Minutes after the Utah Utes lambasted the Alabama Crimson Tide in the Sugar Bowl, people came out of the woodworks to say that Utah deserves to be the number one football team in the nation. Utah was impressive against Alabama and clearly this was the best season a non-BCS school has had in the current system, but they still should not be number one.
First let’s take a look at Utah’s good wins this season. Utah had a better schedule than a non-BCS school usually has. Utah’s wins this year include Michigan, Oregon State, TCU, BYU and Alabama. First of all let’s strike off Michigan. Michigan wasn’t a good team. Some people are saying it is still a good win because nobody knew Michigan wasn’t bad yet. So what? If they are a bad team, they are a bad team. When Clemson and Tennessee ended up not being good everybody was saying they shouldn’t count as good wins for Alabama or Florida, but when it’s Utah it counts as a good win? That makes no sense.
Oregon State was a solid win but come on, let’s not too put too much emphasis on them. Yes they beat USC, but they also lost by 31 to Penn State. When they had a chance to win the Pac-10 they laid an egg and let their rival Oregon drop 65 points on them. Most of their other wins were against a very weak Pac-10. Then there is BYU. What did BYU do to be considered good? Their best win was badly beating a 4 – 8 UCLA team.
The truth is that Utah had a great win against Alabama, a great win against TCU and a couple of fine wins that a team ranked as high as them should be able to win. That’s a pretty good combination of wins but you don’t just look at a team’s best wins to decide if they are number one, you have to look at their entire schedule.
Take Utah, Oklahoma and Florida’s opponents and rank them 1 – 12 from hardest to easiest. Even with Utah’s tougher than usual schedule Florida and Oklahoma’s schedules are still a lot harder from top to bottom. Utah played Alabama, but Florida and Oklahoma are going to play each other and since they are ranked #1 and #2 that’s a tougher game.
Utah’s toughest game is TCU. Is that tougher than Florida playing Alabama and Oklahoma playing Texas? Heck no. Is Utah’s third toughest game Oregon State tougher than Ole Miss or Texas Tech? Nope. Is BYU better than Georgia or Oklahoma State? I don’t think so. Once you get even closer to the bottom it gets even more uneven. Yes, Tennessee and Nebraska aren’t the teams they used to be but they are better than teams like UNLV and New Mexico. Teams like Vanderbilt and Texas A&M aren’t contenders in their conference, but in the MWC they’d beat the Wyomings and San Diego States of the world on a regular basis.
Here is the thing about the Big 12 and the SEC. Even the bad teams are good at something. Even the bad teams in the Big 12 have high powered offenses. Even the bad teams in the SEC have dominating defenses. Utah has no problem beating MWC teams with good teams sprinkled in but they haven’t had to play a grueling schedule that has tough teams week in and week out.
If you don’t think that makes a difference then ask the Texas Longhorns about it. The only reason the Longhorns are in the Fiesta Bowl instead of the National Championship game is because they had to play their tough games in consecutive weeks. If Texas got to play MWC teams with Oklahoma State here, Oklahoma there and Texas Tech over there then they’d be 13 – 0 right now. But when you play tough teams every week you’re bound to get knocked off. Utah doesn’t have to play that kind of schedule week in and week out.
Let’s also not forget the fashion in which each of these teams won. Utah only beat Michigan, a team that wasn’t even good, by 2 points. They only beat Oregon State by a field goal, they only beat TCU by a field goal too. There were even some games they should have won easily that they didn’t, like a 7 point win over Air Force and a 3 point win over New Mexico. Other than their losses Oklahoma and Florida played a better schedule and destroyed every team they played.
On top of playing in much better conferences Florida and Oklahoma had tougher non-conference schedules too. Utah had Michigan and Oregon State on their schedule but Florida played Miami and Florida State while Oklahoma played Cincinnati and TCU. By the way Oklahoma beat TCU by 25, not by 3.
I’d love to see Utah get a chance at the National Championship. A week or two ago I even suggested the best way to have a tournament in college football. But Utah shouldn’t be number one at the expense of teams that deserve it more.