Now that only three bowl games (and only two consequential bowl games; sorry, GMAC Bowl) remain, it is time to begin giving thought to how the teams will be ranked on my postseason BlogPoll ballot. One question, of course, leaps directly to the forefront of my deliberations: "How seriously does Utah deserve to be considered for the national championship?"
Obviously, the Utes will conclude the campaign as the lone unbeaten team in Division I-A, which counts for quite a lot. I gave similar consideration to Boise State two years ago, for the same reason, and the identical issue has reared its head again this year. (For some reason, whenever Florida is in the running for the national championship, it always involves a mid-major power arguably getting hosed, be it Brigham Young in 1996, Boise State in 2006, or Utah in 2008.)
As stated by JazzyUte, the argument for the Mountain West Conference champions is simple: "Utah still did more than any other team in college football. They proved it on the field every single week by winning all their games, while the winner of the BCS National Championship will have failed at doing that."
There is, however, more to a team’s resume than just its record. In 1990, Georgia Tech went undefeated against (a) a weak A.C.C., (b) what remains to this day the worst Georgia team since the Johnny Griffith era, and (c) Nebraska in the bowl game at a time when the Cornhuskers couldn’t buy a postseason victory in the Sunshine State. That simply, and correctly, counted for less in the eyes of many voters than Colorado’s once-beaten run through a daunting Big 8 slate and non-conference schedule.
Let us, therefore, look at the Utes’ resume, which stacks up as follows:
W 25-23 at Michigan (3-9)
W 42-21 v. U.N.L.V. (5-7)
W 58-10 at Utah State (3-9)
W 30-23 at Air Force (8-5; lost Armed Forces Bowl)
W 37-21 v. Weber State (Division I-AA)
W 31-28 v. Oregon State (9-4; won Sun Bowl)
W 40-7 at Wyoming (4-8)
W 49-16 v. Colorado State (7-6; won New Mexico Bowl)
W 13-10 at New Mexico (4-8)
W 13-10 v. Texas Christian (11-2; won Poinsettia Bowl)
W 63-14 at San Diego State (2-10)
W 48-24 v. Brigham Young (10-3; lost Las Vegas Bowl)
W 31-17 v. Alabama (12-2; lost Sugar Bowl)
That comes to three wins over B.C.S. conference teams, six wins over teams that went to bowl games (including three over bowl champions), and six wins over Division I-A teams that finished with winning records.
Leaving aside the Utes’ one game against Division I-AA opposition, Utah beat five teams that lost eight or more games but also defeated five teams that won eight or more games. Utah beat the Horned Frogs, whose only other loss was to Oklahoma, and the Crimson Tide, whose only other loss was to Florida.
The question is how that resume compares to this one . . .
W 56-10 v. Hawaii (7-7; lost Hawaii Bowl)
W 26-3 v. Miami (Florida) (7-6; lost Emerald Bowl)
W 30-6 at Tennessee (5-7)
L 31-30 v. Ole Miss (9-4; won Cotton Bowl)
W 38-7 at Arkansas (5-7)
W 51-21 v. Louisiana State (8-5; won Chick-fil-A Bowl)
W 63-5 v. Kentucky (7-6; won Liberty Bowl)
W 49-10 v. Georgia (10-3; won Capital One Bowl)
W 42-14 at Vanderbilt (7-6; won Music City Bowl)
W 56-6 v. South Carolina (7-6; lost Outback Bowl)
W 70-19 v. The Citadel (Division I-AA)
W 45-15 at Florida State (9-4; won Champs Sports Bowl)
W 31-20 v. Alabama (12-2; lost Sugar Bowl)
. . . or this one . . .
W 57-2 v. Chattanooga (Division I-AA)
W 52-26 v. Cincinnati (11-3; lost Orange Bowl)
W 55-14 at Washington (0-12)
W 35-10 v. Texas Christian (11-2; won Poinsettia Bowl)
W 49-17 at Baylor (4-8)
L 45-35 v. Texas (11-1; Fiesta Bowl
W 45-31 v. Kansas (8-5; won Insight Bowl)
W 58-35 at Kansas State (5-7)
W 62-28 v. Nebraska (9-4; won Gator Bowl)
W 66-28 at Texas A&M (4-8)
W 65-21 v. Texas Tech (11-2; lost Cotton Bowl)
W 61-41 at Oklahoma State (9-4; lost Holiday Bowl)
W 62-21 v. Missouri (10-4; won Alamo Bowl)
. . . if a victory by one over the other is added to the mix.
If the Sooners win on Thursday night, would Utah have an argument over Oklahoma? What about
when if the Gators win on Thursday night? Would it matter whether the winner of the designated national championship game won by a little or won by a lot?