NCAA gives the ‘08 Utes credit as national champions

Computer ranking placed unbeaten Utah above BCS winner Florida.

Chris Detrick | The Salt Lake Tribune Utah wide receiver Brent Casteel (5) dives into the endzone past Alabama cornerback Kareem Jackson (3) to score the first touchdown of the game as the Utes face Alabama in the 75th Anniversary Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, Louisiana, Friday, January 2, 2008.

Ten years later, Utah's 2008 football team is a national champion.

The NCAA’s Football Records Book has been updated to include the Utes as No. 1 in the final Anderson-Hester computer rankings, used in the formula for determining the contestants in the BCS national championship game in that era. In the rundown of 2008 champions, Utah is listed next to Florida, the BCS winner.

Utah (13-0) was ranked No. 2 in the final Associated Press poll after beating Alabama 31-17 in the Sugar Bowl. The Anderson-Hester rankings lifted the Utes from No. 2 after the regular season to No. 1 following the bowl games, including Florida’s 24-14 win over Oklahoma for the BCS title. The Utes rating of .812 topped coach Urban Meyer’s Florida team (.805) and Texas (.802).

Ute coach Kyle Whittingham welcomed the NCAA's endorsement, saying his '08 team “did everything we were supposed to do.” He's not expecting the school to hang a commemorative banner, though.

Whittingham also decried the current College Football Playoff of having a committee select the semifinalists. “Even now, it's speculative,” he said, wishing for an expanded playoff involving all of the Power Five conference champions.

As for 2008, the NCAA's book says, “In years where a 'major selector' had a team other than the BCS champion as [the] highest ranked team in its final poll, that team is listed below the BCS champion.”

Anderson-Hester marketed itself as distinct from other polls and rankings, because the system didn't consider margin of victory. Its rankings started five weeks into the season to avoid preconceived views of teams and evaluated each conference to determine a team's strength of schedule. In 2008, Anderson-Hester ranked the Mountain West equal to the Big Ten and gave the Utes credit for beating TCU, BYU and Oregon State, the only team that upset USC.

The Utes were ranked No. 6 in the final BCS standings that were used to create the matchups in BCS games, including their Sugar Bowl pairing vs. No. 4 Alabama. In this era, the College Football Playoff committee may or may not have ranked the Utes in the top four and sent them into the semifinals.

In a Salt Lake Tribune story this summer about the 10-year anniversary of the ’08 season, former Ute linebacker Stevenson Sylvester said, “I really do believe we would have beaten Florida. No question about that.”