With its dramatic 13-10 win over No. 11 TCU last Thursday, Utah firmly established itself as the highest ranked of the non-BCS teams. But the Utes didn't exactly blow anybody away, either. They went 59 minutes without a touchdown, were outgained 416 to 275 and were extremely fortunate that TCU missed two late field goals to leave the door open for their game-winning drive.
Note that Utah also needed a dramatic, last-minute rally in its other big win of the season over Oregon State, and, in the game that originally put the Utes on the map, had to hold on for dear life to survive Michigan, which is now 3-7.
Again, Utah most certainly deserves the highest ranking of the non-BCS bunch. It's undefeated and alone atop the toughest non-BCS league, the Mountain West. It has beaten TCU (9-2), Air Force (8-2) and Oregon State (6-3), whereas fellow undefeated Boise State's lone substantive win was at Oregon (7-3). Undefeated Ball State's best win came against Indiana (3-7).
Utah deserved to be rewarded for beating TCU (which I had moved ahead of the Utes last week), and I did move them up one spot from 10th to ninth, but I'm starting to believe that we the voters are being overly generous in our rankings of these teams.
I jumped 8-2 Ohio State above Utah this week. Why? Because no part of me believes the Utes would stand a chance against Terrelle Pryor and Beanie Wells. I would have moved Georgia ahead of them as well had the Dawgs not struggled so mightily to win at Kentucky. (I did move them ahead of Boise State.) Oklahoma State is almost certainly better than the Utes and Broncos, too, but that would have required keeping the Cowboys in the same spot after losing 56-20 to Texas Tech.
Utah will deserve its coveted top-12 spot if it beats 9-1 BYU and finishes undefeated in an admittedly tough conference, but don't get fooled into thinking these are the 2004 Utes. That Alex Smith-led team may very well have beaten a top five foe in a BCS game if given the chance. This team has proven that, if given the right breaks, it can beat TCU and Oregon State.
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Got a different view than Stew?