just to beat Army. That's what's been on our minds, not next season."