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Finishing undefeated

As I watched the Utes and Cougars both lose this week, I realized just how difficult and maybe underrated undefeated seasons truly are. 

Folks, it isn't easy. 

Once the Cougars got by Oklahoma, I think everyone - locally and nationally - conceded they had the perfect schedule to run the table. Since every difficult game was scheduled in Provo, things were setting up nicely for that perfect dream season the Provo faithful have been hoping for since their last undefeated season in 1984. 

It didn't happen. 

It didn't happen because not many teams go undefeated. It doesn't matter at what level or conference, undefeated seasons in college football are rare. They're rare because it takes a unique mix of skill and luck to do just that. They're rare because often teams get lazy and overlook an opponent or play down to an opponent or fail to show up for a game. I'm not sure if any of that was the case Saturday night for the Cougars, but I think it just solidifies that BYU - like most teams - probably won't produce an undefeated season anytime soon. 

I say this not to disparage the Cougars, but to expand on the original point about how difficult it is to finish perfect. The Cougars have had three shots at this since Bronco Mendenhall took over and each time, they've failed.

In 2006, though flying under the radar, their OOC schedule consisted of a less than stellar Arizona squad and a beatable Boston College team. Those two losses were the difference between a 12-0 finish and BCS bowl bid and what they eventually got - an 11-2 finish and another trip to the Las Vegas Bowl. 

In 2008, BYU was the media's pick to bust the BCS. They had a winnable out of conference schedule and outside of road games against TCU & Utah, were expected to cruise.

And that's exactly what happened. They won their out of conference games and cruised between TCU and Utah. Unfortunately for the Cougars, their struggles against the Frogs and Utes resulted in two crucial losses.

But this season was supposed to be different, especially after they got by Oklahoma. BYU was finally going to step up to the plate and play like they were a reincarnated version of their 1984 comrades. Yet no one should ever expect an undefeated season and certainly not this early in the year.

God knows when Utah rolled Michigan and then beat UNLV and Air Force, I wasn't convinced of what the Utes were about to accomplish. Hell, I wasn't even convinced they would finish undefeated until midway through the fourth quarter of the Sugar Bowl.

I wasn't convinced because I knew everything was working against them. Every time a team is in position to finish undefeated, they're going against the odds. It doesn't matter how good they are or what they've done in the past, specifically even in that season. Odds dictate a team will lose at least one game.

Florida saw it last year and BYU saw it this year. And so did Utah. They were undefeated at 2-0 heading into Oregon and faced the real possibility of opening the season 9-0 had they won. Of course, they didn't. They didn't because it's nearly unheard of in today's world to produce back-to-back perfect seasons. It's even more ridiculous to expect three in a span of five years. 

Maybe that's why I'm not too disappointed with Utah's loss. I knew the possibility of another undefeated season was extremely small. I didn't expect it. I felt 9-3 was a reasonable prediction for these Utes and I still stand by that, even after their poor showing Saturday. 

But then again, I was extremely cautious in both 2004 and 2008. I never once felt convinced Utah would go undefeated in either season because of what history dictates - especially in terms of Utah football. 

Had BYU fans and maybe players entered Saturday's game with that mindset, they might not have lost. Yet even if they did, then maybe they would feel about as bad as Ute fans do right now and not totally convinced their season is over.

Because even when you hope and feel your team can make the BCS at 12-0, it's never healthy - or smart - to convince yourself it will happen.