It really is a process of elimination that leads me to this conclusion. Today, Dodd released his 11-20 rankings and the only mention of Utah came from Dodd comparing them to Boise State.
In other words, it wasn't a fluke. Since that night, Boise is 22-4. Its WAC schedule doesn't allow it much BCS attention. No one mentioned that while Utah was going undefeated last season, Boise was keeping pace until the bowl game.Petersen has less access to talent than even Utah's Kyle Whittingham. The coach, and the Boise State leaders before him, has to coach "up," making players out of non-prospects. February's recruiting class was ranked 72nd by Rivals.com, 28 spots below Utah.
And since the Utes aren't anywhere to be seen in the 21-30 range, I can only assume they'll crack the top-ten when he releases the final rankings for this decade. Of course, I guess there is a tiny chance Utah is worse than 30th, but that is a chance I am willing to take (and I didn't go through the entire list -- so, yeah).
So with that established, are the Utes really worthy of being ranked in the top-ten for this decade? It's a valid question, because I don't think their success has been as consistent as Boise State or TCU, yet they'll finish higher than either school.
From 2000-2008, the Utes have a 76-33 record, which is essentially a winning percentage of 70%. Not bad, however, that's only 14th best this decade. TCU's record over that span is 83-29. The Utes also have two losing seasons (Boise State does not), both coming at the tail-end of Ron McBride's career here. Of course, overall record isn't the only indication and where the Utes seem to thrive is post-season success. Since 2000, the Utes are 7-0 in bowl games, including six consecutive bowl berths.
Utah also owns three conference championships during that stretch, the same amount as BYU and TCU (though the Frogs did share two of those titles). But what sets them apart has been their success in 2004 and 2008. The Utes are the only team in the BCS era to finish undefeated twice, they're the lone non-BCS program with two BCS bowl wins and when you couple that with everything I listed above, it pretty much makes up for their 14th-best record overall.
So I do believe the Utes deserve a top-ten spot based on what they've been able to accomplish this decade. The fact is, they're the only team this decade to go undefeated twice and they're the only team to go 7-0 in bowl games since 2000. You also can't ignore Utah's 2nd place finish -- the highest for any non-BCS team in the BCS era.
Those facts are hard to deny and they all point to Utah's place among the elites this decade.