U ranked no.7 in BCS

In a season of record accomplishments, the U football team (6-0) scored another first Monday afternoon when the year’s first Bowl Championship Series standings were released.

The Utes, ranked No. 10 in the AP poll and No. 9 in the ESPN/USA Today poll, were awarded a No. 7 overall ranking by the BCS computer formula.

The BCS ranking is based on a compilation of the two human polls and six computer polls. The Utes haven’t received an official BCS ranking since the inception of the BCS in 1998, and if the Utes finish the season ranked in the top six, the BCS will be forced to invite the Utes to a BCS bowl game.

As it currently stands, the U is just .0004 points away from Wisconsin for the critical sixth position, but with five games left in the regular season, several things could still happen. Teams with tough schedules and only one loss could still surpass the U as the season progresses, while teams just in front of the U could easily lose their spot if they lose even one game.

Florida State (5-1) and Wisconsin (6-0), ranked No. 5 and No. 6 respectively by the BCS formula, are at the biggest risk for being passed by the Utes, but with little chance of achieving a BCS ranking higher than No. 5, the teams ranked 1 through 4 could potentially suffer a loss and still remain ahead of the Utes.

Long known for their exclusivity, it is assumed by many that unless the Utes crack the top six, they will likely be left out of the BCS bowls. Most analysts believe that if the Utes do achieve the qualifying mark, they will receive an invitation to the Fiesta Bowl in Tempe, Ariz.

No team from a non-BCS conference has ever made an appearance in a BCS bowl, but with the chances of an undefeated season growing better with each victory, this year could easily be the year that it finally happens.

One might expect Urban Meyer and his team to be overwhelmed by the news that a BCS berth is now in sight, but that is exactly what Meyer is working to prevent.

Meyer has even gone so far as to say that he will tell his team not to discuss the BCS situation. Meyer said that the team has been fielding requests from The New York Times, the USA Today, ESPN and others, but is insistent that the media exposure will not detract from the team’s focus.

“It’s easy to stay focused when you have seniors like Grady [Marshall], Morgan [Scalley] and Paris [Warren], Meyer said. “The senior leadership on this team is among the best I have ever been around. If we only had 18-year olds I would be worried because those guys are knuckleheads, but we’ve got some very good leaders.”

Wide receiver Paris Warren, displaying the leadership skills Meyer referenced, said that as a senior his job was to convey the message to the younger kids on the team that they need to focus on the next game, and not on national rankings. Warren admitted that it was hard not to recognize the attention the U was receiving, and despite Meyer’s hope that the players would not talk about the BCS rankings, Warren did say that it was “exciting” and it gives the Utes “something to shoot for.”

Warren also said that the national recognition makes the Utes a target for every team they play for the rest of the year. Keeping with the party line, Warren said that preparation will remain the key to the Utes’ success, something that can only be done one game at a time.

“If we’re not prepared, we could lose any given day,” Warren said. “Our focus is on UNLV, and that’s all right now.”

Junior quarterback Alex Smith also took a highly realistic view of the ranking, saying that unless the Utes win the rest of their games, the ranking is meaningless. Smith reiterated the point that with a target on their backs, preparation will make all of the difference.

“I just hope we don’t forget how we got here,” Smith said.

Meyer said that the five remaining games will pose a real test for the Utes because they will face proven programs like Colorado State and BYU that have been getting it done for years. He said the Utes are still a “wannabe” program and until they have had success consistently for several years in a row, they will have to accept that role.

Meyer said that when he heard the announcement on ESPN that the Utes had achieved a BCS ranking of No. 7, he thought it was great, and then went right back to UNLV tape.

“It’s a great story and it’s great for recruiting, but that’s it,” Meyer said. “What’s important now is to win. We’ve got a lot of football left to play, and we need to focus on the task at hand.”

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