Utah is living the good life. It's an undefeated 4-0 so far this year, and has managed to climb from No. 10 to No. 5 in the AP Poll this past Saturday while sitting at home during their bye week. Must be nice.
The Utes also received seven first place votes in the poll -- more than second-ranked TCU (only five first-place votes went the Horned Frogs’ way). So, that raises the question: Is Utah deserving of that No. 1 ranking, the spot at the mountaintop that currently belongs to Ohio State?
David Lombardi: The Utes did waltz into Autzen Stadium and take the Ducks to the woodshed in jaw-dropping fashion. Their 62-20 triumph represented Oregon’s worst home loss since 1977. We’re very accustomed to seeing a score like that reversed in the home team’s fashion, so consider us impressed with Utah’s tour de force. Impressed enough to rank the Utes as the top team in our Pac-12 power rankings but not enough to consider them the No. 1 team in the country — at least according to my opinion. I’m sure Kyle will disagree.
My rationale is simple: Ohio State proved itself as the top team last season, and national championships — especially when achieved after running through an SEC and Pac-12 playoff gauntlet. The Buckeyes earned both a trophy and the benefit of the doubt. The Buckeyes’ trophy is safely stored in Columbus now, and their benefit of the doubt will remain alive and well until it’s disproven. It’ll take an Ohio State loss this season for me to consider someone else in their top spot. It’s as simple as that.
Now, in case there are any Utah fans greedily still clamoring for an even greater rise in the rankings, fear not: The Utes have full control over the situation. It’ll just take time to play out. Keep winning without any hiccups, and a chance to grab that No. 1 spot will be yours this season — even if Ohio State remains undefeated heading into the College Football Playoff. Utah still has a daunting road ahead -- the coming three-game stretch against Cal, ASU, and at USC looks to be the biggest hurdle -- but if the Utes emerge unscathed, they’ll certainly have their chance to end up where some thought they should have ended up after the 2009 season: At the pinnacle.
But that’s far away at this point. For now, the championship belt belongs to Ohio State. Another fighter must knock the Buckeyes out in the ring to grab it away. Perhaps the Utes can climb as high as No. 2 if they sweep these next three tough games, but that’s as far as I’m willing to go.
Kyle Bonagura: If only there was a way to discredit the logic behind keeping a team at No. 1 simply because it’s undefeated and the defending national champion. Hmmmm. We would have to look all the way back to … last year. How have we not learned from what Florida State did a year ago? It was painfully obvious throughout the season the undefeated Seminoles, coming off a national title and ranked No. 1 for most the year, were not the best team in the country and Oregon proved that decisively in the playoff.
Through four games, Ohio State has been even less impressive than Florida State was last year. The Buckeyes might end up as the best team in the country -- it has the talent and Urban Meyer has track record to allow for that to be a strong possibility -- but if we’re judging teams based on how they’ve played this season, Ohio State has no business in the top-5, let alone at No. 1.
Let’s be clear, there is no obvious No. 1 team in college football right now and anyone who claims otherwise values their own opinion much more than they should. Utah, though, has as strong a case as any. With the emergence of quarterback Travis Wilson (his QBR of 94 leads the country) and one of the nation's best running backs in Devonate Booker, the Utes have a balanced offense to go along with a stout defense (18.8 points per game allowed) and still boast arguably the top special teams phase in the country.
Here’s a look at the undefeated teams which have beaten a team currently in the AP top-25, along with their second-best win of the year.
No. 5 Utah – Ranked win: 24-17 vs. No. 18 Michigan; Second-best win: 62-20 vs. Oregon (2-2).
No. 6 Clemson – Ranked win: 24-22 vs. No. 15 Notre Dame; Second-best win: 20-17 vs. Louisville (1-3)
No. 12 Florida – Ranked win: 38-10 vs. No. 14 Ole Miss; Second-best win: 14-9 vs. Kentucky (4-1)
No. 13 Northwestern – Ranked win: 16-6 vs. No. 16 Stanford; Second-best win: 19-10 vs. Duke (4-1)
That isn't to say teams not among that group shouldn't be considered -- teams can only play who is on their schedule -- but as far as resumes go, these are the teams with the most noteworthy accomplishments. Utah has its flaws, everyone does, but, at this point, who has accomplished more?