The University of Utah began playing football way back in 1892. And in all those years, the Utes have not won a national championship.
Lately, however, they’ve come close.
In 2004, under then Coach Urban Myer, the Utes capped off a perfect regular season by becoming the first BCS buster, playing in the 2005 Fiesta Bowl. They then demolished Big East representative Pitt 35-7.
“Oh, Pitt was just 8-3 coming in” the experts said. Utah finished ranked 5th in the nation.
In 2008, under current Coach Kyle Whittingham, the Utes ran the table again and were invited to the Sugar Bowl. There the 6th ranked Utes took on the 4th ranked Alabama Crimson Tide.
Utes 31, Bama 17. After the game, the BCS ranked the Utes 4th while the AP ranked them 2nd. SEC apologists said that Bama wasn’t “motivated” since they were not playing for the national championship. Uh-huh.
This year, the Utes return seven on offense and only four on defense. But the program has evolved to the point where vacancies that open up are immediately filled by talented players.
Much like both TCU and BYU, who also play in the much maligned Mountain West, the team seems to be able to fill holes without significant performance drop offs.
Perhaps, the “experts’ will agree, they’ve reached the so-called big time.
The 2010 version returns sophomore quarterback Jordan Wynn, who capped off his freshman year with a stellar performance in their bowl victory over Cal that finished off a 10-3 campaign.
The offensive line and backfield all return, as does a very physical defensive front. If the Utes can find a few receivers and some linebacking and backfield help,( which I am betting they will), they could be the surprise BCS team of the year.
They are playing a schedule that will open some eyes. Out of conference, they have one patsy, San Jose State. They also host Big East power Pitt, and visit Big 12 Iowa State and the Fightin’ Irish in South Bend. Wins over these foes will certainly move them into top ten.
In the Mountain West they have two teams that are likely to be top twenty, if not top ten; TCU and BYU. And they get both at home.
Throw in victories against two or three mid-tier Mountain West teams that have bowl eligible seasons, like Air Force, Wyoming and perhaps UNLV, and you have the makings of a very good strength of schedule.
Combined with their past history of success in the BCS bowls, the schedule could propel the Utes into the picture for a national championship...provided, of course, that they run the table.