This is not going to make local Alabama fans happy. But in a spirit of fairness, I must make this argument in favor of Utah possibly getting the nod over the Crimson Tide in the college football playoffs, should it come down to that.
It may not. Utah still must beat Colorado in the regular season and then must get by Oregon in the Pac-12 title game. So the Utes’ business – like Bama’s – isn’t finished.
But here’s what I do know. Back in 2009, Utah played a deflated Bama team in the Sugar Bowl and won, 31-17. It was Nick Saban’s second Bama team and it carried a 12-0 record into the SEC title game before losing to eventual national champion Florida.
Ask Auburn fans about playing – and losing – to Central Florida in the Jan. 1, 2018, Peach Bowl. Everything Auburn had been playing for was lost before that game was even played.
Same with Bama in 2008. What did Auburn or Bama have to gain in those games?
Contrast that with what those games meant to Utah and Central Florida.
Those kinds of things happen in sports. It’s why we watch.
Now, this is about Utah, not Central Florida. Back then, lots of national folks – including some Utah politicians – talked about how the current “structure” was unfair to teams like Utah, which should have been given more consideration for being No. 1.
College football folks – many of them anyway – scoffed at that notion. You can’t play in a conference like the Mountain West Conference, then beat one legitimate team, and claim the national championship just because you’re undefeated.
To me, that’s silly. Sadly, it hasn’t been to others.
But back then, I know a lot of us said, including me: Play in a real conference and get back to us.
Well, Utah did just that. On June 17, 2010, Utah agreed to join the then-Pac-10. And the Utes struggled, as most people predicted.
I’ve used the example of Utah over the past decade to make arguments against teams like Central Florida, whose fans think are world-beaters because they go undefeated.
Utah, playing a real schedule, doesn’t go undefeated anymore. But I totally respect what the program has done. It took up the challenge and played tougher teams, inside the conference and out, and right now, about a decade later, Utah is in position to again make a case to be in the playoff conversation.
This time, the Utes’ cause is legit. College football asked them to play a real schedule. They have. College football asked them to compete with the big boys of the sport.
Bama hasn’t controlled its own destiny since it lost to LSU. The team’s fans knew it would take losses by other teams to slip back into the playoff picture. It still may happen.
And while a Utah-Ohio State semifinal doesn’t sound all that appealing, to move the goalposts on Utah now would be the ultimate dirty trick. If Utah wins out, it will have earned its way into the college football’s Final Four.
And this is one Alabama fan who will simply say, well done.
• Here’s a correction and an update. Arab wrestler Bronson Jackson is out of the season because of an injury, but it didn’t happen during football season. He hasn’t played since junior high.
On the other hand, Michael Robertson’s apparent season-ending injury did occur during the football season, but he has been upgrade since last week to probably being able to return this season.
• A new low for the Canes? According to Chris Fallica (the Bear on ESPN), with the loss to FIU this past weekend, Miami becomes the only team in the last 40 years to lose three times as a 14-point favorite in a single season.
The Canes lost to Virginia Tech as a 14-point favorite; to Georgie Tech as an 18.5-point favorite; and to Florida International as a 21-point favorite.
Miami also won 17-12 as a 30.5-point favorite against Central Michigan. The Manny Diaz experiment has hit some rocky terrain.