FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- You expected a bit of a letdown for Alabama after losing the SEC championship game.
You didn't expect the Tide to be on Vicodin.
For those of you not up on your prescription pharms, that's what the dentist gives you before he removes your wisdom teeth. Yeah, it felt about like that for Alabama after one of the most humiliating losses in the program's history.
Louisiana-Monroe was bad. A two-touchdown beatdown by Utah in the Sugar Bowl is worse.
That first Bama team was rebuilding. This one was turning the corner.
Don't give me anything about a "rebuilt" offensive line. It was missing one player from arguably the best offensive line in the country. Left tackle Andre Smith was suspended.
Sure, the Tide were down to a third-string replacement for Smith. But let's call this what it was -- a choke. Alabama-did-not-come-to-play. For Utah, this was the biggest game in school history. For Bama, it was a consolation prize after losing what was essentially a national semifinal loss to Florida in the SEC championship game.
Still, shouldn't Alabama be able to smack Utah on 364 out of 365 days of the year? Sure, but it's a new year, some will say a new era.
This wasn't a fluke. Utah became the first non-BCS school to go undefeated in two seasons. You will begin to hear a cry for the Mountain West joining the BCS conferences. I can't disagree. The league was better overall than the Pac-10 in the regular season and just defeated a top-five powerhouse from the SEC.
There is some convoluted formula for "evaluating" the automatic qualifier status of BCS conferences. It won't happen any time soon but it should: Drop the ACC or Big East from the ACC and elevate the Mountain West. Now.
This should be more about Utah than Alabama. Saban and the Tide will have to deal with an enough taunts in the offseason ("Ute ought to be able to beat Utah!").
I'm looking for reasons not to make Utah No. 1. It has beaten four top-25 teams, two teams in the top 10 (TCU, Alabama). It beat the only team to beat USC (Oregon State). I will put Utah's non-conference schedule against Florida's and Oklahoma's.
Will Utah get the final No. 1 in AP? Not likely. Brand names still rule in the polls. Should the Utes be No. 1. One word: Undefeated. In this age of parity, there was only team in the whole land that can make that claim. It walked into the belly of the SEC beast and embarrassed Bear's boys.
I can't think of another team more deserving of being No. 1 right now. The Utes just took a small chunk of relevance out of that game they're playing down here in a few days.
What do they call it, the BCS title game? That sounds kind of shallow after what happened in New Orleans.