Urban Fallacy: Utah Ain't Buying What Meyer Is Selling About the SEC Grind

Brian NelsonCorrespondent IAugust 6, 2009

NEW ORLEANS - JANUARY 02:  Quarterback John Parker Wilson #14 of the Alabama Crimson Tide is hit as he throws by defensive tackle Greg Newman #56 of the Utah Utes in the first quarter during the 75th Allstate Sugar Bowl at the Louisiana Superdome on January 2, 2009 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Last month, Florida Coach Urban Meyer was asked his thoughts regarding the MWC's pursuit to BCS inclusion, he told a small group of reporters, "That Utah team this year and the Utah team we had in '04 -- I don't think they can survive the grind of the SEC..."

If by "survive" Coach is inferring that Utah couldn't run the table in the SEC, he's right. However, if he's suggesting somehow that the vaunted SEC would run Utah off the field, as most of the media seem to be interpreting this comment, I'm not buying it.

It's just a marketing ploy. A pathetic attempt to try and preserve or recover the SEC's tough-guy brand image that the Utes smacked in the mouth on Jan. 2.

Utah and the SEC

Utah didn't just beat Alabama. They overwhelmed the Tide. They dominated the SEC's most physical and possibly most talented football team, in nearly every facet of the game. 

So do we really have to wonder if Utah could survive the likes of an Auburn team that lost to 'Bama 36-0, or to the Volunteers who lost in Knoxville to a Wyoming squad that was 1-7 in the MWC?

Video Play Button
Videos you might like

Yes, the SEC is the best conference in the country, but playing Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, and Kentucky in between trips to Athens and Baton Rouge isn't that much of a grind.

Urban is just saving face. And no one can really blame him.

The SEC's smash-mouth reputation has helped bolster the Gators to two National Title Games while similarly ranked BCS teams with the same record settled for less.

The New BCS Party Line

The bigger concern is that this grind comment falls right in line with BCS apologists' most recent rationalization campaign used to obscure the Sugar Bowl’s frightening reality; that on the field, all that the BCS uses to justify supremacy (recruiting rankings, four-forty times, revenues, attendance, boosters, tradition, etc.), can be rendered meaningless on the scoreboard.

As a result, fans, media, pundits and now coaches have created a new BCS party line, the "week in, week out" asterisk. This is where any time Utah's undefeated season is mentioned, it must be disclosed that Utah could not have accomplished this had they played week in, week out in a real BCS conference.

It is a brilliantly convenient claim that can never be proven wrong on the field unlike the narcissistic justifications or BCS-isms of the past.

BCS-ism - An unsubstantiated comment or claim propagated by the media, coaches, punditry, and/or fans to assume or to justify the superiority of a BCS team or conference over a non-AQ team or conference without empirical or rational merit.

Remember the 2004 BCS-ism?

Gimmicky offenses couldn't hold up in real BCS conference play.

Urban Meyer's spread offense at Utah blew out anything and everyone in sight, but pundits were convinced it wouldn't hold water versus the speedier BCS defenses. Particularly those of the SEC. Urban laid this one to rest in his first year at Florida.

Non-AQ teams could't touch the "Big Boys".

Boise State killed that thought train. 

However, barely beating a not-quite-top-ten Oklahoma using exhilarating but deceptive trickery was not enough to convince college football nation, so the BCS-ism was mutated slightly. 

Non-AQ teams lack the talent and depth to play straight up football with the powerhouse schools.

The Hawai'i-Georgia mismatch reinforced this. Hawai'i didn't belong. Yet the BCS managed to quickly replace Utah and Boise St. with Hawai'i as the new face of the non-BCS.

It's no wonder everyone assumed the 2009 Sugar Bowl would be such a walk in the park for an Alabama team that occupied the number one ranking for the last five weeks of the season.

Some questioned whether Utah would even score a touchdown. Others predicted over 300 yards rushing for the Tide, even after Andre Smith was suspended. (Don't laugh, these are serious, well-intentioned posts.)

It seemed that if they all kept repeating the same BCS-istic propaganda frequently enough, it would become true despite the fact that these two teams were fairly even going into this game.

They both had a series of close calls in hard fought victories over terrific football teams. Each team was led by a senior QB, had experienced lines on both sides of the ball and boasted a few notable underclassmen headed for the NFL.

But Utah, by conference affiliation alone, was somehow relegated to a second class opponent, Alabama bought into the hype and paid a steep price for it.

I thought for sure the 2009 Sugar Bowl would finally silence the skeptics and put an end to such outlandish BCS-isms. But the new party line has emerged and is rearing its head as it grows in acceptance.

Non-AQ teams may show up and beat one team on one day, but wouldn't last week in, week out in a BCS conference.

The problem with this new gem is that, like the others before it, it has no merit. No evidence to support it, just a baseless assumption of superiority.

Tell-Tale of a Legit Team

The real value of a tough “week in, week out” schedule is that it should make your team stronger. You learn how to play together, where your strengths lie and how to compensate for your weaknesses by playing a collection of strong teams. Often times, a team's bowl performance can reflect the lessons learned from a tough schedule.

Alabama is tough and very physical, but it was obvious that their "grinding" SEC schedule had not prepared them for Utah’s speed and clear cut execution.

Take the Big 12 for example. They came into conference play with lofty rankings and terrific records after a soft OOC schedule (OU being the exception). The Big 12’s dismal defenses over-inflated the perceived strength of their offensive play and as a result the conference was embarrassed in the bowls.

So naturally one has to question how strong the Big 12 conference really was.

Chancellor Perlman Rebuffs

Which makes the congressional hearing comments by Nebraska Chancellor Harvey Perlman so ironic. Perlman boldly defended the BCS, boasting almost laughingly at how much stronger Nebraska's schedule was over Utah's.

Does he honestly think that Utah wouldn't cruise through many of NU's opponents like Florida Atlantic, Louisiana-Lafayette, Iowa State, Baylor, and Kansas State?

Sure, the Utes would have to play Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Virginia Tech and Missouri, but is that really all that much better than playing Alabama, TCU, Oregon State and BYU?

That’s not laughably superior.

Even funnier is how the solution many in the media propose is how teams like Utah should schedule OOC games that include Ohio State, Georgia, and Texas every year to bolster their creds. We would all love to see that, but why hold Utah to a higher standard than everyone else?

It's not like the big boys are playing each other.

Only with a few exceptions (such as Texas at the end of last year), there really is no formidable week in week out schedule. It's a myth.

Just like Nebraska and Florida, they weave weak out-of-conference games in between low and mid-tier conference competition with an occasional top 15 or top 25 opponent mixed in, then go on to whine about their challenging schedule.

Those schedules are not all that different from Utah. There is a reason Utah finished number one in the computer polls. 

The Mid-Tier

At the end of the day, no team could lay claim that they beat more ranked teams AND more top ten teams then Utah (final rankings).

At the low end of Utah's schedule, even the MWC bottom dwellers like Wyoming and UNLV (2-12 against the rest of the MWC) went 3-0 versus BCS schools. So it's hard to say that BCS confernce schedules are more difficult at the bottom.

Maybe what it comes down to is the middle-tier. Perhaps this is what this whole week in,week out business is all about, that beating a Clemson or a Minnesota is substantially superior to beating up on a Colorado State.

I'd buy that argument if Utah hadn't completely destroyed the middle tier BCS in their 2004 and 2008 runs; Texas A&M, Arizona, North Carolina, Pitt, Michigan, Oregon State, and Alabama.

7-0 versus the BCS.

That's a strong sample. All of those teams beat other ranked opponents at some point during the season they fell to Utah. Five of them were responsible for upsetting a top ten team. These are no doormats.

Now consider that only two of these games were at home and all but two were complete blowouts.

The Utes have earned their mettle. They've earned their place, if not as the Champion at least as one of 2008's elite teams. If you are threatened by Utah's accomplishments or if you think their road was too easy, no problem. Call them up, schedule them and prove it on the field. Until then, don't go around making baseless, unprovable claims. 

Take a note from this guy and go focus on winning rather than trying to spin your losses.


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.