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What Utah Could Have Done to Have a Better Shot at the Title

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The senator turned his indignation on one of his witnesses, University of Nebraska at Lincoln Chancellor Harvey Perlman, a fan of the BCS system. "Let's take last year's Utah team," Hatch said. "What more could they have done to play their way into a national championship game?"

-Dana Milbank, Washington Post

Senator Orrin Hatch and University of Utah President Michael Young want to know what the Utes could have done to have a better chance at playing for the national title. Seeing as how it was a year that saw Texas and USC be viable candidates that got also shut out, the odds were admittedly low regardless. However, here's what Utah could have done to be in better position to complain.

Have people on your side vote as though Utah was a legit title contender.

This is something that Tony Barnhart pointed out. Not one single MWC coach voted Utah into the top two. That includes the Utes own coach, Kyle Wittingham, who had his team fifth. If you believe yourself to be worthy, then vote like it.

Beat 3-9 Michigan by more than two points.

Utah won in Michigan Stadium. That's nice and all, but it was only by two points and it was over the worst Wolverine team in recent memory. You know who did beat Michigan by more than two? Illinois (5-7), Purdue (4-8), and Toledo (3-9), along with every other team that delivered Michigan a loss. If 7-6 Notre Dame could win by three touchdowns, you should have too.

Beat 4-8 New Mexico by more than three points.

You know who beat New Mexico by more than a field goal? Texas A&M (4-8), UNLV (5-7), Colorado State (7-6), and Air Force (8-5). The Lobos also lost to BYU by 18, TCU by 23, and Tulsa by 42.

Beat 8-5 Air Force by more than a touchdown.

No, the Falcons were not putrid. They were pretty good in fact. However, your fellow MWC heavyweights BYU and TCU beat AFA by 14 and 34 points respectively. If you want to stand out from the crowd, you must stand out from the crowd.

Play someone, anyone in I-A instead of Weber State.

When you're not from a Big Six conference, every game is an audition. By scheduling a I-AA school, you're throwing one of your audition dates out the window because no one cares what you do against them (unless you lose). It's like taking one of your 12 offensive drives in a game and punting on first down.

Play more than two Big Six conference teams in the non-conference.

I know your non-conference slate of two Big Six teams, a I-A cupcake, and a I-AA school is identical to what BYU and TCU did. You were right in line with your conference mates. The problem with that: the pollsters don't care how you measure up to MWC teams that you've beaten. They look to see how you measure up to Big Six schools. If you were to play three Big Six schools in the non-conference (or better yet, four), the strength of the top of the MWC is enough that it would be a comparable schedule to what a Big East team might face. At that point, you'd at least have a shot.

Yes, all that matters.

If you want to play for a national title, you're going to have to beat everyone who's not an upper tier team badly. Regardless of whether you believe it to be correct or not, the pollsters believe Florida, USC, Texas, or Oklahoma would take your schedule and win most every game convincingly. That is especially true for games against opponents that end the year with sub-.500 records.

This mandate is not even an unprecedented thing for Utah, as the 2004 team won every game by 14 points or more. And remember: this is college football, not the NFL. Style points count, and large blowouts get you style points. It's how Oklahoma passed up Texas for the chance to play for the title last year.

That '04 Utah team also managed to schedule three Big Six schools: Texas A&M, Arizona, and North Carolina. It can be done. I know getting teams to come to your place as part of a home-and-home deal is what you want, but as Ben Prather of points out, your stadium is too small to get the biggest of programs to go for that. They won't sacrifice the money they get from a home game against the Southern Alabama School of Bakery and Confections in their 80,000+ seat palaces for the road team's cut of a game in a 45,000 seat stadium. The 2011 non-conference schedule, if Phil Steele is to be believed, is right on.

The tide of hitstory has been turning with these past couple years as Utah and Boise State have won big games on big stages. It's kind of like the scene in Anchorman where the bartender tells Ron Burgundy that "ladies can do stuff now, and you're going to have to learn how to deal with that." The old attitudes and prejudices are slowly but surely falling, albeit not in the nicest or most elegant fashion. It's too late for the '08 Utah team to get a shot at a title, but that team's season will pave the way for some other team in the future.