We're number 2! We're number 2! At least in the Mountain West, which isn't a bad thing this year as TCU's squad may be the best to ever come out of the conference. The victory over BYU gave the Utes sole possession of second place in the conference with a 7-1 conference record. Pretty much on par with what most of us thought going into the year, but a littler disappointing considering where the team was a few weeks ago.
At the beginning of the year all of the coaches and players said they had the same goal: Win the Mountain West. That didn't happen. Does that make this season a failure? They won ten games, beat their hated rival, were ranked a top 5 team at one point, and are going bowling, likely in Las Vegas, the destination for the MWC Champ in most years. Not all that bad.
But what could have been? What if J.J. Williams hadn't injured himself in fall camp and Jamel King didn't have the issues he did, the depth at linebacker wouldn't have had been a problem at any point. When Chad Manis went down, the linebacking play went down and the Utes lost the two games he was out. The losses of Williams and King turned out to be pretty big in an indirect way. The early season injury to Jordan Wynn may have been bigger in hindsight than originally thought. Wynn missed two games early on, slowing his growth and giving him two less games against TCU and Notre Dame to prepare himself to play a big time time on a big time stage. Wynn wasn't very good in either game, and two more full games would have helped.
Utah was right there. They were 8 and 0, ranked number 5 in the country, playing the number 3 team in the country, with a national television audience, at home, with ESPN's College Gameday in town. Everything was right there for Utah to prove that they were the premier non-BCS team in the country and be considered a national title contender. Then the game started. The flop of flops in Utah football history. An opportunity lost. Will the Utes get a chance like that again? With the move to the Pac 12, it is more likely, but where they sat and what they had in front of them was as good a chance as they've ever had to win a national title, and they blew it. They weren't good enough to win a national championship, but the opportunity was there.
The Rivalry. Will it stay the same? Now that each school is headed in different directions (Utah to the Pac 12 and BYU to Independence), what happens with the rivalry? Next year's game is scheduled for the middle for September. That is going to take some luster off of it. The game will probably be just as nasty for the fans as it has ever been, but for the coaches and players, it will lose a little bit of luster.
On to the Pac 12. With only a bowl game left, the coaches will give some of the younger guys plenty of chances to get reps and. The 15 bowl practices are some of the most important a team can have as it helps prepare a lot of guys that didn't get as much playing time this year for a bigger role next year. They're going to need it as they enter the Pac 12 and a conference that will feature the probable number 1 in the country to open the season (Oregon), a Stanford team that is currently ranked fourth and could bring their Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback back, an Arizona squad that will probably bring back a Heisman Trophy candidate in Nick Foles, an Arizona State squad that is filled with underclassmen, a UCLA team that is filled with talent, a Washington team that will be in its third year under Steve Sarkisian and ready to contend for the conference title, a Cal team that is always competitive, and USC who has as much front line talent as any school in the country (but who knows what we'll be getting out of them next year). The Pac 12 could be very good, and the next 15 practices will help the Utes be competitive next year.
Now the bowl game. The questions are where and who? The Utes could be headed anywhere from Vegas to New Mexico, to Shreveport, to San Diego, to Boise, to San Francisco. Opponents could range anywhere from a middle of the pack Pac 10 team, to a MAC team, an ACC representative, a WAC school, or even Navy. At this point, no one knows. The Vegas Bowl is contracted to take the Mountain West Champ, but that could change if Notre Dame lands there to fill a vacant Pac 10 slot. The bowl isn't going to want a Utah-ND rematch that was played just a few weeks ago. The likely destination is still going to be Vegas with a MAC team coming (Temple, maybe). Unless Oregon State beats Oregon and Washington beats Wazzu, the Utes aren't going to get a Pac 12 preview.
Utah Beats BYU- What Does It All Mean?
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