What does everyone think about this Utah story?? Are they really getting screwed?? I don't personally think that they have much of a beef, but I can see why they are upset. They did all that they could do. They scheduled Michigan on the road (not exactly an easy game on paper), they played Oregon State, they ran the table in the Mountain West, and they beat Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. That's a heckuva resume.
In the system that we have now, I don't think they really really had much of a stake though. If Utah had played an 8 game SEC schedule, I don't think they would have gone undefeated. They had a great game plan for Alabama and were more fired up for the game than Bama, but life is tough week in and week out in the SEC. I don't think Utah could have held up. They very nearly lost to the likes of Air Force and New Mexico State during the regular season. Don't get me wrong, they had a great year and definitely deserved to finish in the top 5, but I think they should just be happy with their top 5 finish and hope that their run this year put them in position to be considered for a title game appearance in the future.
While I don't have a problem with Utah and Kyle Whittingham trying to fight for their program, I'm already bored with the media jumping on the Utah bandwagon. The media seems to be using this Utah team as the best example of why we need a playoff. As usual, the media is missing the real issue. I don't want a playoff in college football because of mid-majors not getting a chance. I want a playoff because of the MAJORS not getting a chance. I'm more concerned about the fact that USC won a conference that went 5-0 in bowl games and didn't get to play for the title even though they had the same record as Florida and OU. The mid-majors are a side issue for me. Take care of the heavyweights first with a four team playoff, and then we'll figure out a way to get the mid-majors involved down the road.
I do think the lasting legacy of the Sugar Bowl might be the emergence of Utah as a possible power program. I don't necessarily think that Alabama brought their best performance to the table in the Sugar Bowl, but I certainly think that Utah proved that they are a potential powerhouse team coming out of the Mountain region. One of the biggest surprises of the game was that Utah matched up pretty well physically against Alabama. Maybe not quite at Alabama's level, but it wasn't the mismatch physically that I sort of expected to see. They had good offensive linemen, a big and physical d-line, and some speed at the skill spots. Talent-wise, they looked good.
I think that Utah is going to be one of those schools that emerges over the next fifteen years or so as a real program on the rise. I think they have the resources in that state with a pretty good economy, demographics are in their favor now that more and more people are moving to the Mountain area (Colorado, Utah, Northern Arizona, Idaho, Nevada type areas). I think there are more and more good football players that are emerging from that region. Quite honestly, Utah is now the premier program for that region. They are going to get good players out of Utah, Idaho, Montana, Colorado, Wyoming, and Nevada and those types of areas. For all we know, there might be more quality players of that region someday than there are currently in states like Michigan and Ohio and Wisconsin. Plus, Utah seems to get quite a few JUCOs out there, and they also have the Mormon connection for some out of state kids. That's three pretty good talent streams for the Utes.
The other thing that Utah seems to have tapped into is the Samoan football population. Why aren't more schools going after these Samoan guys?? I'm ready for ND to open up a satellite campus in Samoa. They have become the new equalizers in college football. I don't know if it is a genetic thing or what, but these Samoan guys are all beasts with an unusual combination of strength and quickness. It seems like every Samoan player on the d-line with the long hair is good, but only a few schools have a bunch of these guys on their roster. Utah had like three Samoans on their d-line. They don't need to get inner city kids if they are getting the Samoan players. It's definitely a trend in college football and football in general.
Is it time for the Mountain West to get an automatic bid?? Between TCU, Utah, and BYU, there are some good programs that are suddenly emerging out of that league. I really think these schools need to be taken into consideration at some point, especially as the population in this country continues to move West. Heck, the top of the Mountain West is stronger than the top of the Big East right now.