It's a pretty straightforward question. Either Utah wins out or they don't. Either they make a bowl game ... or they don't.
But more importantly, what impact would a losing season have on the program? I think that's the question many of us fear answering because when you're trying to build momentum and catch up with your fellow conference mates, every step back could prove devastating. I think we all agree, on talent alone, the Utes just aren't at the level they need to be to consistently succeed in the conference. But to get there, they'll need to recruit more talent and to be able to get that talent, they need to show some type of success. If, however, that success stalls, is it not possible recruiting stalls along with it?
Momentum is huge in college athletics. Every coach will tell you that to win, you need to recruit and to recruit, you need to win. The good coaches somehow figure out the system, while the bad coaches don't and because of it, they ultimately fail.
So, it's key for any program to put itself in the best position possible to recruit the best possible players. I've heard Kyle Whittingham has built a staff more geared toward recruiting (which would explain the Sharrieff Shah hiring) in hopes that they can absorb the hits we're seeing this season and inevitably win on talent down the road.
It remains to be seen whether this approach will work out or not and we won't know until at least 2013. But it's not hard to envision a pathway wrought with struggle if things don't start improving soon enough. It's why I believe a bowl game is important this year because it does offer some momentum heading into a pretty important third season for the Utes in the Pac-12.
Is it the end of the world if Utah does slip to 5-7? No. But for morale and history and tradition, 5-7 or, gasp, 4-8, just won't look good and it adds to the pressure Whittingham is already receiving.
If Utah does finish with a losing record, their first since Ron McBride's final season in 2002, there will be a great deal more questions about this coaching staff and its needed level of success entering 2013. I know as a fan, the last thing I want to be talking about is coaching security - I'd rather be talking about winning and bowl games and overall success.
Hopefully that's exactly what happens and the Utes win Saturday and then again against Colorado. We need a bowl game. Not just for the extra practice, but for some momentum.
But will it happen?