Numbers suggest 13-0 long shot for Utes

By By Tony Pizza, Sports Editor

By Tony Pizza, Sports Editor

The Utah football team has about an 11 percent chance of an undefeated season.

This isn’t some arbitrary number I pulled out of the air. Rather, it’s the result of some intense inner dialogue that was sparked during a conversation I had with former editor in chief of The Daily Utah Chronicle, Matt Piper.

According to my math, the Utes only have about a 22 percent chance of even making it to a Bowl Championship Series game, which is only slightly better than your chances of survival in a game of Russian roulette.

Before you say, “Wow, this guy has been sleeping next to an open tank of kerosene, or eaten one too many grilled chicken sandwiches from Chartwells,” all that I ask is that you hear me out. When I first heard this logic, I thought a 22 percent chance of a BCS bowl game and an 11 percent chance of a perfect season were more blasphemous than my beard is in Happy Valley.

I started off by considering Utah’s matchup with New Mexico on Nov. 1. Considering the fact that New Mexico features the league’s best tailback in Rodney Ferguson and that a Rubik’s Cube can be easier to solve than New Mexico’s blitz packages out of its 3-3-5 defense, the Lobos present a serious challenge. I thought I was generous in thinking that were these two teams to meet 10 times this season, Utah would win only seven or eight of those games, especially since it will be a road game for the Utes. I settled on 7.5, which means I give Utah a 75 percent chance of leaving Albuquerque, N.M., undefeated.

The following week gets more difficult. TCU has the best defense in the country, particularly against the run. The defense is fast and hides coverage schemes very well. All things considered, I think it’s safe to say that if the Horned Frogs and the Utes met 10 times this season, Utah would win half of those meetings. Seventy five percent multiplied by 50 percent gives the Utes a 37.5 percent chance of making it to Nov. 7 with their perfect season intact.

Come Nov. 15 in San Diego, I think Utah mops the floor with the Aztecs, even with its second stringers. That might even happen with the practice squad. Still, the Utes have to face some sort of chance of losing, so I’d say the Utes would beat San Diego State 99 times out of 100. That brings Utah’s chances of being undefeated going into the Holy War at 75 percent, multiplied by 50 percent, then multiplied by 99 percent for a grand total of 37.125 percent.

Every year BYU and Utah put everything out on the line. The intensity of the game mitigates so many other factors. No matter what the record, Utah and BYU play one another close. Factor in Utah’s strength (defense) canceling out BYU’s strength (offense) and this game comes down to a lot of X-factors. Utah has the better athletes, and the overwhelming edge when it comes to players that can become X-factors. I think Utah wins at least six meetings if the teams were to play 10 times. That brings the 37.125 percent likelihood of the Utes getting to the Holy War undefeated down to a 22 percent likelihood that the Utes get all the way to the end of the regular season undefeated.

Assuming the Utes go 12-0 and get the BCS nod they would deserve at that point, their bowl opponent is likely to be a tough one. I can legitimately see the Utes going to the Sugar Bowl to play an 11-1 Florida or Alabama team, or going to the Fiesta Bowl and playing a (I can’t believe this is actually possible) Pittsburgh Panthers squad.

Barring another Fiesta Bowl scheduling travesty against the Panthers, I can only give the Utes a 50-50 chance of winning a BCS Bowl game, despite my belief that Utah prepares for a bowl game about as well as anyone in the country.

That 50 percent chance takes Utah’s 22 percent chance of finishing the regular season undefeated down to 11 percent for the entire year. I know that’s a shockingly low number when everything is added up, but even head coach Kyle Whittingham has said that the Utes are going to have a tough November.

But no matter how unlikely, I have a feeling that I’ll be growing out my rally beard well into January. I might not be able to cheer in the press box, but the fact that I’m rooting for the Utes to overcome those odds is written all across my face.

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