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TCU-Utah: Was Utah Overrated or Is TCU Just That Amazing?

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TCU-Utah:  Was Utah Overrated or Is TCU Just That Amazing?
George Frey/Getty Images

When a team loses by 40 points at home and the losing team says that the game was not even as close as the final score, a real question develops as to whether the losing team is any good or if the winning team is really that much better.

After all, good teams are not supposed to lose by 40 points at home.  Yet a Utah defensive coach thanked TCU coach Gary Patterson after the game for not scoring 100 points.  Yes, it was that kind of a carpet bombing.

And now, a whole lot of college football experts are attempting to degrade TCU's road win over then No. 5 Utah by claiming that Utah was just overrated, having piled up a bunch of wins over weak competition.

Now, some of that discussion has some basis in fact, but most of those attempting to claim Utah was overrated are also doing so to avoid admitting that TCU is the best team in the country and can unload a massive beat down on both sides of the ball on a top five team on the road.

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham knows something about great teams.  As a player at BYU, he played for three teams that finished in the top 15, including playing the in Miracle Bowl win vs. SMU.  He began his coaching career at BYU under the legendary Coach LaVell Edwards.  He has been a key factor in Utah's rise to the top of the college football world, having been at Utah since 1994 (Utah's first top 10 season).

After the game, Whittingham called TCU the best team he has very seen.

Now, Whittingham is probably very happy to be going to a conference without a defense like TCU's.  Utah will likely be a resident in the Pac-12's upper class for years.

Now, Utah is 8-1 and while the road to 8-1 may not be the most impressive, it is at least as impressive as the other one-loss teams. 

Utah started the season with an overtime win over Pitt.  While the Big East is not very impressive this season, Pitt is 5-0 in conference play and will be going to a BCS bowl.

The Utes stomped the very same New Mexico team which Oregon stomped.  The Utes also stomped the very same San Jose State team that gave Wisconsin a struggle and which Boise and Bama have stomped.

The Utes went to Iowa State and gave the Cyclones a shellacking by 41 points.  Now, before you go saying, "Hey, this is Iowa State.  Didn't Nebraska just go to Iowa State and escape with a one-point overtime win?  And Iowa State also went and ruined the Longhorn's season.

Utah also went to Colorado Springs and came away with a win against a very dangerous Air Force squad.  Air Force started the season with a near miss in Norman vs. Oklahoma, and anyone who discounts the difficulty of playing at Air Force really needs to have their heads examined.

Now Utah finishes the season with games at Notre Dame and an incredibly improved San Diego State, and finishes up with the Holy War against a vastly improved BYU team that just beat UNLV 55-7.

While this is not the most impressive overall schedule, it is a very legitimate schedule and will feature at least one win against one of this season's BCS bowl teams.

Statistically, Utah is still one of the very best programs in the country.  Utah came into last Saturday's contest ranked in the top 10 in the nation in scoring, total defense, scoring defense, pass efficiency, pass defense, sacks allowed and punt returns, and the top 30 in rushing offense, total offense, rushing defense, pass efficiency defense, kickoff returns, sacks, and tackles for a loss.

In other words, Utah had the stats of a top 10 team, balanced on both sides of ball and with one of the best return games in the country.

TCU's stats were better, but not by that much.  TCU had played a tougher schedule.

Vegas only had TCU as a five-point favorite.  GameDay went to SLC because they thought the game would be an intense showdown.

The Utah fans went into the game looking to make a difference themselves, having blackout and the second largest crowd in school history.  The setting and crowd and atmosphere would make a typical SEC fan feel at home, that is if any SEC stadium had mountains like those in Salt Lake, that is.

Everything was set for a close game, and yet TCU demolished the Utes.

Utah will finish with at least ten wins this season and will likely finish the regular season in the BCS top 10.

The Utes come out smelling like a Rose compared to other one-loss teams.  But let's look a bit at other one loss teams and see what we find.

LSU started the season in a spotlight versus North Carolina.  Unfortunately for the Tar Heels, a large number of its players were suspended prior to the game, including most of the starters from its powerful defense, leaving North Carolina struggling to find players.  Even so, LSU barely escaped with the win.  North Carolina is not currently ranked.

Of its subsequent opponents, only a handful stand above pathetic.  Mississippi State did not prove much of a fight for the Tigers, but Dan Mullen has put together a fine team since then and is ranked No. 19 in the BCS.

LSU escaped with a 33-29 miracle win over Florida, but the Gators have been very average this season and recently backed themselves into the BCS standings.

LSU lost to Auburn, of course, in a close game and then took out Bama on Saturday.

On LSU's remaining schedule, only the season finale at Arkansas is a game of note.

George Frey/Getty Images
Andy Dalton had his best day ever against the Utes

As such, LSU has a loss to a top five team, two wins over top 20 teams, and a win over a very average Gator squad.  Only the win over Mississippi State was more than six points.

LSU is a joke in the offensive statistically and its defensive stats many come from playing a bunch teams at the very bottom of the offensive statistics.

Stanford has recently jumped to the No. 6 spot in the BCS standings, but come with a very suspect resume as well.

Stanford has a nice offense similar to Utah's but is a very average defense.  Stanford has only one win over a ranked team and was beat down by a top five team.

Wisconsin has risen to No. 7 in the BCS, but has huge question marks as well.  Its four OOC opponents have a combined three wins over FBS competition, two of which are Washington State and New Mexico, which really should not count.  Moreover, Wisconsin struggled in its OOC games versus FBS competition, with the one-point win over Arizona State being the closest the Badgers came to losing.

Wisconsin is not in the top ten in any statistical category.  The Badgers hang their hat on wins over Iowa and Ohio State, but lost to Michigan State.  Outside of those three games, Wisconsin has won steadily, but not impressively over a slew of cupcakes.

No. 8 Nebraska would normally seem like a team to challenge for a spot in the BCS title game, but there some very good reasons the Huskers are being ignored, not the least of which is the glaring loss to 4-5 Texas.

Nebraska's OOC competition was beyond embarrassing.  The Huskers hosted Western Kentucky (which recently broke the nation's longest losing streak), Idaho (whose three FBS wins are over three of the worst teams in FBS), and FCS South Dakota State (against whom the Huskers could only muster 17 points and won because of its opponents' two TDs were called back).  The Huskers did go on the road and pound Washington, but the Huskies will not finish with a winning record.

The Huskers have one of the best rushing attacks in college football and one of the best pass defenses around, but have a very porous run defense which Texas exploited for over 200 yards on the way to the upset win.

No. 9 Ohio State would seem like the classic example of one-loss team in a normal season that would already be jumping TCU and Boise State.  Instead, the Buckeyes are No. 15 in the BCS computers, a result of having one of the very worst schedules in among the top 10, a schedule that even makes Utah's ridiculed schedule look challenging.

Ohio State boosts one of the best all-round defenses in the country, but that might reflect the weak schedule more than anything else.  The Badgers torched the Buckeyes No. 3 rushing defense for 186 yards on the way to a solid victory.

No. 10 Oklahoma State is on path to the Big 12 Championship Game, having pounded a renewed Baylor team to oblivion last Saturday.

Still, there is a reason the Cowboys are down at No. 10.  While the Pokes have one of the best offenses around, their defense is pathetic, allowing over 400 yards per game.  Every game is a shootout and Oklahoma State escaped with three-point wins over Troy and Texas A&M. 

Oklahoma State's OOC schedule was designed for a team that most folks figured need four OOC wins just to become bowl eligible.

Nebraska showed that any team with half a defense and a decent offense can overcome the Cowboys.

With a trip to Austin and the Bedlam Game, as well as a possible rematch with Nebraska, Oklahoma State will likely be missing a BCS game once again (the Cowboys have yet to play in a BCS game).

No. 11 Michigan State boosts a decent offense, a decent defense, and played a pathetic OOC schedule.  The Spartans one significant OOC game featured an overtime win over Notre Dame, utilizing one of this seasons best trick plays.

In conference, the Spartans have taken care of the mid-level Big Ten teams, Michigan, Illinois, and Northwestern, and split with Wisconsin and Iowa, where the Hawkeyes rolled Michigan State.

So, ultimately, Utah is just as good as any of the other one-loss ranked ahead of it.  The Utes will most likely pound Notre Dame by 30 points or more.  Utah is just that good.

As such, the answer to the question is that Utah was not overrated.  Instead, the answer is that TCU is just that good, and likely the best team in college football.

A lot of college football experts may not be yet willing to accept that answer, but they do need to stop saying that Utah was overrated. 

It just might take a little while for them to appreciate the greatness of the Frogs.

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