Utah worthy of No. 1

Utah quarterback Brian Johnson kisses his Sugar Bowl MVP trophy after his NCAA football game in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans on Saturday. Utah defeated Alabama 31-17.

Utah quarterback Brian Johnson kisses his Sugar Bowl MVP trophy after his NCAA football game in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans on Saturday. Utah defeated Alabama 31-17.

January 5, 2009, 12:00 a.m. Updated January 5, 2009, 3:15 p.m.


You just know that college presidents who cling to an archaic system of picking a football national champion are thinking, “What a fine mess you’ve gotten us into, Utah.”

In contrast, most of the rest of America has to love the Utes for rendering the BCS title game even more inconclusive than it was when it excluded Texas, USC and the rest of the schools that could have made an at least halfway legitimate claim to deserving a shot at the national title.

The Utes just didn’t do their part for the BCS and roll over for Alabama from the mighty Southeastern Conference.

Thanks to the Utes adding a 31-17 victory against Alabama in front of a pro-Crimson Tide crowd in the Sugar Bowl to an already impressive resume there just might be two national champions this year, one crowned by the BCS, the other by Associated Press voters.

Unless Oklahoma wins the BCS title game by a few touchdowns, I can’t see myself putting anyone other than Utah at the top of my final ballot.

As were all AP voters, my e-mail in box was packed with polite lobbying efforts from Utes fans who pointed out that the Mountain West Conference, in which Utah plays, went 8-2 against the Pac-10 and SEC combined. Compelling stuff.

Before comparing Utah to the teams playing in the BCS title game, compare its season to those of Texas and USC.

The Utes went 4-0 against teams that finished the regular season in the AP Top 25. The victories came against No. 4 Alabama, No. 11 TCU, No. 17 Brigham Young and No. 24 Oregon State.

Texas has gone 3-1 against Top-25 teams so far (with a game against No. 10 Ohio State today), with victories against No. 2 Oklahoma, No. 13 Oklahoma State and No. 25 Missouri. Its loss came at Texas Tech.

Slight edge to Utah in that comparison for the simple reason the Utes are undefeated.

USC went 3-1 vs. the Top 25, with victories against No. 6 Penn State, No. 10 Ohio State and No. 15 Oregon and a loss at No. 24 Oregon State.

Convincing advantage to Utah in that comparison, particularly considering the common opponent of Oregon State, though the Utes had the advantage of playing that one at home.

Assuming Florida wins the BCS title game, the Gators would boast a 3-1 record against teams now ranked in the top 25. The victories would have come against No. 2 Oklahoma, No. 4 Alabama and No. 16 Georgia. The loss came at home against Mississippi. The edge goes to Utah.

Now, for the biggest challenge to the Utes’ national-title aspirations: Oklahoma, where the wind comes sweepin’ down the plain.

With a victory in the title game, the Sooners would have a 6-1 record against these Top 25 teams: No. 1 Florida, No. 8 Texas Tech, No. 11 TCU, No. 12 Cincinnati, No. 13 Oklahoma State and No. 25 Missouri, most of them by big margins. The only loss came against No. 3 Texas on a neutral field. That’s some season.

It’s a joke, of course, that Florida ranks ahead of Oklahoma and is favored to win by 3-1⁄2 points.

Utah ending up No. 1 wouldn’t be a joke. The Utes played like national champions in dominating Alabama.


jaywalker 9 years, 5 months ago

Check me if I'm wrong, Tom, but with the exception of Alabama weren't all of the Ute's big wins gained on their home field? I do salute them for playing one game out of conference - OSU - but until the smaller conference teams start playing a reasonable schedule, something that moderately equates to an SEC or Big 12 slate, voting them number one is silly. I watched the Sugar and they are a strong team, to be sure. But this doesn't make an argument for them at the top, but rather perpetuates the need for a playoff system. It's ridiculous that college football is the ONLY sport without such a system. How fantastic would it have been to have USC, Florida, Texas, Penn State, OU, Utah, Alabama, and maybe Boise State in a playoff format? Three weeks, seven games = National Champ. Makes no sense not to make it happen, the excitement and viewership would be unparalleled.

Rickyonealku 9 years, 5 months ago

jaywalker I agree now how can you ( oh yes the BIG XII mess) Texas beat OU, Texas Tech beat Texas, OU beat Texas Tech. Now Utah should be playing the winner of Florida vs OU. Then Texas (who should beat Ohio State) vs USC. So jaywalker this year split National Champions.Utah is one and the other is??????ROCK CHALK JAYHAWKS.....

rgh 9 years, 5 months ago

I say reward a smaller conference for their outstanding season. They played a farily decent schedule so let the AP vote them #1. It makes it very hard for non-BCS schools to hire and keep quality coaches when there appears to be absolutely no hope of a national title of some kind.Look at Urban Meyer who is now at Florida having one national title already when he had a great Utah team also. The kids need something to play for also. If you get to a BCS game; are undefeated; and beat a quality opponent in the game then share the title. It's not hurting the large conferences, they will still have the BCS trophy, or create some kind of national title for the non-BCS schools. D-III, D-II, D-IAA (or whatever it's called now), and NAIA all have one (with a play off of course).

mandro 9 years, 5 months ago

jaywalker - Utah opened the season with a win at Michigan (then ranked no. 23). Hindsight shows UM was down, but Utes didn't know that when they scheduled them 4 years ago. Utah also won in Colo. Springs at the Air Force Academy, a very tough road venue I assure you. Meanwhile, the Sugar Bowl was a road game deluxe, deep in enemy territory. They've got the NATION's BEST RECORD against BCS Conference schools since 2000 (by a non-BCS school). To further advocate their program's ability on the road, consider they've won 8 straight bowl games, two in BCS bowls. Their program deserves the National Title from the AP. All told, they've played 21 games versus BCS-conference schools in 8 years and only lost a handful of them. So, I dismiss your argument that they don't schedule good teams as ignorance. Finally, credit should be given to their Mountain West Conference. Brigham Young, TCU, Air Force, Utah regularly schedule top-notch teams - and their non-conference record as a group this year was dominating, not just impressive.

Marc Mondi 9 years, 5 months ago

Does Utah deserve a claim to the national title? I don't know. However, this "weak conference" argument is for the birds... with the exception of Hawaii last year (and that was a blowout), the non-BCS schools are 3-1 in the BCS games. All conference talk aside, they have proved they can play.

punsalot 9 years, 5 months ago

Many people have an erroneous notion that BCS schools are head and shoulders above non-BCS schools. The strength of the MWC was not just at the top as can be seen in the 9-4 record against the BCS conference teams. Yes one of those victories was BYU over winless Washington, but they also include wins by bottom tiered MWC teams UNLV, Wyoming, and New Mexico over Arizona, Arizona State, Iowa State and Tennesee. The top of the MWC is in the top 25 and the bottom of the MWC beat the bottom and middle of the BCS conferences. That indicates that the MWC is at least as strong as the supposed stronger BCS conferences, so where does this whole weak schedule argument come from?

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