Saturday, January 3, 2009

Why Shouldn't Utah Be No. 1?

After impressively dismantling Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, Utah should deserve consideration as the top team in the AP poll. And you know something? Utah SHOULD BE No. 1 in the final AP poll.

The Utes finished the season 13-0, becoming the first team to go undefeated twice in the BCS era. In beating the Tide, 31-17, in what was essentially a home game for their SEC foe, the Utes completed their resume and it stacks up favorably against any team in the country.

Let's take a look:

1. Utah is the only undefeated Division I-A team in 2008. That in itself should mean something.

2. Utah's strength of schedule is more than competitive - it should finish in the top 30. The Mountain West had a banner year both in the regular season and bowl season. Yet, the Utes went unbeaten in that conference. They defeated six bowl teams, including two (Alabama and Texas Christian) that will finish the year ranked in the Top 10.

3. In head-to-head comparisons, Utah has the edge over both USC and Florida. The Utes beat Oregon State, the team that handed the Trojans their only loss. They beat Alabama more decisively than Florida, which played the Tide on a more neutral setting. Oklahoma did win more impressively than Utah as both teams faced TCU at home.

4. The strength of western football has been vindicated by the Pac-10 and Mountain West going a combined 8-2 in the bowl season, with victories over the ACC, Big East, Big 12, Big Ten, SEC and WAC. Utah played within the western environment, which has been unfairly underrated by the pollsters throughout the season. That should be readjusted.

Back in 1984, when BYU became the last non-BCS conference team to finish first in the AP poll, the Cougars had a considerably weaker resume. They defeated only four teams with a winning record, and their non-WAC schedule consisted of Pittsburgh, Baylor, Tulsa and Utah State. BYU defeated a 6-6 Michigan team in the Holiday Bowl, 24-17. That was the only Wolverines team in 40 years (1968-2007) not to finish with a winning record.

Utah is better than BYU 1984. It's better than its own 2004 version, which also went undefeated and beat Pittsburgh in the Fiesta Bowl. That team, too, benefited from a subpar schedule, with only four opponents finishing with winning records. The Big East champion Panthers were also not respected, getting thrashed by Utah, 35-7, to finish 8-4.

This year's Utah team competed with some of the nation's best teams and won every game. Despite going into New Orleans as a double-digit underdog, the Utes thoroughly dominated an Alabama team that had trailed but 45 minutes in the entire season. Utah scored four minutes into the game and never relinquished the lead; and in the process, racked up 349 yards, shut down the vaunted 'Bama running game and sacked quarterback John Parker Wilson eight times.

That, was championship football.

The AP voters have a choice. They don't need to vote Utah No. 1 as a protest against the BCS. They simply need to discard some of their preconceived notion and bias against Utah. If they do that, then they'll realize there's a pretty case to be made for the Utes.

But will they?


dethwing said...

No, they won't. The #1s are already split between three teams as it is. Even given that one of OU and Florida will eliminate the other, there is always Texas hanging around. I'm afraid Utah will have to happy with a 4th place finish at best.

And yes they probably deserve better, but since when was College Football about fairness?

RA said...

Concur, Guru. 13-0 with a credible schedule should be enough.

If we're going to judge Utah by its opponents and not by its record, then we have to look at the Big 12 -- with Texas Tech exposing its score first, whine second, defense third philosophy -- in the same light.

Based on the entire season, and NOT on the preseason rankings and weekly slottings, I think Utah is close enough to #1 to give them the title.

But the team that's getting screwed over is Texas. (And USC to a lesser extent.)

Katherine Francesca said...

I definitely agree that Utah should be No. 1. Not only did they dominate Bama, they did it with athletes that were probably not looked at by the SEC, let alone any other BCS conferences- minus the possibility of the PAC-10.

I do however, also agree with RA. USC and Texas also didn't deserve a fair deal. Then again, like dethwing says, when is CFB about fairness? I'd like to argue though, that fairness should be taken into consideration. Otherwise this game that we love so much becomes more and more an exploitation of student athletes just for our amusement.

Anonymous said...

Get Real.... If Utah wants to play for a title, play real teams in the regular season. They insulated themselves from ever playing OU, FLA, or even USC by being in a conference where no one can tell how good you are during the regular season. If they had played an AL in the regular season, and won, then they'd be faced with an OU or FLA now -- and both of those teams are better than TCU and AL as demonstrated on the field.

Jams said...

They beat how many bowl teams?
Weber State doesn't count. That means they only beat 6 bowl teams.

It's also a major judgement call to say that Utah beat Bama more decisively than Florida, especially considering the personnel issues in both games, and Bama's overall difference in play.

Still, I agree that there's a credible argument that Utah deserves to be number one. Unfortunately, there are still credible arguments that other teams should be number one as well. Anyone who says Utah is a slam-dunk choice as the number one team is not giving the situation a fair look, or else has a very simple view of what it means to be number one.

It's only fair to take the Doc Saturday/EDSBS route and break the "number one" title into pieces for each team.

Anonymous said...

Jams is right it was 6 bowl teams, still pretty good.

I do not think Utah will be number one, but I am sure that USC, Utah, if Texas wins will also get some first place votes.

The Guru said...

I stand corrected ... I must have thought Michigan was a bowl team for some reason. :)

As for fairness, let's not kid ourselves. No matter who's voted No. 1, someone will have a legitimate gripe. The "national championship" remains as elusive as ever.

Ben Prather said...

Utah's resume does not match up to Oklahoma's. They need Florida to win, but not by a very large margin.

A Texas loss to Ohio State would significantly clarify the picture in Utah's favor.

If these two events happen we could see a split title between Utah and Florida. An Oklahoma win would be insurmountable.

USC was garnering some rumblings about deserving a shot, mostly from ESPN trying to hype up the Rose Bowl. Utah has stolen their thunder.

JT said...

People complain about the BCS system and think playoffs are the answer. Consider that the NFL that has 7 and 8 loss teams in the playoffs and an 11-5 team left out. That is worse than the BCS.

Brad said...

"The Office" creator, Ricky Gervais recently compared the class systems in England and United States saying quote, "The American class system always seemed a bit fairer to me, because it was built on achievement as opposed to blood." Unfortunately that is not the case in College Football where the "blue blood" hierarchy structure is still in place. Where it’s not about what you have accomplished, it’s about what your history is and the history of the people you play. It reeks of the pinky-raised old European mentality and is completely anti-American. Yet, as fans, we adopt and propagate these make believe standards as established facts. Thankfully, this practice is not acceptable in other areas of life. Otherwise, this country and its greatest heroes would have never existed.

Regardless who you think should be #1, we should all be questioning how we make such decisions. If you are being influenced by ESPN, the polls, or your conference affiliation....then your decision is probably compromised. The Kool-Aid that the conferences are serving is the most toxic. I live in SEC country and truly respect the conference. However, I have never actually seen a person wearing a "Go SEC!" t-shirt. With strength of schedule it makes sense to cheer for your league, however, too many people rank conferences before they rank teams. That’s why neither UTAH nor any other non-BCS team will be ever be "voted" champion.

Anonymous said...

The problem with saying Utah plays in a "weak" conference is that no "strong" conference will let them join. That is why we need a playoff. The comparison with the NFL is insane. An undefeated NFL team will always have a shot at the super bowl. An undefeated Utah team does not. No comparison.

Down with the SEC said...

First off, the SEC is not as stong as people give them credit for. The worst team in the MWC, Wyoming, beat Tennessee from the SEC. When the worst of the MWC can not only compete, but beat a SEC team, you need to start rethinking how "tough" the SEC really is. It normally is fairly tough, but this year the SEC was weak. Utah deserves number one, or at least the chance to pound Tebow and the Gators to prove they deserve it. Tebow is overrated. Bradford deserved the Heisman. Utah deserves number one.

DV said...

JT: The thing with the 11-5 NFL team is that it didn't even win its own 4-team division. Here's why the BCS is far worse than a playoff: the Pats had every opportunity to make it into the champiomship picture, while the Utes didn't have that opportunity. The Pats were given the chance to make their case on the field and they failed. The Utes succeeded at every turn on the field but were not given a chance.

The bowl system is a corrupt old boys' network. The "venerable tradition" BCS proponents portray as sacrosanct is nothing more than a tradition of funneling money to dirty scumbags who are paid ridiculous consulting fees for running "non-profit" organizations with, in some cases, 100%+(!!!) overheads. In other words, they aren't real non-profits -- they're vehicles for funneling money that could be going to schools into the hands of scummy insiders.

Here are the two things we need to do:

1) As fans, name and shame the scumbags stealing money from our schools. I want whomever is making bucketloads off the Sugar Bowl, Rose Bowl, etc., to be frequently and harshly ridiculed. Why in the world is Paul Hoolahan getting paid half a million dollars (and treated to ridiculous additional perks) to stage a single game with no championship implications? He's an ugly old fat white dude who's stealing scholarship money.

2) Some enterprising U.S. Congressman or another should introduce a bill withholding federal funds from any university that participates in a college football bowl. We need to prevent universities from being so stupid as to let ugly old fat white dudes steal potential scholarship money.

Hopefully, the NCAA would then be smart enough to institute a playoff. A bowl-like system generates plenty of controversy (and thereby publicity), to be sure, but the people who benefit from the controversy are talking heads on sports shows. For universities to benefit, they need to be settling the issue of who's best on the field, not on SportsCenter or through the ballots of people who don't even watch college football games.

DV said...

Eh, that's "championship".

Gumbo said...

BOTTOM LINE if your team on a neutral field loses, you die!
Who's not picking USC?
DUH! The oddsmakers in Atlantic City and Los Vegas and as far away as London favor USC vs any other team on a neutral field! In the Swamp the number would be a "pickem"

Ute Fan said...

Well said, guru.

How does this fit in your ideal BCS system? Seems like a playoff is the only fair system. No reason to abandon the bowl games in the playoff, though...they can be incorporated.

Anonymous said...

Putting the cart before the horse to make this argument before all the games were played. Now that we've had all the games played, and we've seen a dominant SEC defense get it done for the 3rd year in a row, maybe we can put it to rest.

Anonymous said...

GREAT post. Thre is a difference between the words "impossible" and "improbable." It is improbable that William & Mary would win the NCAA Tournament in basketball. However, it is not impossible. If they win 6 games in the tournament, they are the champs. But it is IMPOSSIBLE for Utah to ever win a football title under the current format. Heck, they've gone unbeaten TWICE with nothing to show for it. In the cold, soul-less eyes of the BCS, they are "ineligible."