Another week, another weak opponent, and another convincing victory.
Jordan Wynn bounced back and showed that the Wyoming game was nothing more than a hiccup and not the norm for him. The receivers were unreal and the running game really got going in the second half. The defense was great again. Things are going well, very well, but here comes Air Force…and TCU…and Notre Dame, and San Diego State. Throw in a rivalry game against BYU and the Utes have one of the most daunting closing schedules in the country.
If things hold serve, the Utes are going to be able to make a serious run at the national championship, and likely have a better chance of getting into the BCS Championship game than most ‘experts' realize.
Below are the projected records for each of the Utes' opponents this year. For the sake of argument, we'll assume that Utah beats TCU, or all of this BCS Championship talk is moot:
New Mexico (0-12)
San Jose State (1-11)
Iowa State (6-6)
Colorado State (3-9)
Air Force (8-4)
Notre Dame (6-6)
San Diego State (8-4)
That's a total of seven bowl eligible team, including one in Pitt, that would be the Big East champs and represent their conference in a BCS Bowl. TCU, with only one loss, would have an outside chance at a BCS at-large big. It's very unlikely, but still possible.
What the Utes do need is for teams ahead of them to lose. If there are two undefeated BCS conference teams remaining at the end of the year, those two will play for the national championship. That's about as cut and dry as it can get. We'll throw out a few one loss teams that have the slimmest of chances in Oklahoma, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Stanford, LSU, and Nebraska and assume they won't be in the hunt. Here are the six other undefeated teams in the country, and one wild card and how I see things going the rest of the year.
I like #1 ranked Auburn a lot, but think they'll lose at home to a Georgia team that has played as well as any team in the country the past three weeks and is much better than their 4-4 record indicates, or against Alabama to close the regular season. Win those two and they still have to deal with either South Carolina, Florida, or get a rematch with Georgia in the SEC title game. I don't think they're going to make it out unscathed.
I'm not sure where Oregon loses. After watching them take apart a decent UCLA team, they'll be heavy favorites the rest of the way. While most people think that dropping one at USC this week is the most likely loss, I'm going to go with the rivalry game against Oregon State as their toughest game. That said, I still think the Ducks finish the regular season at 12-0 and ranked number 1.
Boise State has two games that people might consider tough: against Hawaii and at Nevada. I'd put the chances of the Broncos losing either game at about 1%. They're the most complete and well-rounded team in the country and won't lose a regular season game.
TCU has to come to Rice-Eccles Stadium. Win that, and they have an even better chance of getting into the top than Utah does it they go undefeated. Again, for the sake of argument, we'll assume that Utah beats TCU and the Horned Frogs are no longer a threat to the Utes' national championship hopes.
How the hell did the Spartans win last week against Northwestern? They're not good enough and consistent enough not to lose at some point, most likely this weekend at Iowa. I also like them to drop the season ending game at Penn State. Utah should not be worried about Michigan State getting in their way.
Missouri is an intriguing team with a fairly favorable schedule going forward. Their only big test is going to be this week against Nebraska. The problem is that they have to go to Lincoln. I know Texas won their earlier this year, but Nebraska scares the daylights out of me and that defense is probably the best in the country. Missouri goes down this week. Even if they don't, a rematch with Oklahoma awaits on a neutral field in the Big 12 title game. No chance they beat Oklahoma twice.
That leaves two undefeated teams, along with Utah left standing, but there is one X factor: Alabama. Alabama is probably still the most talented team in the country, but they do have one loss. The Crimson Tide is one spot ahead of the Utes right now, but aren't getting a ton of love in the computers. They still have to travel to LSU, and then take on Auburn at home. Win those and the SEC Championship games awaits with a battle against Florida, Georgia, or a rematch with the only team that beat them this year in South Carolina. Assuming the Tide beat Auburn at home, which I think will happen, I'd put them running the table with the rest of their games at about 60%. Alabama could be the biggest hurdle between Utah and the title game.
So now we have three undefeated teams and Alabama fighting for two spots. Oregon gets in as the only BCS conference team that is undefeated. Utah, Boise State, and Alabama fight it out for the last spot. As long as Boise keeps winning, Alabama won't jump them in the human polls and neither will Utah. It won't happen. Utah is behind the Broncos is all of the computers polls, but could jump them this week if they beat Air Force, and will definitely jump them if they beat TCU. Boise State is going to drop slightly or stay about where they are in most of the computer polls. Utah is going to rise with each victory over a quality team. Boise also has a ceiling as how many more points they can pick up in the human polls. Utah has many more points to pick up as they move up the rankings. In the end, the computer polls will likely have an undefeated Utah somewhere in the 2-5 range with the computer and either 3 or 4 in the human polls, while an undefeated Boise State is going to be in the 5-8 range and number 2 in the human polls. Alabama will probably be somewhere between 2 and 4 if they win out with the computers and either 3 or 4 in the human polls.
What it's going to come down to is whether or not the humans want a one-loss Alabama in that title game over an undefeated non-AQ team. What could doom Alabama? Their second to last game of the season is against Georgia State. Their strength of schedule in the computers is going to be hit hard with that game, possibly pushing them too far back to catch an undefeated Utah or Boise State. They need to get to number 2 or 3 in the computers.
So who's it going to be? Oregon vs. Boise St., Utah, or Alabama for all the marbles? There are still a few weeks to go, but this is how I see it playing out. And for some reason, we're letting computers decide who it will be. Anyone else ready for a playoff?
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