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Utah vs USC
If BYU is to be a true independent and slog through collegiate athletics in football alone then they need to beat not only other independents but teams that bring with them the credibility and prestige of being an independent.
Utah, to be successful in the long run, needed to get out of the MWC and get into a real conference where the money is big enough to offset the decreasing revenues in state coffers. Utah needed the Pac-12 and will thrive because they made the leap.
I hope they go 11-1 and meet Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship Game.
There are two reasons for independence. Number one is, you don’t need a conference to be successful. The second is, you can’t get into a conference because no one wants you. That is the case with Idaho and New Mexico State right now. It may well be the fate that the WAC has to drop down and become an FBS conference and take some of the Big Sky members away from them to survive.
BYU is not in that situation. They have teams that want to play them, and they don’t need to divide their revenues with a conference. BYU first emerged in the collegiate football world with a Top 20 rankings finish in 1977.
Since then BYU has flirted with being one of the top finishing programs in the country, ending up in the final Top 25 poll 18 times from 1977 to 2011. Utah in the same period has been ranked at the end of the season only six times, and Notre Dame 16 according to www.collegefootballpoll.com.
For BYU they need to prove they don’t need a conference to be successful in the same way Notre Dame has been. One of the keys is finishing every year, or most every year, in the Top 25 at the end of the season.
Another is to play quality games during the season against opponents who are big enough and famous enough to get the school the exposure needed. Notre Dame does that, Utah does not necessarily do that, Georgia Tech does. Utah however brings other things to the table that BYU must overcome.
For BYU to keep a hold of this next step of “being like Notre Dame” they need to beat Notre Dame, but they also then need to follow it up by beating the emerging teams in top conferences like Utah.
Utah also represents “past business” that needs to take care of. If you can’t overcome Utah, how do you plan to take on Alabama, or Michigan, or Wisconsin? You have to take care of business in your back yard before you go out hunting for the bears in the cold cruel world.
If BYU beats Notre Dame and then loses to Utah, it takes away from Notre Dame and its importance. Notre Dame wants BYU to go 11-1, not 9-3 or 8-4. If BYU were to beat Notre Dame, and then lose every game thereafter it would not make the Irish look like much beating BYU. If however BYU goes undefeated and the Irish end up seven and five, then the win against the Irish goes down as a quality win.
If they lose to Utah they will fall back into the realm of “don’t they need a conference?” and the second guessers will start pandering. Some may even opine “we need Utah, we aren’t as good as they are.” Some may even look back and envy the MWC. There is no going back, or looking back.
BYU needs to put Utah away, no matter how. By a big score, little score, in overtime, on a fumble, an interception, the clock runs out, the band runs across the field and knocks down a Ute sprinting toward the end zone with zero time left on the clock. It doesn’t matter.
BYU needs to get the monkey off its back and put two quality wins together, one a new rival, one an old rival. The first is the most storied program in the land, the second a member of one of the most storied conferences in the land.
Wins at both says BYU can make it in independence today, as well as in the future.