Does Utah deserve to be included in the flawed, limited College Football Playoff? Let’s make an argument for the Utes. Either way, apparently, deserve’s got nothing to do with it.
It’s more a matter of what brands are the best for interested parties, which ones from which leagues have established reputations, which ones shine the brightest up on the marquee, and that usually means the college game’s blue bloods have the edge.
The selection committee, whose charge is farcical from jump, can debate who has the best resume, who doesn’t, all the day long. The undefeateds — at this juncture, Ohio State, LSU and Clemson — are in. It’s among the one-loss teams where the real debate erupts. That includes Georgia, Alabama, Utah, Oklahoma, Minnesota and Baylor.
And that’s where the stupid questions emerge, the ones that shouldn’t matter, such as … Which of those one-lossers has the best loss? What kind of preposterous question is that, anyway? Let’s step into the asinine abyss in an attempt to answer it.
Here’s the order, best to worst: Alabama’s defeat came by a tight margin in an entertaining game against LSU, 46-41. Baylor lost to Oklahoma, 34-31. Minnesota lost to 17th-ranked Iowa, 23-19. Utah lost to 22nd-ranked USC, 30-23. Oklahoma lost to 7-4 Kansas State, 48-41. Georgia lost to 4-7 South Carolina, 20-17, in double OT.
Measuring best wins is a whole other ordeal. Georgia beat Notre Dame, Florida, Auburn and Texas A&M, and is headed to the SEC title game against LSU. Oklahoma beat Baylor and Texas, and will play Baylor again in the Big 12 championship game. Minnesota beat Penn State. Pile the Tide’s wins up against all their opponents and discover that collectively those teams had a losing record. ‘Bama did beat Texas A&M by 19 points. Baylor beat Texas. Utah beat … 6-5 Washington and 7-4 BYU. Of course, Toledo and South Florida beat BYU, too.
Plowing through all of that makes you wonder why an eight-team playoff, featuring every P5 league champion and three at-larges, isn’t already in place. At least, then, the guessing would be held to a minimum.
The case for the Utes is more of an eye-test deal, and only those who have paid attention will fully get it.
Since their loss to USC — which isn’t really excusable, all things considered — the Utes have been crushing teams. The argument against some of the other one-lossers, that their schedules have been on the easy side, also applies to Utah. The Pac-12 is nothing close to exceptional this season, and the Utes have mopped up on league teams.
But it’s the way they’ve crushed them that is impressive, and since the evening gown portion of the pageant is important, it should hold some sway.
Since that loss on Sept. 20, Utah in seven games has outscored its opponents, 263-61. Did all y’all in the Southeast catch that? Two-hundred-and-sixty-three to sixty-one. Whew. The Utes only semi-close game was at Washington, 33-28, and in that one the Huskies scored a meaningless touchdown near the end when the Utes played footsie, dropping three-fourths of their defense into coverage.
In four of those games, opponents scored seven or fewer points, usually fewer. Utah’s defense ranks first nationally against the run, and third in total D. It is allowing a fraction less than 56 yards per game on the ground, a remarkable number. On the other side, in nine of their 11 games thus far, the Utes have scored 30 or more points. Tyler Huntley is among a handful of the most efficient and effective passers in the country, a star in the making, and Zack Moss is a freaking cannonball, ranking among the most productive running backs anywhere.
Unfortunately, those one-sided numbers, lopsided as a blown Michelin, can be used against the Utes. The more they thrash their Pac-12 competition, the less respect that competition carries, and the less respect that competition carries, the less credit the Utes get. Does the same knife cut both ways in other conferences? Good question.
Even when Utah beats Colorado on Saturday — the Utes are favored by four touchdowns — and if they dismiss an already devalued Oregon in the Pac-12 title game, they might be victims to things over which they have no control. It’s not Utah’s fault that much of the Pac-12 is weak.
The Utes should be in the playoff because, separate from the numbers, they have the most fearsome, dominating defense in the country. Just look at them: Leki Fotu, Bradlee Anae, John Penisini, Mika Tafua. And that’s just the tip of the spear. Most of those guys, front and back, will be playing in the NFL. And the offense has the aforementioned stars — Huntley and Moss, stars who are altering the football landscape around here.
That’s my opinion. Put ’em in.
Ultimately, other people’s opinions — those on that committee, complete with their own backgrounds and biases — are what will be relied upon to determine who actually makes the cut and who doesn’t. They are the washed, the ordained.
Don’t be duped into believing this is any kind of science.
Personally, I love opinion. I’ve made my career expressing my own points of view. It’s good for stirring thought, good for discussion, good for calling for change, good for entertainment.
One thing opinion should not do, though, is provide or prevent opportunity for top college football teams from far-flung regions that have identical records. The majority of that should be handled by wins and losses in legitimate conference play, and determined by league champions who have crowned themselves on the field.
One more opinion/prediction: If the Utes don’t get in, they’ll have the time of their lives, making all kinds of unforgettable memories, playing in the Rose Bowl, the best bowl game of them all.
GORDON MONSON hosts “The Big Show” with Jake Scott weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM The Zone.