Nightmare scenario

When the Utes bludgeoned another opponent Saturday night at Rice-Eccles, the absolute superiority of the U offense was evident. The Utes have had issues with defensive production at times this season, but with five forced turnovers and a defensive touchdown against Colorado State, the defense proved that the Utes are indeed an all-around team.

Having set a school record with a 9-0 start, the Utes have done everything that could be expected of them this year. They have demolished every opponent they have faced-winning by an average margin of almost 26 points per game-they have a nationally ranked offense, they have a bona fide Heisman candidate leading the way and they have outscored their opponents by a total of 233 points after only nine games.

The Utes have been ranked in the top 10 for three weeks now, and, for those bettors out there, they have covered every Las Vegas spread except one.

So what’s the problem? The problem is that the Utes are still in serious jeopardy of not making it to a Bowl Championship Series bowl game. All year there have been whispers about the Utes’ chances of tearing down the once invincible walls of the BCS, and in recent weeks those whispers have grown to full-blown roars as the Utes have been ranked No. 6 by the BCS two weeks in a row now. A No. 6 ranking is required for an automatic BCS bowl berth, and the Utes would be eligible for an at large selection as long as they are ranked in the top 12 by the BCS formula-but that’s where the problem begins.

Unfortunately, the Utes’ current ranking is tenuous, and with Texas-now ranked No. 7 by the BCS-creeping up from behind, things are getting dicey.

You might think that because of the Utes’ epic accomplishments this year, it might not matter if they finish with a No. 6 or a No. 7 BCS ranking. If the Utes finish the year undefeated, the logic goes, wouldn’t it make sense that the BCS would still want to choose the Utes for an at-large selection?

All political motivations aside, the Utes have a huge problem with the logistical side of the selection process because of the failings of the ACC and the Big East. In other words, there might not be any room for an at-large selection this year.

It might not make sense at first, but bear with me, and you will begin to understand why the Utes’ BCS dreams are crumbling before our eyes.

First, it’s important to understand that every conference champion from the six BCS conferences (PAC-10, Big 10, Big 12, South Eastern Conference, Big East and the Atlantic Coast Conference) is guaranteed of a selection to a BCS bowl game. It is also important to understand that there are only four BCS bowl games, meaning that eight teams will ultimately have the honor.

West Virginia is the current leader of the Big East, and because a Big East team has a spot in a BCS game no matter what, their No. 16 BCS ranking is largely irrelevant. That takes up one spot, leaving seven.

The same is true for the ACC. When Miami lost to North Carolina two weeks ago, it seemed like a good thing for the Utes’ BCS hopes. The loss opened room for the Utes to advance in the BCS rankings, but it also made it so that an ACC team would not finish the year ranked in the top six by the BCS formula.

Miami suffered another loss this weekend, leaving Virginia (currently ranked No. 14 by the BCS) as the top ACC contender, and with an assured place in a BCS bowl game, two spots have now been taken by teams that are not going to be ranked in the top six. Remember, if you are in the top six you get to play in a BCS bowl game no matter what, so with two spots already taken by weak conference champs, there are only six spots left.

That means that there will be no at-large selections for teams not ranked in the top six. This creates huge problems for the Utes.

Over the weekend, Texas defeated then-No. 19 Oklahoma State, which will clearly help its cause. The U defeated a terrible CSU team, which will not help its cause. Next weekend Texas plays Texas A&M, and if the Longhorns emerge victorious, the journey will probably be over for the Utes.

Another win against a good team will definitely put the Longhorns ahead of the Utes in the BCS standing, and with only Wyoming and BYU left on the Utes’ schedule, Utah will have little opportunity to earn a quality victory that could help its BCS ranking.

The Utes will still have a conference championship to play for, they will still be the class of the non-BCS conference schools, but they will get snubbed by the BCS bowl committees for reasons beyond their control.

You might be thinking how unfair that all seems. How could teams like Texas and California, which both barely survived games against clearly inferior opponents Saturday, make it to a BCS bowl game without even winning their conferences? How, when the Utes annihilate every team they play, could they ever be passed over for a team with one loss?

The answer is that it isn’t fair, but who said life is fair anyway?

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