Tough games provide opportunities

Over the past few seasons a scant few teams have had to carry the banner for the non-BCS conferences. Two of those teams face off on Saturday when Utah and Boise State do battle, while next week Utah and TCU square off.

Once Louisville went to the Big East, it left four programs to serve as the face of non-BCS schools. Along with Fresno State, Utah, Boise State and TCU have been the cream of the crop. Of those three, only Utah was able to crack the Old Boys Network that is known as the BCS.

Since 2002 the three programs have combined to go 126-32, with just two losing seasons between them (Utah in 2002 and TCU in 2004). The schools have withstood coaching changes, scheduling changes and have come away as big time football programs.

Ironically enough, Utah has the worst overall record at 34-13, but has fared the best against BCS teams. The Utes area 8-4 against the BCS with all four losses coming on the road at Michigan, at Texas A&M and at North Carolina. In that same span the Utes have beaten Indiana, Cal, Oregon, Arizona (twice), Carolina, Pittsburgh and Texas A&M.

The other two programs have had their share of success against BCS schools. TCU has split a recent series against Texas Tech, and are best known for their win over Oklahoma a year ago. BSU is 2-2 against Oregon State and beat Iowa State in a bowl game. They have dropped road games to Arkansas and Georgia, and a bowl game against Boston College.

Even though Utah has had the best season, the Fiesta Bowl season of 2004, Boise State seems to get the bulk of the headlines. With their high power offense, bright blue turf and willingness to play weeknight games on ESPN, Boise State seems to be a bit more in the public consciousness.

The next two weeks could be very big for the Utes. Wins over BSU and TCU would propel Utah. They would be in great position for a national ranking and a nice bowl game. The next two opponents are the best two foes left on the schedule. Although wins would not guarantee anything, the chances are there would not be too many losses left on the slate.

A win over TCU would make Utah the favorite to win the MWC, while beating Boise State would have recruiting advantages as the two programs battle for players in the west.

Utah has taken care of business this season. The loss to UCLA on the road was understandable, if not frustrating. Since then the Utes have totally taken care of business. In their last three games, against three inferior teams, Utah has outscored their opponents 131-14. Granted the three opponents have a combined record 2-9, without a single win over a D-I school. While the record is not impressive, the fact that the Utes dominated each opponent is impressive. Averaging over 40 points is a huge feat, but in this era of shortened games (thanks NCAA rule committee), 40 points is a big deal. The Utes faced inferior talent and dominated.

Now the stakes improve dramatically. The next two weeks see two big time programs. The Utes will know a lot more about how good they are after the two games. A couple of wins would really put the Utes back on the map.

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