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TOP 25 COUNTDOWN

Chris Dufresne's preseason top 25: No. 18 Utah

The Times' Chris Dufresne unveils his preseason college football top 25, one day (and team) at a time:

August 17, 2009|Chris Dufresne

The Times' Chris Dufresne unveils his preseason college football top 25, one day (and team) at a time:

Utah No. 18

Utah's ranking is less a belief it will go undefeated again and more a make-up call for last year's preseason non-ranking.

Sorry.

It illuminates what is fundamentally wrong with a fabulously flawed sport: a school can get boxed out of the Bowl Championship Series title because pundits in August were slow out of the poll gates.

This isn't a conspiracy against schools from outside the power conferences, as politicians mounting legal challenges against the BCS would argue.

It happened in 2004, when Auburn of the powerful Southeastern Conference started No. 17 in the preseason Associated Press poll and No. 18 in the USA Today coaches'.

Problem: It was the year USC and Oklahoma started out No.1 and No. 2.

USC and Oklahoma didn't lose, and met for the BCS national title, leaving undefeated Auburn out of the loop. The SEC was so ticked off it has won three of the last four BCS crowns.

Utah's mistake in 2008 was not having Mountain West rival Brigham Young's preseason position -- the Cougars started No. 16 (AP) and No. 17 (USA Today).

Rankman still believes Utah -- had it gone undefeated from BYU's launch pad -- might have snagged a BCS title-game spot or perhaps the independently crowned AP title.

Utah, remember, after its stunning Sugar Bowl win over Alabama, finished No. 2 in the final AP poll.

Whether you think Utah got robbed or not is up to you.

One coach argues Utah would have needed a machete and a map to make it out of the SEC jungle alive.

Steve Spurrier? Nick Saban?

Try Florida Coach Urban Meyer, who coached Utah to 12-0 in 2004 before leaving for Gainesville, where he has won two BCS titles.

"The Utah team last year and the Utah team we had in '04, I don't think they can survive the grind of the SEC," Meyer told the Huntsville (Ala.) Times in July.

We're somewhat puzzled as to how Utah will fare this year. A year after 12-0 in 2004, the Utes finished 7-5. They have to replace key components, starting with star quarterback Brian Johnson. Workhorse running back Darrell Mack is gone, so are the top three receivers, and star defensive end Paul Kruger left early for the NFL.

Utah will be good, but last week named true freshman Jordan Wynn as the No.1 quarterback. Wynn has been compared to Alex Smith and is wearing Johnson's old uniform number, 3, but would become just the third true freshman to start at Utah.

The drop-off at running back will be negligible as senior Matt Asiata, who split time with Mack, returns after a 707-yard rushing season.

Utah isn't going away. The program has won eight straight bowl games. Coach Kyle Whittingham, the team's former defensive coordinator, has almost made people forget Urban what's-his-name.

Another 13-0 season, though, seems a stretch given a schedule that includes trips to Oregon, Texas Christian and Brigham Young.

The Utes have already notched two undefeated seasons this decade -- why get greedy?

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chris.dufresne@latimes.com

twitter.com/DufresneLATimes

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