Countdown of the Pac-12’s Worst to Best in Football/Basketball: No. 4 Utah
Alex Smith, the No. 1 overall NFL draft pick in 2005, led Utah to an undefeated season in 2004
Utah has been a member of the Pac-12 for only nine years, and the Utes took a step up in class when they left the Mountain West Conference prior to the 2011-12 academic year.
However, we can’t pretend those 11 seasons in the MWC don’t count, especially when two of those football seasons resulted in undefeated seasons and top-five national rankings for Utah.
The best: The 2004 and 2008 football seasons were historic years for the Utes’ football program. In Urban Meyer’s only season as Utah’s head coach in 2004, Utah went 12-0, with no game closer than 14 points. Utah, led by Alex Smith, knocked off 19th-ranked Pittsburgh 35-7 in the Fiesta Bowl and finished the season ranked No. 4. Meyer left for Florida, but his replacement, Kyle Whittingham, orchestrated an even more impressive run in 2008. The Utes went 12-0 through the regular season, then stunned fourth-ranked Alabama 31-17 in the Sugar Bowl to wind up with a No. 2 national ranking.
The worst: Larry Krystkowiak’s first year as Utah’s basketball coach was also Utah’s first season in the Pac-12 (2011-12). And it was brutal. Their only win in the first nine games of the season was against San Diego Christian, an NAIA school, and the Utes squeaked by that one with a three-point victory. Utah had two eight-game losing streaks that season and finished 6-25 overall and 3-15 in the conference. It was Utah’s lowest win total since 1929, when the Utes played only 17 games.
Special mention: In 2005, Utah athletes were the No. 1 overall picks in both the NFL and NBA Drafts – Alex Smith and Andrew Bogut. The Utes are the only school in history to have their players taken with the first overall pick of both those sports in the same year.
You may not think the Utes deserves this lofty No. 4 ranking, but the numbers say they do.
Utah has had winning seasons in football in 16 of the past 20 years, tying USC for the most of anyone in the conference.
All four of Utah’s conference football titles came while it was in the Mountain West Conference, but that slight negative is countered by the fact that it had two undefeated seasons in which is finished ranked in the top five nationally. No other Pac-12 school can match the two unbeaten seasons, and only USC has had more than two top-five finishes over the past 20 years.
Only Oregon has more than the 16 bowl appearances Utah has made, and no Pac-12 rival is close to the Utes’ 14 bowl wins since 1999.
The Utes won the Pac-12 South last year, and are favored to win the conference title this year, although the latter was not included in our ranking calculations.
Utah has not quite reached those heights in basketball, but it seems to be on the rise. The past five seasons Utah has finished second, second, fourth, third and third in the Pac-12 standings. No other Pac-12 school has finished among the top four in all five of those seasons.
The Utes have yet to win a Pac-12 regular-season title in basketball, getting all three of those titles while in the Mountain West Conference. And the Utes’ three last-place finishes in the Pac-12 probably prevented them from climbing into the top three of our rankings.
Here are the Utes’ numbers:
---Academic years in which both football and men’s basketball had winning records: 11
---Academic Years in which both football and men’s basketball won Mountain West/Pac-12 titles: 4 (1999-2000, 2003-04, 2004-05, 2008-09)
---Years in which football reached a bowl & basketball played in the NCAA tournament: 7 (1999-2000, 2001-02, 2003-04, 2004-05, 2008-09, 2014-15, 2015-16)
---Winning seasons/winning conference seasons: 16/13
---10-win seasons: 6 (2003, 2004, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2015)
---Mountain West Conference/Pac-12 titles: 4 (1999, 2003, 2004, 2008, all MWC)
---Last-place conference finishes: 0
---MWC/Pac-12 Players of the Year: 6 (John Frank-d 1999, Alex Smith-o 2004, Morgan Scully-d 2004, Eric Weddle-d 2005, Eric Weddle-d 2006, Brian Johnson-o 2008)
---Bowl appearances (record): 16 (14-2)
---BCS/College Football Playoff appearances: 2 (2004, 2008)
---Highest Final AP Top-25 ranking: No. 2 (2008)
---First-round NFL Draft picks: 4 (Jordan Gross, Alex Smith, Star Lotulelei, Garrett Bolles)
---Coaches: 3 — Ron McBride (1999-2002), Urban Meyer (2003-04), Kyle Whittingham (2004-2018)
---Winning seasons/winning conference seasons: 14/12
---30-win seasons: 0
---Mountain West/Pac-12 regular-season titles: 5 (1999-2000, 2000-01, 2002-03, 2004-05, 2008-09)
---MWC/Pac-12 tournament titles: 2 (2003-04, 2008-09)
---Last-place conference finishes: 3 (2011-12, 2013-14, 2014-15)
---Pac-12 Players of the Year: 1 (Alex Jensen 2000, Britton Johnson 2002, Andrew Bogut 2005, Luke Nevill 2009, Jakob Poeltl 2016)
---NCAA bids (record): 8 (7-8)
---Final Four appearances: 0
---Highest Final AP Top-25 ranking: No. 13 (2015-16)
---First-round NBA Draft picks: 4 (Andrew Bogut, Delon Wright, Jakob Poeltl, Kyle Kuzma)
---Coaches: 6 — Rick Majerus (1999-2000 to 2003-04, Dick Hunsaker (2000-01), Kerry Rupp (2003-04), Ray Giacoletti (2004-05 to 2006-07), Jim Boylen (2007-08 to 2010-11), Larry Krystkowiak (2011-12 to 2018-19)
* Utah has been a member of the Pac-12 since 2011-12, was previously in the Mountain West Conference
The Pac-12 Rankings
8 Arizona State
11 Oregon State
12 Washington State