Utes finally control their own BCS destiny

Almost all of the concern about what other football teams are doing was laid to rest Monday morning when the most recent Bowl Championship Series rankings were released.

After several weeks of frustrating ups and downs in the politically motivated BCS standings, the Utes (10-0, 6-0) were awarded a ranking of No. 6, finally securing a ranking high enough to assure themselves a spot in a BCS bowl game-as long as the Utes defeat BYU this Saturday.

The Utes moved up from No. 7 to No. 6 in this week’s BCS standings due to Wisconsin’s devastating loss to Michigan State over the weekend. The Badgers were ranked No. 5 in the BCS prior to that point.

While watching the rest of the nation’s football teams compete for higher spots in the BCS has become a weekly ordeal for U fans, there should be much less to worry about this weekend. The only possibility for disappointment now lies with Michigan, currently ranked No. 7 by the BCS.

The Utes are more than five hundredths of a point ahead of Michigan, which is a sturdy lead by BCS standards, meaning that something monumental would have to happen for a leapfrog scenario to take effect. If Michigan blows Ohio State out of the water this weekend and the Utes have a close game with BYU, there could be some concern, but in all likelihood, the Utes are now in control of their own BCS destiny.

On a lighter note, if Texas loses to Texas A&M, the Utes will only need a victory against BYU to earn a guaranteed invitation to a BCS bowl game.

All season long, players like quarterback Alex Smith and linebacker Tommy Hackenbruck have said that they believed things would work themselves out by the end of the year. Whether they meant that enough teams would lose to create room in the BCS top six or simply that it wouldn’t matter is purely academic by now.

The Utes have easily handled every team they have faced, and with only one game left on the docket, U fans are already starting to smell the Fiesta Bowl flowers. But the players are not.

The U football team is undefeated for a reason, and a lot of it has to do with not looking ahead. Lots of coaches preach it, but only a few programs actually embrace the idea of never looking past their next opponent. U head coach Urban Meyer has made a point of telling his team not to discuss the BCS situation, saying it was well beyond their control and that it would only distract his team from tangible goals like defeating the next team on the schedule.

Evidence of the effectiveness of Meyer’s message is seen in the attitudes of his players. Senior wide receiver Paris Warren said that the team hasn’t been preoccupied with poll positions throughout the year, and that they wouldn’t start now.

“We really don’t worry about the BCS,” Warren said. “We know we’re in a good position, but our attention is all on BYU right now.”

On Sunday the Utes advanced two spots in both human polls, going from No. 7 to No. 5 in the AP poll, and moving to No. 6 in the ESPN/USA Today coach’s poll after being ranked No. 8 last week. The rankings are both school records, and because of the added recognition, the ESPN “College Gameday” crew recently decided to broadcast its Saturday festivities from the U campus.

The movement upward is important not only for national recognition, but it also helps the Utes in their attempt to break into a BCS bowl game. This year marks the first year that the BCS has taken the human polls into consideration for its rankings, making it that much harder for the BCS to keep the Utes out of its exclusive party.

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