Weekend may provide rankings shakeup

By and

With the BCS rankings debuting this Monday, the No. 10 Utes have more to worry about than just their game with North Carolina. Several games over this weekend will have a significant impact on where Utah will be when the first important BCS poll comes out.

The most potentially damaging game for the Utes’ Fiesta Bowl hopes will come Thursday. It’s a long shot, but if No. 17 Louisville can knock off No. 4 Miami at the Orange Bowl, the Cardinals will most likely jump past the U and be the odds-on favorite to be the “BCS Buster.” After Miami, Louisville has a pretty easy slate, so you can bet Urban Meyer’s eyes will likely rest on the game in southern Florida.

In games that pit teams ahead of Utah, there are some that offer a good chance for a Utah bump. The most obvious is No. 7 Florida State hosting No. 6 Virginia. Florida State already has one loss, so going down to the Cavaliers would probably dash all Seminole BCS hopes. No matter what, the loser of the game will fall below the Utes in the polls.

The conference that has been affecting the Utes the most lately has been the Big Ten, and this week continues that trend. No. 12 Wisconsin goes to West Lafayette for a showdown with No. 5 Purdue, in a matchup of unbeatens. Purdue has the easier schedule, so a Wisconsin win would probably benefit Utah more.

Right in front of the Utes is No. 9 California. The Golden Bears are coming off a heartbreaking loss to USC, and they must regroup in a hurry to play a resurgent UCLA team. Should UCLA win, that would drop Cal past Utah, and out of any BCS contention.

On the flip side of the spectrum, several schools are looking to jump over Utah. Texas, which lost an embarrassing rivalry game to Oklahoma, plays host to No. 24 Missouri. A blowout win over the Tigers could sway voters to put them over the Utes.

No. 15 Oklahoma State has a “prove it” game versus Texas A&M, and should the Cowboys prevail, it may be enough to put them into the Top 10, and make them a definite threat for the Big 12 title (albeit with games remaining against Texas and Oklahoma).

Another team facing their first real test is undefeated Arizona State. ASU is 5-0 heading into a showdown at USC. If the Sun Devils can do what Cal could not, they will surely gain the notice of even the most swayed East-Coast pollsters and probably jump up at least 10 spots.

Even though the season is less than half over, these kinds of games will be more and more magnified as the year rolls on. Having heard Trev Alberts and the rest of the Saturday afternoon commentators make high-profile judgments that may or may not affect the mindsets of pollsters, all the Utes can hope for is that the teams ahead of them lose, and the dangerous teams behind them stay behind them.

BYU won a national title thanks to every single team in the country struggling down the stretch, and it could take a lucky break like that to make Utah’s BCS aspirations come true.

[email protected]