Great Debate: Utah’s best better than BYU’s

By By Jon Gilbert

By Jon Gilbert

OK, Cougar fans, you should take a seat. Get your tissues ready. You’re about to get hit with an unsettling truth.

Utah’s surreal 2004 season was more impressive than BYU’s 1984 national championship.

Now stop yelling, take a deep breath and sit back down.

In 2004, the Utes defied a Bowl Championship Series system that was designed to leave them out of the college football national championship picture. By destroying every team on its way to a 12-0 finish, including a BCS-busting annihilation of Pittsburgh in the Fiesta Bowl, Utah’s ’04 season was four kings, ace-high to BYU’s full house.

Yes, the Cougars won it all in 1984. Yes, they went unbeaten. And yes, they kicked things off by knocking off third-ranked Pittsburgh. That’s a hand most would bet high with.

As a member of the Western Athletic Conference, the Cougars gained little respect by fighting through a relatively easy schedule before topping a deflated Michigan team in the Holiday Bowl. As a member of the Mountain West Conference, Utah had to beat a system that wasn’t even supposed to consider non-BCS schools.

So why is Utah’s feat greater than BYU’s?

Utah broke through barriers and came out on the other side as a respected participant, while BYU’s “title” is heavily questioned to this day.

And questioned it should be. The only ranked team (Pittsburgh) that BYU defeated slid down a slippery slope to a heinous 3-7-1 finish.

BYU was accustomed to escaping games, winning six contests by 10 points or fewer. The ’84 Cougars beat only one team from a major conference (Michigan) and the wolverines had just a 6-5 record at the start of the Holiday Bowl.

The Utes, behind Urban Meyer’s spread offense, had no problem dismissing and dismantling opponents. Utah’s smallest margin of victory was 14. Other than that, Utah won nine games by at least 20 points. Among the defeated were four BCS schools (Texas A&M, Arizona, North Carolina and Pittsburgh).

Utah did what other non-BCS teams had only dreamed of. Tulane in 1998, Marshall in 1999 and Boise State in 2004 all clawed at the door of a BCS bowl, but didn’t know how to fiesta like Utah.

“I don’t think anyone that year could have played with us,” said Alex Smith, quarterback of the ’04 Utes. “There was something going on there with that team and that situation that I don’t think happens very often at all.”

Actually, it never had, Alex.

The 2004 Utes could very well be holding up their own national championship trophy right now if it weren’t for a ludicrous system. Would Utah have taken out Southern Cal? I’m not sure, but 2004 defensive tackle Steve Fifita is.

“I don’t feel like there was anyone in the nation that could have beaten us,” Fifita said.

I would love to see Smith, Paris Warren and Steve Savoy toy with the ’84 Cougar defense, much like they did Pitt. Meyer was calling trick plays late in the game just to keep Utah fans who made the trip to Tempe, Ariz., from falling asleep.

Speaking of sleep, why don’t you BYU lovers just a take a nap to calm down? Maybe a nice siesta will help you cope with Utah’s superior fiesta.

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