Two M.W.C. Bowl Teams, Two Results
By Paul Myerberg // Dec 24, 2010
Judging by the results, one would think that the latter of the two Mountain West teams would be heading to the Pac-10, not the former. That’s simply by watching each team play, ignoring the opponent and getting straight down to the final result: Utah looked horrendous, for the third time in five games, while San Diego State completed its one-year turnaround in style. There’s more to games than just the final result, but in the span of two nights, one can’t help but be struck by how bad Utah looked while amazed at how quickly S.D.S.U. has turned the corner under Brady Hoke.
Boise State 26, Utah 3. In Utah’s defense, it could have been closer — maybe, if things had gone Utah’s way early, it would have been closer. There was an early touchdown called back, one that came with the Utes already holding a 3-0 lead. By my count, there were two dropped passes in the first quarter that would have either led directly to a score or left Utah on the doorstep.
That’s of little consequence: after struggling early finding their footing, the Broncos were in complete control. Utah can take no solace in the fact that it could have been closer, not after such a horrendous close to the season.
I asked in the Las Vegas Bowl preview if Utah was ready for the Pac-10, though I followed that by asking if the Pac-10 was ready for Utah — two meaningless questions, but important to consider. Is this how Utah pictured closing out its final season in the Mountain West? The 2-2 month of November might have been offset with a win over Boise State; with three losses in its last five, Utah enters a new conference with more questions than answers.
Heading into November, one could have made the statement that Utah would have stood as Oregon’s greatest Pac-10 challenger — Utah was 8-0 at this point. Now, late in December, one wonders if Utah has the wherewithal to regroup before taking on one of the best conferences in the country.
Then there’s San Diego State, which has proved throughout 2010 that it is the program most likely to fill the vacuum left in the M.W.C. by Utah’s departure — and T.C.U.’s departure, once we get to that point. Nine wins, including last night’s wonderful showing against nine-win Navy; four losses — Missouri, B.Y.U., T.C.U. and Utah — by a combined total of 15 points.
Yes, the Aztecs lost to Utah. And yes, Utah’s 10-3 mark tops S.D.S.U.’s 9-4 — so why does each team’s season feel different? Simple: S.D.S.U. was coming off a decade-plus of incompetence; Utah has won 33 games over the last three seasons. It’s the nature of the beast: the unexpected trumps the expected, the unpredictable draws stares more than the expected — S.D.S.U.’s 9-4 feels good, Utah’s 10-3 leaves us begging for more.
When we come down to it, however, these are still two programs on an upswing. S.D.S.U.’s recent upturn has been quicker, yes, but the Aztecs still have a ways to go before being considered in the same class as Utah. Hoke would be the first to admit that.
On the other hand, San Diego State can’t wait to get back on the field in September. Utah, on the other hand, might face some doubts about its ability to go toe-to-toe with the Pac-10, thanks to an ugly close to a previously perfect season.
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Tags: Brady Hoke, San Diego State, Utah
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