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The biggest win of the 2014 Utah football season was...

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Last season the Utes pulled out several big wins against top tier Pac-12 opponents. Each big win proved important as the Utes surged toward bowl eligibility for the first time in two years and finished with their first winning record in the Pac-12. In this post we'll try and tackle which of last year's victories was the biggest.

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Reviewing last season, there were a number of wins that were important for the Utes. Victories against Michigan, UCLA, USC and Stanford all stand out as huge wins for the program. Each win helped propel the Utes to their best season since joining the Pac-12. Looking back in the rearview mirror at the season, which one stood out the most? Which one was the most critical to Utah last season?

As a quick refresher, here is a look back at the 2014 schedule and results.

Opponent Score
Idaho State W, 56-14
Fresno State W, 59-27
@ Michigan W, 26-10
Washington State L 28-27
@ UCLA W, 30-28
@ Oregon State W, 29-23 (2OT)
USC W, 24-21
@ Arizona State L, 19-16 (2OT)
Oregon L, 51-27
@Stanford W, 20-17 (OT)
Arizona L, 42-10
@ Colorado W, 38-34
Colorado State (Bowl) W, 45-10

There are a number of ways to gauge a victory as "big" You can measure by scoring margin, in which case Idaho State, who the Utes beat by 42 points, is the biggest win. You can measure by who the highest ranked opponent the Utes defeated was, in which case UCLA is the biggest win, as they finished the season ranked #10 in both the AP and Coaches Poll. You can measure by most hard fought and emotional win, in which case several games could be considered. Or you can call the win that had the biggest impact on the trajectory of the season the biggest win.

Looking at last year's schedule and results, the game that stands out as the "biggest" win is the blackout game against USC. First and foremost the cache' that comes with beating USC makes this victory important. The rest of the nation recognizes USC as a national brand and many fans and pundits around the country view the Pac-12 as USC and the 11 dwarves. In recent years, under Lane Kiffin and now Steve Sarkisian, the Trojans have struggled to match the success of the Pete Carroll era, still the USC brand holds major sway with pollsters and fans alike. Winning this game put the Utes on the rest of country's radar if they weren't already on it.

The win was the first time the Utes had beaten USC since joining the Pac-12 and the first time since the 10-6 Las Vegas bowl win back in 2001. Utah had played USC close in 2011 and for a large portion of the game in 2012, but were not able to finish the deal. The 24-21 win confirmed the Utes could close out a game and further validated the previous close wins against UCLA and Oregon State as being more than luck.

Travis Wilson didn't have his best game of the season, finishing 18-32 for 194 yards passing and 1 touchdown, but his one touchdown throw was a game winner. Wilson was nails on the final drive, showing poise and playmaking ability to lead the Utes to the game winning touchdown. His ability to step up and make plays at the end of close games was needed several times over last season, and doing it against USC was a big confidence boost for Wilson.

The most important reason why the USC game ranks as the biggest win of the season, is Utah became bowl eligible for the first time since the 2011 season by beating USC. The schedule for the second half of the season was much more difficult than the first half of the season, and even though Utah had five victories entering the showdown with USC, there were no promises Utah would find another win on their schedule. A loss to USC with Arizona State, Oregon and Stanford following, could have very well spelled disaster for the Utes season. Instead, Utah was able to pull out the win with a late Wilson to Kaelin Clay touchdown, a connection the Utes would need against Stanford a couple weeks later.

Entering the season one of the primary goals was to return to bowl season and with the victory over USC, the Utes guaranteed they could return to the post season. The win provided confidence for the team and propelled them through the difficult latter half of the schedule and provided the team national recognition. Without beating USC, Utah's season would have felt a little less triumphant. These reasons make USC the biggest victory for the Utes in 2014.