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Utah football: Undefeated Utes are No. 2; once-beaten Florida No. 1

Published January 9, 2009 5:23 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2009, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The only team stopping the Utah Utes from claiming the Associated Press' national championship was the Florida Gators.

Led by former Utah coach Urban Meyer, Florida was voted No. 1 with 48 first-place votes and 1,606 points in Friday's poll after beating Oklahoma 24-14 in the BCS title game Thursday in Miami.

The Utes jumped from seventh to second with 16 first-place votes and 1,519 points after thumping previously ranked No. 4 Alabama 31-17 in the Sugar Bowl.

The final ranking is the highest for the Utes, who at 13-0 were the nation's only undefeated team.

However, Utah coach Kyle Whittingham was hoping for first after Utah's Sugar Bowl victory.

The Utes were 10-point underdogs against the Tide, a team that had held the No. 1 ranking for five weeks until losing to Florida in the SEC title game.

Utah stunned the college football world by jumping out to a 21-0 lead and never letting the Tide get any closer than 21-17.

After the game Whittingham said he was voting his team No. 1 in the coaches poll even though coaches are contractually bound to vote for the winner of the BCS game and he held out hopes the Utes might be No. 1 in the AP poll.

"I thought we had an outside chance," he told the AP. "There was enough national sentiment, I thought we might get the No. 1 slot. It wasn't meant to be."

Even so, finishing second was an incredible finish for a team few believed could beat Michigan in the season opener, much less go undefeated.

The Utes thrived off that underdog role all the way to the end, when they eventually laid claim to being Utah's best team in history by beating Alabama, which is sixth in the final AP poll.

In 2004, when Utah became the first BCS-buster under Meyer's guidance, the Utes finished 12-0 and with a No. 4 national ranking by the AP.

That season ended with a 35-7 win over No. 19 Pitt in the 2005 Fiesta Bowl, a game that was almost anti-climatic because the Utes were heavy favorites.

The Sugar Bowl was a different story with the Utes beating their highest-ranked opponent in history.

Rounding out the Top 5 in the AP poll were USC, which received one first-place vote, Texas and Oklahoma.

Utah did receive one first-place vote in the USA Today coaches poll where it finished fourth, but Whittingham said he wasn't worried about losing his right to vote, which the American Football Coaches Association has said was the penalty for coaches who don't vote for the BCS winner.

"That's their call," he said. "I have to look out for my players."

Texas coach Mack Brown said he was voting for Texas in the coaches poll as well but the third-ranked Longhorns didn't receive any first-place votes.

TCU was seventh in the AP final poll and BYU was No. 25.

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Utah's Highest final AP rankings:

year, record, place

2008 - 13-0 - No. 2

2004 - 12-0 - No. 4

1994 - 10-2 - No. 10

2003 - 10-2 - No. 21