How does 2010 stack up to 2008 and 2004?

The Utes have been 6-0 three times in the last ten years - 2004, 2008 and 2010. Though the final record for this season is still out, both the 04 and 08 teams managed to go undefeated and win a BCS bowl game.

I'm not quite ready to proclaim the same for this year's Utes, but history does give us an idea of what to expect. 

Especially in poll positioning. That is certainly the most important factor off the field surrounding Utah because the polls do play, like it or not, a pivotal role in where a team is playing its postseason. 

That wasn't too big of an issue in 2004 and 2008. We knew at a certain point all the Utes had to do was win out and they would be guaranteed a spot in the BCS. That isn't the case this year. Utah could still feasibly win out and find itself playing Washington in the Las Vegas Bowl - not an ideal scenario for an undefeated team.

Of course, this season has been pretty unpredictable and because of that, no one knows how things will shake out. That doesn't mean we can't get an idea, though, and the best way to do that is by looking at Utah's position in their past two undefeated seasons and comparing it to what they've established in 2010. That takes into account not just poll position, but offensive & defensive success, head-turning wins and some concerning victories. 

So comparing this year's team to 2004 and 2008 should give us a better idea if we're on pace for those final results. More importantly, we might have an idea of what season 2010 is most likely to mirror. 

After the jump, we'll start with the 6-0 2004 Utes, which was Utah's first run at perfection. 

2004

(12-0, Fiesta Bowl win)

Head-turning win: Utah opened the 2004 season with a huge 41-21 victory over the Texas A&M Aggies. Though the Aggies turned out to be nothing special that year, it vaulted the Utes into the BCS picture and established just how dominant they truly were. 

Concerning win: There aren't many wins in the first-half of the 2004 season that could be considered concerning. Utah pretty much took care of business in nearly every game. However, the 49-35 win over the Air Force Falcons in week four probably fits the billing here. The Utes came out very sloppy and allowed the Falcons to build a 14-0 lead before Utah finally calmed down and cruised the remainder of the game. Even then, Air Force gave Utah its best game of the season (and, of course, its first six games). 

Scoring offense: 39 points (through six games) 

At this point in the season, Utah had yet to turn into the offensive juggernaut we came to love. Sure, they put up points - but their two lowest scoring games (23 and 28 - the latter of which happened in week five) all came in the first half of the season. 

Scoring defense: 15 points (through six games)

As Utah's scoring offense ticked up and the blowouts became more common, the scoring defense took a hit. That wasn't a problem in the first half of the season, though. Here, the Utes were giving up only 15 points per game and much of that was inflated by one team - the Falcons managing 35 against Utah in the third week. That Air Force game, which I discussed above, was the most points any team scored against the Utes the entire season. 

Average margin of victory: 24 points (through six games) 

The Utes pretty much dominated each and every game throughout the first six contests of the 2004 season. This easily carried over into the second half of the season, as well. Their closest win here was 'only' 14 - which, again, came against Air Force. 

Opponents' win total (FBS teams only): 15-21 (all through six games)

Utah's schedule in 2004 was not very good. If you take out Texas A&M's 5-1 start, Utah's opponents were a staggering ten games below .500. Unfortunately, this was a schedule that would actually get worse throughout the remainder of the season.

Poll positions as of Oct. 21st, 2004: 

The BCS came out a week prior to Utah's sixth win, so I'll use the results from the Tuesday after Utah's 6-0 start.

Associated Press Media Poll: 9th

Coaches Poll: 10th

BCS Ranking: 6th (but Utah opened at 7th) 

The Utes actually outperformed the human polls by two and three spots. The computers obviously liked Utah early on and much of that probably had to do with the fact that, in 2004, margin of victory was actually still used by the computers. The Utes were toward the top in the nation here and though it's been discontinued in recent BCS rankings, it helped Utah out in 2004. 

2004 was interesting on many fronts. For starters, the rules dictated a non-BCS team was only guaranteed a spot in the BCS with a ranking of six or higher. The Utes opened in the BCS at 7th, or a spot out. By the second week of the BCS results, they were 6th and at the end of the season, that's exactly where they finished. 

Utah never once climbed higher than sixth in the BCS and only fell from that spot for one week in early November. 

That's not the case today. It's much easier to crash the BCS now than it was six years ago.

Of course, there is a new wrinkle in all of this and it's by the name of Boise State. The Broncos opened the 2004 BCS rankings at 14th. They got as high as seventh and that was for only one week. Eventually, Boise State finished ranked 9th in the BCS. 

You'll see the same thing happened in 2008 - the Broncos finding themselves consistently behind the Utes. 

2010 it's the other way around. 

Will it keep Utah out of the BCS should they go undefeated?

2008

(13-0, Sugar Bowl win)

Head-turning win: I hesitated a bit and almost put Michigan here because at the time of the win, the Wolverines still were ranked and expected to do well. But I think Utah's win over Oregon State really turned heads because of what the Beavers did a week prior (upsetting SC). It was a close win. It was, at times, an ugly win - but none of that mattered in the end.

Concerning win: Yeesh, you could say almost all of 'em. The 2008 Utes were hardly ever pretty in their wins and a few left a great deal of doubt about the team's ability to get through the schedule unscathed. With that said, I'll go with their 25-23 win over Michigan in the opener. By the sixth week, it was apparent the Wolverines were awful and the Utes barely beating them did not play well to the national media. You constantly heard, "Yeah, they're 6-0, but they almost lost to Michigan..." and that was something they couldn't live down until their Sugar Bowl win. 

Scoring offense: 37 points (through six games) 

Very similar numbers to what we got in 2004. The difference, of course, was that the Utes' points per game would not increase into the 40s. Utah ended the 2008 season managing 36 points per game. So an overall one-point drop compared to where they were after their first six games. 

Scoring defense: 21 points (through six games)

Not as good as 2004 and a statistic the Utes actually improved on the remainder of the season, as they ended 2008 only giving up 17 points per game. So as Utah's offense actually regressed a tiny bit, their defense stepped it up and was probably the reason the team went undefeated. 

Average margin of victory: 16 points (through six games)

Well below the 24 point average margin of victory the team saw in 2004. 16 points, though, isn't bad. That's two scores on average and probably means you're going to win a boatload of games. To compare, just for the fun of it, in 2009, Utah's average margin of victory was about 9 points per game. Through six games that season, it was about 10 points. So again, not extremely dominant and it showed in their final record. Had the Utes had an average margin of victory of 16 in 2009, they most certainly finish 12-1 on the season.

Opponents' win total: 13-14 (all through six games)

Weber State is not included because they were a FCS team, so that's why the numbers are a bit smaller than the 2004 comparison. Even without those added wins, though, the Utes weren't entirely awful in this regard. Michigan was its worst win in terms of wins and losses and Air Force was their best. Oregon State, which I indicated above was the head-turning win, was 3-3 in their first six (though technically, they were 2-3 when Utah was 6-0). 

Poll positions as of Oct. 5th, 2008:

This is where the schedule fails to even out. In 2008, the Utes were actually 8-0 when the initial BCS rankings were released. Both the BCS rankings came in week eight of each season - but Utah had a bye week this year much earlier than they did in 2008. That created a gap and by the time the BCS was released, the Utes had played eight consecutive weeks of football. 

Associated Press Media Poll: 14th

USA Today Coaches' Poll: 13th

Harris Interactive Poll: 13th 

BCS Ranking (as of week eight, so two weeks after the Oct. 5th polls): 11th 

I added the Harris Interactive Poll because it was now used in the BCS rankings. Overall, the Utes were not very highly ranked. They had yet to crack the top-ten by 2009 and had the BCS been released when they were 6-0, it's very likely their polling is worse than the 11th they eventually saw. 

2008 was not very similar to 2004. For starters, the Utes didn't begin the season ranked. They had to climb the polls and it took time for them to crawl into the top-ten. Utah didn't become a top-ten team until week nine. They didn't actually move from tenth until week eleven. In fact, in week ten, Boise State actually passed the Utes (Utah was 10th, the Broncos 9th). 

In the BCS, their rankings weren't very dissimilar to their spot in the human polls. The Utes started at 11th and by week ten were ranked 8th nationally in the BCS. They eventually settled in at sixth on November 9th and never moved up or down.

Even then, they did share one common theme with 2004: The 08 Utes almost always remained above Boise State. From the start, though, the Broncos were on Utah's tail - as they opened the initial rankings a spot behind the Utes. However, by week ten, Utah opened up a large lead on the Broncos that they would not relinquish the remainder of the season (the Utes came in 8th that week, Boise State 10th). 

By the end of the season, Utah was 6th and the Broncos were 9th. 

2010

(6-0 ?)

Head-turning win: I think the win over Iowa State, even though it appeared the media ignored it in the subsequent polls, is the most head-turning victory of the short season. This might not turn out to be a great win, but it was impressive. I still have hope the Cyclones manage a winning record and it's possible, though will require a great deal of fight the remainder of the season. Regardless, this was a game where the Utes came out and put up 68 on the road - against a BCS team. I'm not sure the last time a non-BCS team did that. Even if it's just Iowa State. 

Concerning win: Pittsburgh probably gets the nod here because the game went to overtime and the Panthers look nothing like the fifteenth ranked team they were at the start of the season. Even with their struggles, I'm optimistic Pittsburgh is getting it turned around and will contend for the Big East championship. So while this win will never be great, it certainly won't weigh them down like Michigan did in 2008. 

eft;">Scoring offense: 46 points per game (through six games)

This easily bests 2004 and 2008 and almost does it by ten points in both cases. Sure, Utah hasn't played anyone of note, but 46 points is 46 points and it shows just how quick this offense can blowup a scoreboard. Looking at the results of the last two undefeated seasons (and even 2009 for good measure), it's likely this number doesn't dramatically change. In 2004, it increased from 39 to 45 and decreased from 37 to 36 in 2008. So while it should decrease a bit, I'm guessing only by five at the most. If that's the case, the Utes will still be producing a fantastic offense. 

Scoring defense: 14 points per game (through six games) 

Very similar to 2004 and much better than 2008. This number, like the 2004 season with Air Force, is inflated by the 27 points Iowa State put up on Utah in the Utes' 68-27 blowout win. I expect this number probably won't change much unless the offense has a ton more games similar to what they saw against the Cyclones.

Average margin of victory: 32 points (through six games)

This is the best average margin of victory through six games in modern Utah football history. In fact, only one contest has been close and that was the very first game of the season. This bests the 2004 team by eight points and swamps the 2008 margin by sixteen. I don't care who you've played, dominating that way is pretty spectacular. 

Opponents' win total: 10-30 (sometimes through seven games)

This is bad. We knew it would be. It's worse than the others, but since Utah has had a bye week already and in most instances is a week behind the remainder of college football, much of these games account for a seven game schedule. Even then, though, 10 wins is a pathetic 10 wins. This statistic is much closer to 2004 than 2008's team. 

Poll positions as of Oct. 17th, 2010:

Associated Press Media Poll: 9th

Coaches Poll: 9th

Harris Interactive Poll: 9th

BCS ranking: 9th 

9s all around for the Utes. Not bad at all for a team that started unranked and has played a pretty awful schedule. 

So where does 2010 compare to 2004 and 2008? Well it's unknown at this point. It appears this season is a blend of both those teams. The offense has surely lit it up and the defense looks stout. They're dominating opponents better than they did in 2008, but haven't played as tough of a schedule as those Utes. 

Of course, Utah is in a better position today than they were in 2008. The fact they're 9th in the BCS with their schedule is a good sign that when things toughen up in the next month and a half, their rankings will dramatically increase. 

But as I've mentioned twice before, the Utes are in a position they weren't in during the 2004 and 2008 seasons. That, of course, is finding themselves behind the Broncos. Can they pass Boise State? I think a lot will be known in a few Saturdays when Utah plays TCU.

With how this team has played and looked over the last few weeks, it's temping to call for an undefeated season. I'm not quite there yet, but become more convinced every week. 

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