The Utes are good. The Spartans are bad. We'll leave it at that and look at where Utah is in the polls and where they are going:
Utah currently sits at 12 in the coaches poll (the poll used for the BCS formula). With the bye week up next and then an underachieving Iowa State team following, the Utes should creep into the top 10 as early as next week. #7 Florida has to go to #1 Alabama and either team could fall below the Utes (though it would be unlikely for Alabama to fall that far). #4 Oregon plays host to #13 Stanford. Oregon would likely fall below the Utes with a loss, while a Stanford loss would help the Utes pick up some of their votes. #21 Texas and #8 Oklahoma hook up in the Red River Rivalry. Oklahoma would fall below Utah with a loss. Some voters still have Texas ahead of Utah despite Texas being manhandled by UCLA and the Utes would pick up a few votes with a Texas loss. #11 Wisconsin goes on the road to #24 Michigan State. A Badger loss would drop them below Utah. Outside of that, there really aren't any other games that can help the Utes move up in the polls this week.
Best case scenario for Utah next week has Alabama beating Florida, Texas beating Oklahoma, Stanford beating Oregon, and Michigan State beating Wisconsin. The coaches poll would look something like this assuming the rest of the games go as planned:
2. Ohio State
3. Boise State
The following week could be huge with #6 Nebraska going to Manhattan, Kansas to take on an undefeated Kansas State team that could be ranked by the time that Thursday night game kicks off. #1 Alabama has to travel to #22 South Carolina, #10 LSU goes to #7 Florida, and #13 Stanford takes on USC. After that week, the poll could like something like this:
1. Ohio State
2. Boise St.
Of the 11 teams ahead of them currently, 7 of them play a legitimate team in the next two week that can beat them. The week after that Ohio State has to go to Wisconsin while Auburn faces Arkansas. The only teams ahead of the Utes that don't face anyone of consequence over the next three weeks are Boise State and TCU. We could be looking at the top 3 teams in the polls all coming from non-AQ conferences. It won't happen, but it's very possible.
The biggest obstacle for the Utes right now when it comes to moving up in the polls is their schedule, which is one of the worst in the country. Utah's opponents this season are now a combined 3-12 with the three wins over FCS teams Southern Utah, New Hampshire, and possibly the worst team in the FBS in New Mexico. Pitt getting hammered at home by Miami was a devastating blow to Utah's BCS title game chances as the Utes and most people expected Pitt to be a Big East title contender. That doesn't look to be the case at this point. The schedule doesn't get much tougher over the next month as the next three opponents (Iowa State, Wyoming, and Colorado State) are a combined 4-8, with two of those wins over FCS teams. Strength of schedule isn't technically a component of the BCS, but is used as part of the criteria for each of the computer polls so that is going to weigh heavily in determining their ranking. Here are the current computer rankings for the Utes:
Richard Billingsley- 8th
Jeff Sagarin- 24th
Kenneth Massey- 29th
Anderson & Hester- unreleased
Peter Wolfe- unreleased
The BCS formula throws out the highest ranking and the lowest ranking so the lofty #8 and the unreasonable 29 are gone, giving the Utes an average computer ranking of 22.5. Combine that with their 12 ranking now and what will be a comparable ranking from the Harris poll, and the Utes hypothetically stand somewhere in the 14-16 range.
Utah is going to win games, 11-12 by my count, both numbers good enough for a BCS bowl, but they need Pitt to win 8-10 games, Iowa State to win at least 6, Air Force to get to 8, Notre Dame to rebound and win a minimum of 7 and probably more than that, TCU to win 11, BYU to somehow get to 7 wins, and San Diego State to get to at least 7 wins. That will significantly increase the strength of schedule, but it might not be enough to get the Utes to the promised land.
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