Monday, January 5, 2009

Utah Utes-2009 NCAA Champions?

Thursday night my Alma Mater Utah rose up and laid a major league smackdown on Alabama in the All-State Sugar Bowl. Immediately, fans of Utah began claiming the NCAA Championship and Number One ranking. This is understandable. Utah finished the season ranked 13-0. The question is, are they really deserving of the Championship? I believe they are, but perhaps only as Co-National Champs. My arguments:

Number of Undefeated Teams: One
Utah is the only undefeated team left. This is very important to note. The way that College Football's post-season is set up lends itself to ambiguity and second guessing, but there is one indisputable fact: Utah didn't lose to anybody. Period.

Strength of Schedule:
Does Utah play in the MWC? Yes. Is the MWC fairly weak? Of course. Utah did, however, defeat quality teams in TCU, BYU and Oregon State, not to mention Alabama. TCU and Oregon State were nail-biters, but still victories. BYU and Alabama were both good, solid beatings of worthy opponents. Utah also beat a decent Air Force team. In fact, the Jeff Sagarin Ratings that the BCS uses to rank strength of schedule had Utah's as the 8th most difficult before the bowl game against Alabama.

Head to Head vs. One Loss Teams:
Now, let's look at the other teams who have a claim at the championship.
First off, we have
USC: USC's record is an impressive 12-1, their only loss coming at Oregon State. Hmmm. I think Utah played Oregon State, didn't they? Oh yeah, and they beat them. So, you have two teams with similar records (13-0 vs 12-1) with similar strengths of schedule (8th vs 5th) who have a common opponent in Oregon State, to whom USC lost and Utah beat. I don't care about arguments of who would win if they played head to head, because that is a part of the equation that the BCS system, of which USC is a willing member and participant, decided to leave out when they failed to create a playoff system. And are you certain, after seeing Utah vs. Alabama, that USC would win that game? I would have my doubts.
Florida: Let's assume, for arguments sake, that Florida beats Oklahoma in the BCS Championship. We'll do the same when arguing for Oklahoma. Ok, that would make Florida 13-1. They would have won the SEC championship and beaten the Big 12 Champs as well. In the end, they do have that blemish on their records from when they lost to an underrated Ol' Miss. So record wise, Utah would still have the edge (13-0 vs 13-1). Florida would have admittedly the better SOS (8th vs 3rd) and the teams would have one common opponent who they both beat in Alabama. In that regard, I saw both games and have to say that Utah was much more impressive vs. the Crimson Tide than Florida was, and have a better margin of victory (14 vs 11) vs Alabama.
Oklahoma: The Sooners have had a wonderful season, losing only to Texas. Assuming they beat Florida, they have had a great run this year. They do however, have that one pesky loss. Utah has them in W/L record (13-0 vs 13-1). Oklahoma does have superior SOS (8th vs 1st), and the teams have one common opponent worth mentioning in TCU, who Oklahoma beat soundly and against whom Utah struggled, but did beat.
Boise State: Say what you will, but Boise State is still a one-loss team that deserves a ton of respect. They however, are obviously the worst team in the discussion, having lost to TCU (who lost also to Oklahoma and Utah).
Texas: Let's assume Texas goes out and beats Ohio State, as I suspect they will. That would leave Texas at 13-1, with their only loss coming on a last second play vs. Texas Tech. Texas got screwed out of the Big 12 Championship, and they too will have a claim at the BCS title if they win. Against Utah, they have an inferior record (13-0 vs 12-1), a higher SOS (8th vs 2nd), and no common opponents. Makes it hard to say who would beat whom, doesn't it?

In conclusion, this is how I see things, not any sort of prediction: Utah should have a piece of the BCS title, regardless of who wins that game. They are undefeated, have a strong SOS, and beat up on Alabama in their bowl game. If Florida wins the title game, then Utah and Florida share the title. If Oklahoma wins, Utah and Oklahoma share it, and I kinda lean towards saying that Texas deserves a piece of the title as well, but if Oklahoma can beat a worthy foe in Florida, I'll give them the nod.

This is all a pipe dream, I'm sure, as the BCS will crown it's champion on Thursday, but that doesn't change the fact that Utah deserves a piece of the crown.