The common theme since Utah was picked to play in the Sugar Bowl is how similar they are to the Hawaii Warriors from 2007. If you remember, their asses were kicked up and down the football field by Georgia in last year's Sugar Bowl. To those who believe this, well, I say...
Utah isn't Hawaii and they're not even comparable. The Warriors rolled through the WAC by way of their explosive Run and Shoot attack, not because of their defense. In fact, it was that porous defense that ultimately proved to be their undoing when they faced a solid SEC team. But the deficiencies within the Hawaii system came up much earlier than their game against the Bulldogs, as the Warriors struggled defensively to put away very mediocre offenses throughout the year.
On the season, discounting the 41 they gave up against Georgia, Hawaii's opponents averaged 24 points per game. At first glance, that doesn't appear to be all that bad, however, when you look beyond the numbers, there was a clear underlying issue with the way the Warriors were built.
In their second game of the season, already being discussed as potential BCS busters, Hawaii nearly lost to Louisiana Tech in overtime. They gave up 44 points to a team that would finish 5-7 and only average 21 points per game. Barely getting by a mediocre team isn't entirely bad, however, Hawaii proved to struggle in a few more games against supposed inferior opponents, as well.
Utah State managed 37 points against the Warriors and that was in Honolulu! Hawaii barely defeated San Jose State 42-35, Nevada 28-26 and struggled against Fresno State at home. Then there was their showdown, on the Island, against a pretty bad Washington team. The Huskies built a 21-point lead before the Warriors rallied and scored what appeared to be a game-winning touchdown. But once again, that pathetically bad defense failed to really step up and Washington marched down the field and all the way to the Hawaii four-yard line before Jake Locker's pass was intercepted. Hawaii wins, goes to 12-0 and then gets slaughtered by Georgia in the Sugar Bowl.
Repeat performance from Utah? Hardly.
Beyond the obvious defensive differences, the Warriors also had one of the worst strength of schedules in the country. It was perfectly set up for a 12-0 season and while I credit Hawaii for doing what they needed to do to get through it, the fact is, the Warriors really were not tested by a good team the entire season, at least outside of Boise State, who were ranked 19th when Hawaii beat them. But then even that Broncos team went through the same WAC schedule, managed to lose to Washington on the road and then finished the year with a loss to ECU in the Hawaii Bowl. Not very impressive.
Take a look at Hawaii's 2007 schedule and compare it to Utah's:
@ Louisiana Tech
@ Nevada-Las Vegas
@ San Jose State
New Mexico State
What jumps out at you? Firstly, the Warriors played two FCS teams. Their lone BCS opponent, Washington, finished below .500 and the WAC, once again, proved to be a pretty bad conference outside of Boise State (and in this case, Hawaii). Now compare that to Utah's schedule. They opened up on the road against Michigan, which is pretty comparable to Washington, defeat Oregon State, who can't be compared to any team on the Warriors' list, beat a possible top-10 TCU team and then a top-20 BYU team to end the year. This one isn't even close, Utah has the better resume, the better defense and the more balanced team. Which makes any comparison between Utah & Hawaii ridiculous and anyone who feels the need to equate the two programs should not be taken seriously.