As the University of Utah Prepares to face TCU in one of the most important football games in school history, we look back to the evolution from coming up short in the 1980s to flirting with superiority in 2010.
When No. 5 University of Utah lines up to face No. 3 Texas Christian University on Saturday afternoon in Salt Lake City, the stakes will have never been higher for either team. The winner stands to firmly entrench itself near the apex of college football rankings and could have at least an outside shot at playing for the BCS Championship. Utah has never been ranked higher during regular season play and Utes fans are already in a frenzy, impatiently counting down the minutes to the kickoff of what is already being called the most important regular season game in school history.
Saturday’s faceoff will feature two evenly-matched teams that have both dominated the Mountain West Conference for the past several years. TCU is a defensive powerhouse, allowing only 217 yards per game and good enough for NCAA’s top spot in that category. Utah has the third-highest scoring offense in the country, averaging more than 45 points a game. Granted, both teams’ schedules have not featured many tough opponents, so you can throw these stats out the window.
The key to the game will be whether Utah’s defense can slow TCU long enough for sophomore quarterback Jordan Wynn and the Ute offense to get on track. Outcomes are always uncertain and this game could easily go both ways. What is certain, however, is that this game is absolutely HUGE. For both teams. Should Utah win, they could (potentially) ascend to an unimaginable height that no longtime Utes fan ever fathomed: a (potential) legitimate shot for a National Championship.
* “potential” used so as not to jinx anything before Saturday; also used to diffuse the likely snub by the Almighty BCS Committee
They also have the rare chance to go on their own Crusade of sorts by defeating football teams from religious institutions in three of their next four games (Texas Christian, Notre Dame and Brigham Young).
But to really understand what this season and the previous undefeated campaigns in 2004 and 2008 means, you have to look at the history of gut-wrenching defeat that defined Utah Football for decades to truly appreciate the current position of Ute players and fans.
In an attempt to relax my nerves for the big game on Saturday and look at it from a big-picture perspective, I took a trip down memory lane to the days when simply beating rival BYU made the season a success; moving to the 1990s, when getting an invitation to a bowl game was a giant step; and onto the new millennium, where Utah has ascended to heights I could never have imagined.
So before we fully focus on beating TCU and the potential glistening shores that we face—and have frequented in recent years—let’s gaze back upon the black-water morass and revisit the rise to where we sit today.