Four years ago, at the press conference at which he was officially introduced as Edwards' successor, Crowton stated flat out that he "never wanted to be the coach who succeeded LaVell Edwards." Instead, he said, he wanted to be the coach who succeeded the coach who succeeded Edwards. Now we know why. Crowton looks to be elsewhere next year, and the BYU administration will look frantically for someone to plug the gap. Better to start at the top. The very top. As in an administration management policy that allocates to its athletic director "more responsibility than authority" in the words of Rondo Fehlberg, who resigned rather that accept the current BYU model.
Give Utah credit. It's never easy to go 11-0. At the same time, with all the hubris flowing from Salt Lake City it would be well to bear in mind that this is not a dominating team, with a defense ranked at a lofty #45 in the nation. Utah gave up over 400+ yards of total offense six times this year, including to juggernauts UNLV, SDSU, Air Force, Colorado State and Wyoming, which collectively posted a record of 21-35 this year. And no, it wasn't because Urban Meyer is fond of pulling his starters early (see below). All the stars had to line up to open the door for the Utes:
1. Utah's schedule. Arranged years in advance, Texas A&M, Arizona and North Carolina looked like reasonably difficult out-of-conference foes, enough so to counterbalance a Utah State cupcake. Only A&M turned out to be worthy of respect, and the three combined for a glittering14-18 record against I-A opponents. The conference was also weaker than it has been in years, with only two other schools - New Mexico and Wyoming, of all people - turning in winning seasons, and without I-AA Appalachian State on its slate, the Cowboys don't even manage that. Finally, all of the teams with the best shots at beating Utah - Air Force, New Mexico, Colorado State and BYU, plus non-conference foes Texas A&M and North Carolina - all had to come to Salt Lake this year. Next year the Utes play all of those five on the road. Anyone think they'll sweep them again?
2. Let's not forget the BCS rule change that gave the Utes a pass. They didn't exactly kick down the BCS door. After all, a 13-1 BYU team was denied in 1995, even though ranked higher than the current Utah squad. That uproar led to the current policy of guaranteeing a spot to any non-BCS school ranked in the top 6. Without that one change alone, Utah goes to Memphis, not Phoenix, this year.
3. This year the BCS also introduced another change favorable to Utah - dropping the explicit "strength-of-schedule" component, as well as the "quality wins" component.
4. A coach adept at playing the game, and we don't mean football. Despite protestations to the contrary, Urban Meyer routinely ran up the score to impress pollsters who never watch a game, but only look at the score. Thus, against Colorado State Meyer reinserts his starters with seven minutes left in the game after the Rams scored to "cut" the lead from 56-24 to 56-31. His later claim? Colorado State was "within three scores" of tying it up. Gee, Coach, eight plus eight plus eight looks like 24, not 25, from where we sit. Ditto for running gimmick plays against BYU to push across a final score while up 45-21 with less than three minutes left.
5. Plain old luck. Everyone needs some to have a great year, and Utah had its share. Not a single major injury all year, while opponents suffered theirs. One example, New Mexico's DonTrell Moore, the best running back in the conference, misses one game all year: the one versus Utah. Likewise Colorado State's quarterback, Justin Holland, breaks an ankle three weeks before the Utah game, and the Rams are left with a true freshman who barely has time to find his helmet, let alone learn the plays, before visiting Salt Lake City.
Air Force 47, Colorado State 17. A three-way tie for fourth for both squads, in a losing year all around for both of them.
New Mexico 16, Wyoming 9. The Cowboys stagger to a 6-5 bowl-eligible close to their season, ironically their best in years. Did anyone in Laramie notice they went 2-4 over their last six games to manage this feat? Will they go bowling? Probably, as there are seats to fill all across the nation in jerkwater games looking for jerkwater teams. Wyoming fits the bill.
San Diego State 21, UNLV 3. It doesn't get much worse, as these to fought to stay out of the cellar. A combined record of 6-16 marks a season of futility for both.