College football fans everywhere have finally gotten a taste of what they've been asking for years, a playoff. The Semifinal rounds, in the Rose and Sugar Bowls, displayed the two highest-rated cable television broadcasts of all time.
Like many predicted, the hype around the College Football Playoff, and the CFP Committee's weekly release of their rankings, has been enormous around the country. The Utah Utes, while not in the final, have been in the CFB Poll every week since it's release and will finish in the Top 25 when the final rankings are released next week. Utes fans will probably be tuned in tonight to see who will be victorious between Oregon and Ohio State, even though they don't have a dog in the fight. Or... do they?
Utah fans should hope for an Oregon victory. Many sat and watched this same Oregon team on the field at Rice-Eccles Stadium, and Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota proved to many wearing red that he, indeed, would be the recipient of said trophy at the end of the season. Utes fans can compare and contrast how they matched up with the Ducks, and how the Buckeyes fare versus the common opponent.
But more than just meaningless transitive comparisons, conference pride is at stake. The Pac 12 has shown with their 6-2 bowl record (and the resulting scoreboards have shown) that theirs is the best college football conference in the country. Oregon downing Ohio State would further prove the Pac 12 is pushing itself into the top slot, overtaking the vaunted Southeastern Conference.
On the other hand, Utes fans may also find themselves cheering for Urban Meyer, the one time Utah coach. Despite the fact he left the Utes, seeing Urban one the sidelines often sparks nostalgia. Utes fans may reminisce of his two years as the head man on the sidelines in a different type of red in Salt Lake City. Utah fans have found themselves cheering for him in the past as head coach of the Florida Gators. His occasional quotes and words of respect and pride towards the University of Utah keeps a soft spot in the hearts of many Utah fans. Fans of the crimson and white who look at Urban for what he did in changing the culture at Utah may find themselves leaning toward the Buckeyes tonight.
Whether the national champion is Oregon or Ohio State, Utes fans will witness, along with the rest of the country, the first College Football Playoff championship game. Most have acknowledged that Alabama and Florida State, the two semifinal losers, would be in this game under the old BCS system, which clearly would not have featured the two best teams as it was designed to do. The fact that two teams had to win games to get to this point makes this game seem that much more meaningful and intriguing. As we look back a few years down the road, we may look back at this game as the first step to an improved college football championship system, much like we look back at when Oregon and Ohio State played in the inaugural NCAA basketball championship game in 1939. (Spooky, huh?)