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Looking ahead

I was emotionally spent after Saturday's loss and am finally regaining my sanity. The loss was such a big blow because of the expectations I had built throughout the entire summer essentially came crashing down. But I realize college football is a fickle sport and that expecting undefeated seasons every year is not realistic and in fact down right foolish. But it doesn't mean I can't feel disappointed with the teams play and I'm definitely not thrilled with that aspect of the game. Yet I can't help but also realize that it was the first game of the season and with eleven games remaining, anything is possible.

Will Utah crash the BCS? No. I do not see them winning every game left on their schedule, but that doesn't mean this season should automatically be written off as a failure. I know Utah fans, since 2004 at least, want to gauge the success of a season by the merits of making a BCS bowl. This just can't work and if that is our goal every year as fans, we're going to be sorely disappointed. Not being in the BCS is a hindrance and I truly believe it's too much to expect BCS bowls every year...or even every other year or every fourth year.

My expectations for this season have always been to win the conference, beat TDS, finish ranked and win our bowl game. Nothing has changed and the goal is very possible to attain. This is why, after reevaluating my original post moments after the loss, I may have been a bit too negative. Sure the loss hurts and I expect more out of the Utes, but it was the first game of the season, on the road and against a BCS team -- and not a bottom dweller at that. How would the Utes have faired if in 2004 they opened up on the road at Kyle Field against Texas A&M? I doubt they would have won 41-21 like they did in Salt Lake City. In fact, I wonder if they would have won at all. Granted, the Rose Bowl is nowhere near as intimidating as Kyle Field, but were the Aggies, coming off a 4-win season the year before, more intimidating than the Bruins, who were coming off a 10-win season? Not in my mind.

And this is the game Utah has to play. We're a non-BCS team facing a BCS team on the road. Statistically speaking, non-BCS teams do not win, even if they are good. How many times in the 1980s did TDS get punked on the road against a BCS team? And how many times during the 1980s did TDS come back and dominate the WAC? Nearly every single freaking time, much to Ute fans chagrin! But that's exactly my point and a reason why I find myself gravitating back to optimism over wallowing in doubt. Does this mean I think Whittingham and crew are the answer for Utah football? Hardly, but it does mean I'm not about to write off this season just yet.

I said earlier that college football is a very fickle game and it truly is. One week you can stun the #1 team in the nation and then find yourself stunned by a lesser opponent. It's difficult to go an entire season flawless and only the truly elite teams have been able to do this. Utah isn't elite and we can't pretend that they are. The sad aspect of this fickle game is that even if Utah is the best non-BCS team out there, chances are they would still struggle against even the middle of the pack BCS teams. Yes, 2004 was great and Utah proved its ability by dominating Texas A&M, Arizona, North Carolina and Pittsburgh. But only the Arizona game was on the road -- I'll include Pittsburgh as a home game because of the obviously partisan Utah crowd at the 2005 Fiesta Bowl. Would the 2004 Utes be capable of going into Jordan-Hare Stadium and defeating Auburn? Or The Swamp and defeat a Zook coached Gators team? How about playing LSU at Tiger Stadium? Utah was arguably better than any of these teams in 2004, but I'm not so sure they'd walk away with a victory. Now have UCLA play this year's game in Salt Lake City and the results probably change.

Yes the performance by Utah left a lot to be desired, but that's football. This happens in the first game of the season and it's often said that a team makes most of its positive strides from week one of the season to week two. Well week one is in the books and now it's time to look toward week two. Utah football might struggle this season, or it might win the conference, but it's too early to say. This season will be a challenge, but I'm not about to give up my optimism over one bad game. Because if that were the case I would have abandoned the Utes after the New Mexico game last year and the A&M and New Mexico games in 2003. After much thought, I do not think Utah was nearly as bad as they looked Saturday night and I believe in the coming weeks that will be proven to all those with doubts.