Double jeopardy

By and

The undefeated U football team received an alarming message when the Bowl Championship Series rankings were announced Monday morning. The Utes fell from the coveted No. 6 slot in the BCS standings to No. 7, putting their chances of a BCS bowl berth in serious jeopardy.

After thoroughly pounding San Diego State last Saturday while several top-ranked teams struggled, the Utes found they would not be given the respect many locals believe they deserve. The Utes were displaced by Texas in the rankings. The Longhorns, however, came back from a 28-point deficit against Oklahoma State to secure victory.

The announcement that the Utes lost ground in spite of another decisive win was surprising to many fans, but the U football players took the message in stride. Senior linebacker Tommy Hackenbruck said that he expected the move by the BCS, and expressed confidence by year’s end that the U would receive the recognition they deserve.

“I’m not disappointed,” Hackenbruck said. “I figured we would be No. 7. That’s what people were projecting, so I wasn’t really surprised. I’m just excited for this week, excited to play Wyoming, and excited to see what happens around the nation.”

“I think things will work out,” he added.

U head coach Urban Meyer appeared frustrated by the BCS’ recent decision to drop the Utes to No.7, but would only say that he had “no reaction” to the announcement. He admitted his wife Shelley was angered by the news, but insisted it meant very little to him-a point he reiterated several times.

“I got the message from my wife [about the Utes’ BCS ranking]-she had a little reaction-and I won’t use the language that she used, but I had no reaction.”

Maintaining the game-to-game focus that the coaching staff has taken from the first game of the year, Meyer said that he will reserve any reaction for the final standings, rather than getting concerned about things that happen when there are several games remaining.

“In three weeks, we’ll have a reaction if we’re lucky enough to be anywhere near [the top six],” Meyer said. “But there’s a lot of football still left to be played.”

Meyer is right that there are still a lot of football games to be played, but the number of significant battles is dwindling by the week. This weekend, U fans will have their eyes on two games (other than the Utes’ game against Wyoming) that have make-or-break implications for the Utes’ chances of finishing the year in the top six in the BCS rankings.

The first important game is the Auburn-Georgia showdown. Georgia is currently ranked No. 8 by the BCS formula, and a win against Auburn (ranked No. 3 by the BCS) would cripple the U’s hopes of a BCS bowl berth. One might assume that an Auburn loss would be good for the U, but the reality is that a Georgia victory would allow the Bulldogs to leapfrog the Utes while only dropping the Tigers a couple of places. Basically, both teams would end up ahead of the U.

The second meaningful game is the Michigan State-Wisconsin game. While this game is more of a long shot for the Spartans, a Badger loss would certainly put the Utes back in the BCS’s top six.

The important point is that, as of right now, just winning isn’t good enough to get the Utes into a BCS bowl. They will have to finish the season undefeated and have a series of other things go exactly right if they hope to finish with a BCS bowl berth.

Considering the convoluted nature of the selection process, Meyer acknowledged that changes would ultimately have to be made to the entire BCS system if every college football team was to be given the chance it deserves.

“There’s too much human element right now,” Meyer said. “It’s alarming, but I guess that’s part of the deal.”

“I have no idea how [the BCS] gets the numbers,” Meyer continued. “Comments were made to me before the season started that certain coaches in certain conferences vote for the teams from their conferences because that’s what they’re supposed to do. Commissioners tell them to vote for their teams. What is that?”

When asked if changes needed to be made to the BCS to make it fair for teams like the U, Meyer said, “Is the sky blue?”

Still, Meyer expressed an undying faith in the judgment of those in charge when he stated that he believed that a fair system would eventually be found.

“It will happen,” Meyer said. “Logical thinking will take over. At some point it will get adjusted.”

Until then, the Utes will be on the outside looking in, hoping for a miracle.

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