Best ever Utah Football Team?

I think you find no joy in saying it because in your heart you know it’s not true.

There is no logic in the phrase “A played an easier schedule than B, therefore A is a worse team than B”.

There is also no logic in the phrase “the 2012 team struggled as a relatively new member of the Pac-12, so the 2004 would have struggled too.” One of our worst teams of the past 15 years struggled, so one of our best teams surely would have struggled too?

The 2004 team was completely dominant from start to finish. We all wanted a shot at USC because we all know how that game would have ended. Urban wanted that shot because he knew how that game would have ended.

This is a bit of a silly discussion because it’s impossible to play the 1994, 2004, 2008, and 2019 teams against each other. I just get bothered when people speak nonsense like “2004/2008 would have never been successful in the Pac-12.” There just isn’t any evidence for that argument, and it puts down two of our all time great teams. Why would we want to put them down? 2004 was a juggernaut, and nothing about the 2012 team’s struggles can take that away.

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I’m in no way saying they wouldn’t be successful in the PAC-12, but what I am saying is that there is a toll on a team through the brutal conference schedule we have. I see three teams with losing records left on our schedule but I can also say that none of them are patsies and none are going to be gimmies.

But the known factor and what has taken a loooong time for us to get competitive like we are is developing the depth so that 2nd string isn’t a massive drop-off from from the first string, which frankly wasn’t true of the Utes in the past.

All I am saying is that we benefited in the past from the good teams we played of having virtual rest games in between, which we don’t have now. This BYE week is a godsend because right now we need it. Huntley is hurt, Moss is playing but he is obviously hurt and I’m sure there is a lists of other injuries that we don’t even know about.

Here is another way to look at it. This season we lost a star receiver in Britian Covey to redshirt to recover and hopefully be 100% next year. Have we seen a drop-off with our receivers at all? Not really. (And don’t get me wrong, I’m excited to have him back - but we’ve been fine).

Conversely, in 2004 we had Paris Warren and Steve Savoy and losing either of those guys would have been pretty devastating.

If Alex Smith or Brian Johnson get hurt in either of those seasons, we are toast. Huntley has been hurt, and Shelley is serviceable - its harder but we can win still.

Maybe another way to look at it is if 2019 Utah played either of those teams each week for a season straight up - who would have the most complete team at the end? It seems obvious to me. In my mind and 11-1 season in a P5 conference is on par with an undefeated season in G5.

One more, in 2008 do we REALLY believe that if we played Bama 5x we’d beat them even a majority of the times? I don’t. If anyone wasn’t watching that Bama team try to stage a comeback after being down 21 and didn’t feel the pucker of reality set in, I don’t think they knew what they were watching.

And yeah, I get this is all speculation. But like I said I think the core difference between 2019 Utes and those other teams is really the ‘next man up’, and seeing the brutal schedule we play each year now, that next man up is pretty critical.

In fact, I’m willing to concede that the 2004 Utes first string was better than 2019, but making it all the way to the end intact would have been some kind of miracle and if normal injury took place with that team that you expect in P5 play, the last games of the season 2019 would be winning.

(And for the record, this is just fun for me to speculate, but I acknowledge it is pointless. I’d love to get Whittingham in a private conversation and ask him his thoughts on this though).


I’ll throw one more blasphemy out there while I’m at it. If Huntley gets in the NFL and gets in the right situation I can see him having a better career than Alex Smith in the pros.

(Although Alex Smith was a superior college QB)


I guess what you are arguing is that our current team has more depth than past teams. That may be true. We are very deep at RB and on the defensive line. We are not deep on the offensive line. I think we have more serviceable WRs right now, but the teams of the past probably had better WRs. I don’t think our secondary or LB units are particularly deep.

I disagree strongly that losing Huntley would be something this team could overcome. Huntley is the #1 reason this team is as good as it is. He’s the main thing separating this team (historically good) from the Utah teams of the past 5 years (good but not historically good).

Did we not suffer injuries in 2004 and 2008? I’m willing to guess that we suffered just as many as we do now. If anything, something that really stands out in our stellar years is that we’ve had good luck with injuries to key players.

Speaking of injuries, did anyone else see the stat last week that in 12 years of coaching at Alabama, Nick Saban had never before needed to start a 2nd string QB due to injury? He’s in the toughest P5 conference…injuries are about bad luck and not about conference affiliation.

The whole idea that every other week in the MWC conference is a bye game is an insult to our past and is born of P5 hubris. Is New Mexico in 2004 really that different from Colorado in 2019? I don’t think so. Sagarin ranks our 2019 schedule at #40 overall. Our 2004 SOS was #67, and 2008 was #56. The primary difference is that they gave us Pitt in 2004. Had they given us a top team, that SOS would have been much stronger.

In summary:

2004: if you have to pick one team in a head-to-head against another, you pick this team
2008: the most impressive accomplishment in Utah history, Sugar Bowl victory and a national title with an asterisk
2019: potential to eclipse both 2004 in power and 2008 in accomplishment.

Here’s what is going on in this discussion:

The “have nots” have quickly turned into the “haves”. We argued until we were hoarse in 2004 and 2008 that a non-BCS team could be considered to be as good as a BCS team. Now that we are in the P5, we use the same arguments, void of logic, that were used against us back in the day. The point of this is, I assume, to keep the “have nots” out of the running and to feel good about being a P5, but it is not honest and is not fair to the great teams of our past. The Pac-12 itself viewed our accomplishments as worthy of inclusion, not as inferior.

To justify our argument as a “have”, we use the fact that 2 of our first 3 Pac-12 seasons were not very good (ignoring that our very first Pac-12 team was actually good). Somehow, this is used as evidence that our MWC teams must not have been very good either.

The 2008 team played more top 25 opponents than the 2019 team has. That team was 3-0 vs the Sagarin top 30. Our current team is 1-1, and if we take care of business, that could end up being as good as 4-0 or 4-1 by season’s end (USC is very close to falling out of the top 30). The 2004 team was 1-0. We can never erase the fact that we lost to a USC team that has at least 4 losses, and that’s something that can never be true about the 2004 or 2008 teams.

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Yes, the depth has been my argument from the beginning.

My view on this has nothing to do at all with haves or have-nots, rather simple reality and something that has been reiterated by someone who knows more about it than any of us - Kyle Whittingham. I remember being at the games of our first season in the PAC-12 and noticing how much bigger, faster, stronger, athletic, etc our opponents were from those of the past. Whittingham has said numerous times that they’ve had to work to get to P5 level recruiting and depth to compete, and it is no coincidence that it has taken a long time for us to be at the top of the conference. I think you are forgetting how recent it was that we were a middle-of-the-pack P5 team and people were heeding us to expect that to just be the way it is.

I’m actually quite fond of the MWC and our former opponents (and wish we would schedule some of them as OOC opponents) and don’t disparage them at all. But if there is are two parallel programs we can compare ourselves too, TCU and Boise St, I think what I am saying is self-evident. Boise plays virtually unchallenged but for a few games each year. TCU jumped to the Big-12 and have failed to be as dominant as they once were despite all things remaining the same.

Now the question is how have we made the jump to the next level (which we have) and it goes to the fact that we can recruit better and we have more money to help with all of that. We still rely on the diamonds in the rough concept with our recruits, but we also have a lot more players who are ready to go.

Regarding injuries I’ve long said that a core part of a special season is to escape the injury bug. Knock on wood, but we’ve barely done that this year. The same was true of 2004 and 2008 as well. And I don’t disagree that Tyler isn’t key to how good we are, but do you honestly believe that we can’t win out if they say to us today, “Tyler tore his ACL in practice and is done for the season…”

I’ll also disagree on the depth of some of these units. For example when you mention the DBs, we lost Chase Hansen and Cody Barton - two exceptionally good backs that by any measure we should have had a big dip. Those guys were special. However, I don’t feel like that is even remotely a weakness on this team today. Bernard is likely an NFL prospect and Lloyd has been solid too.

Anyway, I’ll let you have the last word on this if you want it - as we’ve both said it doesn’t really matter, I just don’t agree with your assessment that the only reason I feel this way is because I’m trying to have some ‘haves or have-nots’ turf protection. That simply isn’t true I don’t really have any say in that anyway. Like I originally mentioned, I hated the “week-in-and-week-out” argument against the Utes and thought it was garbage just like you. Yet I had to swallow crow when I saw how real that was.


No offense to 2009-2019 RockerUte but I am not sure the Pac12 of today is that far of a step up from 2008 schedule. As I pointed out, even with a P5 schedule, you played more Top 25 teams.

Yes, I would also say the 2008 team IS THE National Champs. They would have cooked Urban and those Gators that season.

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That’s another interesting argument I think. I don’t have the time or interest to look at it, but the PAC-12 has been really good at eating its own and looking much more weak than I think they actually are. I’ll admit some bias here, but each year there has been that ‘wheel of suck’ where every team in the PAC-12 has beat the other team. If you look at the other P5 conference they tend to have a couple of really dominant teams at the top and not so great teams for the rest.

Then again, arguing your side of things, the PAC-12 hasn’t exactly showed up in their bowls.

Here is what I want - Utah to go and win out, destroy Oregon in the CCG, miraculously get in the CFP, destroy all teams on the way to being champions and then remove all doubt. I think we could all agree that would be a good way to end this argument. :wink:


I agree that would end the argument.

TCU won the conference in their third season and was robbed of a playoff birth.

I’m not sure what the week-in-week-out argument is really about. Is it that we play a tougher schedule now? I don’t disagree with that. Nobody does (even though the difference is not as large as some people think - see SOS rankings). I only disagree with the argument that uses our stronger SOS now means to disparage our former great teams. The 2004 and 2008 teams were truly great and as truly great teams, they would have been successful in any conference. I thought that was what this was all about.


I know I said you got last word, but the topic is “Best Ever Utah Football Team?” So stating that you think this year is the best team doesn’t disparage 2004 or 2008 as being truly great - they can all be great. We win out this year and this team ranks up there as one of our best of all time. I’m merely supporting the statement that I think this year’s team MIGHT be better by saying we’ve had a harder schedule this year (which BamafanNKY disagrees and he may have a point). There is still a lot of season left to play though.

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Last word is overrated. What matters is that I have something to do at work.

I think we agree then. I think 2004 beats 2008/2019 head to head, and I think my mind can still be changed by 2019. I don’t even care much about the actual rankings. You can make a good case for any of these three teams. I just get worked up whenever I see people say that our great MWC teams couldn’t have handled a P5 schedule - there’s just no evidence of that, and it serves no purpose to say it!


Hmmm. The 2004 team was good (yes, I followed Utes then). Are they good as the team in 2008 that defeated 4 top 25 teams? Who knows. The best team they played was 8 win Pitt. Basically only 4 teams with winning (not .500) records. VERY WEAK body of work to compare.


According to Sagarin, #23 Texas A&M was the best team that Utah played in 2004. UNC was in the 30s. BYU, Wyoming, and New Mexico were in the 40s. Pitt was #55. Such an insult to have us play Pitt that year.

Really, the thing about 2004 was that they passed the eye test more than any team ever has. At no point in the season was there even an ounce of nervousness with the team. As a fan, there was no drama at all that season, other than the high drama of becoming the first BCS buster and playing in a big time bowl for the first time. But you could not watch that team without seeing greatness.


That and no drama since they didn’t play a team that was ranked. As you said, Texas A&M was your best Sagarin rated team. They went 7-5 that season. I’m biased because I think the team that beat the squad who would win a National Title the next year is better. Utah is the 2008 champs in my book.

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How difficult would it have been to read this thread on the old legacy site? :rofl:

LOL - One good thing about that format is as a moderator you could easily identify a thread gone awry. Actually, I hope nobody thought I was arguing, I thought it was just a good spirited debate. I think sancho and I know each other well enough to recognize that at least.


I totally get that. On paper, how can you pick 2004? And, of course, 2008 gave us our greatest game and only national title. The people who saw the 2004 team, though, know how good it was. All we can do is be witnesses to what we saw.


That was a rare time as a Ute fans where I went into each game believing that we were going to win, and even in the rare bump in the road I thought we’d do it. Urban had that power to inspire confidence.

Truthfully I feel that way with this year’s team too, and almost expected Utah to turn things around against USC. But even against Washington when things looked grim in the first quarter I felt like they would get it together and come out on top (easy to say after I guess).

I agree with that, in 2004 I pretty much knew we would win every game, there was never a doubt in my mind going into any of those games, and the margin of victory reflected that fact. Even during the first half of UW game, I just kept saying to the wife (who was panicky) that all we needed to do was stay in the game and the second half we would pull away.

The difference this year is that it’s our defense and running games that are so dominant, so rather than RUTSing the first half and coasting the second, we are beating them down in the first half to stomp on them in the second. Nevertheless, to someone who knows the game, you can see the direction the game is going. And again, but for a myriad of blown redzone opportunities, USC would have been the same story. They were thrilled that game ended when it did, because we simply ran out of time to erase the missteps that lead us there.

And that is the one thing that worries me with this team vs 2004 is that if we have a couple of miscues, we aren’t quite electric enough offensively to be assured the win. 2004 was simply a race up the scoreboard that our opponents couldn’t hope to keep up with.


Totally agree but only cause Alex Smith got screwed over by happenstance. If he had been behind Farve for 3 years he would still be playing at green bay an in my opinion have had a better career than Rodgers


The 2019 team is deeper, but if you take the 2004 team as they played in the bowl game. And the 2008 team that won the sugar bowl I don’t know that the 2004 team doesn’t win between those two. I think both of those two had a better Oline and better receivers than the 2019 version.

All three QBs were very good, but with different styles. Huntley this year is almost an Alex Smith clone given how well he’s hitting receivers.

The defensive backfield is probably better than those two, but not by much. I actually think the position group on this team that is clearly better than the other two is at linebacker.