FB: Which Utah squad was the best since the turn of the century?

Ryan Kostecka

As of right now, there is no indication as to whether or not the upcoming college football season is going to take place. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the sports world has come to a screeching halt with no timetable as to when/if it'll return.

So lets take a walk down memory lane and countdown the top five Utah teams of the century

5.) 2009 Utah Utes (10-3, 6-2 Mountain West)
*This was a tough choice because this Utes team was coming off the 2008 season and the victory over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. Riding that high, the Utes endured massive coaching changes but still managed to finish the season ranked No. 18 in the Coaches and AP poll.

After beginning the season 2-0, the Utes traveled to Oregon where their 31-24 loss at Autzen Stadium snapped their 16-game winning streak.

Utah rebounded with a six-game winning streak to set up a massive showdown with No. 4 TCU and first-place in the MWC on the line — eventually being blasted 55-28. The Utes then lost two weeks later in a brutal showdown with rival BYU, falling 26-23 in overtime. But a victory over Cal in the Poinsettia Bowl capped off a 10-win season.

Although this team was in the MWC, it gets credit for winning 10 games after the coaching changes to check in at No. 5 on our list.

4.) 2019 Utah Utes (11-3, 8-1 Pac-12)
*This Utah team could've easily been hire had it not ended the season on a two-game losing streak. Winning one of those games automatically puts them in contention with the 2004 and 2008 teams — but alas that didn't happen so here they are at No. 4 on our list.

Led by a record-setting quarterback (Tyler Huntley) and running back (Zack Moss) and one of the best defenses in the nation, the Utes were at one point in consideration for one of the four CFP spots.

Huntley threw for 3,094 yards and 19 touchdowns while Moss ran for 1,416 yards and 15 scores. Defensively, as many as eight Utes could get drafted from the starting unit, which would be a program record.

After starting 3-0, the Utes got a rude awakening when Moss went down hurt and they fell to unranked USC 30-23 to begin Pac-12 play. But the veteran-led squad rebounded with eight consecutive Pac-12 wins, seven of which came by at 17 points or more.

Needing one win to reach the college football playoff, Utah ran into trouble and got blasted by No. 13 Oregon 37-15 in the Pac-12 championship game. Then the Utes failed to show up against Texas in the Alamo Bowl, falling 38-10.

Nov 2, 2019; Seattle, WA, USA; Utah Utes quarterback Tyler Huntley (1) hands off to running back Zack Moss (2) during the first quarter against the Washington Huskies at Husky Stadium.
Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

3.) 2015 Utah Utes (10-3, 6-3 Pac-12)
*Much like the 2019 team, the 2015 Utes are known as the "what if" team. A dominant defense with an equally dominant run game had this Utah squad among the most physical in the nation — and beating your hated rival BYU in a bowl game is always a good finish to any season.

Victories over Michigan, Oregon (No. 13) and Cal (No. 23) had Utah sitting at 6-0 and No. 3 in the nation heading into their matchup with USC. But a 42-24 beatdown suffered at the hands of the Trojans knocked the Utes off their track.

They rebounded with two wins but then back-to-back losses to unranked Arizona and UCLA coast Utah a trip to the Pac-12 championship game, and whatever would've come with it.

This season is best known for the injuries suffered by running back Devontae Booker and  quarterback Travis Wilson, leading to the "what if" question, the first of a myriad of injuries over the next few seasons that would always keep Utah from achieving its heights.

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2.) 2008 Utah Utes (13-0, 8-0 Mountain West)
*By no means was this an easy decision between the 2004 and 2008 squads — but it came down to two things: which team had the best player and the best coach. And both of those point to the 2004 team, which I'll cover below.

This Utah squad could easily make the claim as national champion as they were the only team to finish undefeated and then took down Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, winning 31-14 in a stomping on national television.

Despite being undefeated, the Utes had five games all finish within one score, including a season-opening 25-23 over Michigan and back-to-back 13-10 wins over New Mexico and No. 11 TCU late in the season. 

Four of Utah's opponents ended up ranked in the top-25; Oregon State, TCU, BYU, and Alabama.

Quarterback Brian Johnson was the catalyst all season long, culminating in a 336-yard, 3-touchdown performance over the Crimson Tide, which entered the Sugar Bowl 13th in pass efficiency defense. The defense also shown bright, holding Alabama to 31 yards on 33 carries, 165 yards less than their season average.

1.) 2004 Utah Utes (12-0, 7-0 Mountain West)
*This team has arguably the best player and coach to ever be associated with the Utah football program in quarterback Alex Smith and head coach Urban Meyer. Smith went on to be the No. 1 pick in the 2005 NFL draft to the San Francisco 49ers while Meyer went on to become one of the most successful college coaches in history, winning three national championships.

While the 2008 squad had the big wins, it's hard to imagine that team reaching that point if it wasn't for this team. 

Regardless of who stood in front of them, Utah dominated its competition with a high-scoring offense and physical defense. The Utes averaged 45.3 points per game and won each of them by at least 14 points — also securing out-of-conference wins over Texas A&M, Arizona and North Carolina.

Still not receiving the respect it deserved, Utah blasted Pittsburgh 35-7 in the Fiesta Bowl. Pittsburgh entered the game as the Big East champions and ranked No. 19 in the nation.

The 2008 squad had the bigger wins, no doubt about it. But this 2004 team absolutely dominated its competition and was easily one of, if not, the best team in the country. 

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