Consistently overlooked by the national media, Utah has a great opportunity to jump Boise State later in the season and take the Broncos' chair in a potential BCS title run.
Utah welcomed 15th-ranked Pittsburgh to Salt Lake City on Thursday night. The Utes later sent them home after an entertaining overtime victory.
Coach Kyle Whittingham's squad prevailed 27-24 after a Joe Phillips 21-yard field goal followed an overtime interception by freshman Brian Blechen.
Overall, the defense was impressive. Led by NFL prospects Dion Lewis and Jonathan Baldwin, the Panther offense was mediocre despite controlling the time of possession 34 minutes to 26.
Lewis recorded a disappointing 3.0-yard per carry average on 25 carries.
New Panther quarterback Tino Sunseri managed to find Baldwin only four times on Thursday night.
The "explosive" Pittsburgh offense was held to 266 total yards and two touchdowns.
On the other side of the ball, the Ute offense was productive despite having to overcome three turnovers.
The Utah team running game was efficient, recording 122 yards on 27 carries.
Quarterback Jordan Wynn tossed three touchdown passes, including one to DeVonte Christopher, who finished the game with eight receptions for 155 yards.
The victory set the tone for what could be another magical Ute season. Just two seasons ago, Whittingham's team finished the year undefeated after a Sugar Bowl victory over Alabama.
Utah is aiming for its third BCS bowl appearance during the past decade.
If the stars align, the team may sprint past Boise State into the Cinderella shoe of a mid-major program making a BCS title run.
The Utes play in a stronger conference, carry a respectful non-conference schedule, and play in a larger media market. With an imminent departure to the Pac-10, the program is already shedding the role of the underdog.
While Boise State earns national headlines, the Utes are often ignored.
Early in the 2009 season they were riding the nation's longest winning streak at 16 games. They went 10-3 last season and still managed to begin this season unranked.
Whittingham followed the legend of Urban Meyer and somehow is never considered one of the elite college coaches in the nation.
Sure the team has 11 games to go, but the schedule could provide a few marquee victories.
The Utes welcome both Texas Christian and Brigham Young to Salt Lake City in November.
They also travel to meet Iowa State, Air Force, and Notre Dame this fall.
A potential Utah résumé including victories over TCU, BYU, Notre Dame, and Pittsburgh would certainly trump Bronco victories over Virginia Tech, Oregon State, and the rest of the WAC.
For Utah or Boise State to make a legitimate title run, only one major conference program can finish the regular season undefeated.
The season is only one day complete. If Boise State can squeak by Virginia Tech on Monday, they should start keeping an eye on a Utah program closing in.
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