The Utes of Utah placed a monumental beat down on Alabama during Friday’s Sugar Bowl. The Utes were well coached and played a great brand of sound, passionate football. They jumped out to an early lead and when the game got close in the third quarter, they responded with a long scoring drive and never let up again. They were relentless and deserve the credit they are getting.
Utah played a great season and especially a great game.
But outside of the game, let’s put all this talk about shared national championships on hold for just a minute.
Before the game was played no one was talking about the implications of this game. At least no one other than maybe the Utes and their supporters.
Was anybody going to give Alabama a “piece” of any title other than the Sugar Bowl Trophy? I think not. And so now why all of a sudden does the call come out for Utah’s piece of the pie and how we’d all be better off with a playoff.
You know what would have made Friday’s game different? If it would have been played for something – that is something other than just the Sugar Bowl. You can’t, with a straight face and sincerity in your heart, tell me that the game would have been the same. I’m not saying that Utah wouldn’t have won – they certainly deserve the benefit of the doubt on that – but you certainly must admit that Alabama would probably been playing with a little more intensity and focus if the possibility would have been there for something greater. Nxojkt over at Bama Sports Report said it best when he said, “For the Utes the game was the biggest in the history of their program. For Alabama it was a consolation prize.”
Utah was the last pick in the BCS and would be again tomorrow. Every person I discussed the game with was not excited about Alabama playing them in a bowl game because there was no glory in it. Had Alabama won, as was expected, no one would have been surprised or demanding a playoff. It was a situation that favored only one team – and to their credit that team capitalized.
So, hats off to Uath. But make no mistake, just like the nearly identical situation with Boise State and Oklahoma, a few years ago, the power structure has not shifted in the college football world.
Alabama is still a program that is rebuilding. They had a great run in the regular season, a year or two ahead of schedule, and finished short of its ended the year with a humbling loss to a great football team on the national stage. Despite that they will still probably be a pre-season top ten team and a favorite to return to Atlanta to represent their division next year.
The talent is being stockpiled and the yearly (realistic) discussion of the national title are sure to follow. All that did not change by the outcome of one bowl game. Utah, on the other hand is not going to be mentioned for a title every season. They might have made their case for an every-few-year visit to a BCS game, where they will again be a disappointing draw. I’d guess that when Wittingham leaves for a school that throws more money at him they will settle back into obscurity. The best, or worst depending on your perspective,thing the Utes did with this win is clear the way for other non-conference teams to get shots into the BCS in the years ahead – virtually guaranteeing that other more deserving, “name” schools will get left out.
Despite what they did Friday night, which was impressive, would they realistically be a favorite in a game against any of the teams that they are being mentioned with for a shared national title? Would they even be a favorite over Alabama if they could play again?
Have you noticed that a lot of the spin on this game has been about Alabama losing rather than Utah winning? There were multiple signs from Utah fans and calls from Utah players demanding respect. While I am certain that some measure of respect was gained – Alabama would not overlook them again – I believe that it is unrealistic to expect respect for a program like Utah, at least of the long-term prominent program type respect.
Does the name Utah strike fear in the hearts of opponents? Do you think any player on Alabama’s team (with the possible exception of Wilson) would be scared to suit it up against them again? I’ve been around football long enough to know that stories like this are good, and probably good for the sport, but in the long run, you aren’t seeing a new power in college football being built.
At the end of the day Utah put together a great season and a superb bowl game. It’s makes for interesting reading and thought to talk about the snub they are getting from traditional football. You an even rip the BCS as unfair but I doubt Utah would have had as big a stage for their masterpiece if they old bowl system were in place. So congratulations to them – they deserve all the credit. All I’m saying is, before you give them a portion of a crystal football make sure both teams know that you’re playing for that. Then after you’ve taken the best shot the opponent offers, then crow about what all you’ve done.
As far as Alabama, I said in the days leading up to the SEC title game that they had surpassed expectations for the year and that everything beyond that point – the conference championship and a bowl win – would just be cream. I stand by that. Like most fans I was disappointed in the overall play by the team. But overall I was pleased with the season – which I kind of felt was over on December 6th.
Alabama settled some scores that it needed to and in the process announced that they were on the way back – that while they won’t win the conference or the division every year, they will at least have something to say about who will.