Utah shouldn?t settle for less than the championship

By By Bubba Brown

By Bubba Brown

The Mountain West Conference football championship trophy is now clad in purple and destined for Fort Worth.

But at least Utah has a chance to finish in the Top 25 and go to a bowl game and blah blah blah. Who cares? It doesn’t matter.

A season that doesn’t include confetti being thrown and conference champion hats being handed out is not a success. If you’re a Utah fan, that’s a good thing, because it means that the Utes are now expected to win conference championships rather than merely hoping to win them.

By winning three conference championships and two BCS bowls since 2003, Utah has elevated itself to the point where the attitude among players and fans should be “go big or bust.” The hope on the hill is that the Utes eventually get to the point where Top 5 finishes are common place, which means it’s no longer acceptable to be excited about merely being in the Top 25. That’s the attitude that surrounds winning programs.

Will the losers of the SEC Championship game be content with their season? Fat chance. Will Texas be satisfied if it loses the Big 12 Championship game, even though it will still be headed to a BCS bowl? Not likely. The big boys don’t settle for second place, and after all the hubbub last season trying to convince the nation that Utah had arrived and is on the same plane as its BCS brethren, being OK with not winning the MWC wouldn’t suit the Utes or their fans.

And head coach Kyle Whittingham and company know it. Coaches and players are going to feed us lines about how excited they are to go to the Las Vegas Bowl or Poinsettia Bowl with a Top 25 ranking despite not winning the conference, but don’t buy it. I mean, sure, Lamar Odom might say he’s happy with Khloe Kardashian, but we all know that she’s just a bad consolation prize for not making it with Kim. After all, coaches and players consistently preach that winning the conference is goal No. 1. Not meeting that goal equates to failure any way you slice it, no matter what the consolation prize is.

You can argue that this season was supposed to be a rebuilding year for the Utes, and their 8-2 record surpassed many expectations. But winning programs don’t rebuild, they retool and consistently recruit talent good enough to win championships, which is the next step for Utah on its path to becoming elite. Rather than having great seasons every four years mixed in with mediocre seasons in between, the Utes need to string conference championship seasons together, and not doing that is a failure. Admitting to anything less is relinquishing all the progress Utah made last year in becoming a top program.

As the old saying goes, second place is just the first loser8212;even if the second-place ribbon includes a likely 10-win season and Top 25 ranking.

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