Saturday night Utah fans rushed the field in disbelief as the Utes upset #5 in the nation, and tittle contender, the Stanford Cardinal. In the aftermath of the shocking victory, we reflect on what this means to the Utah football program moving forward.
This game is being considered one of the biggest in Utah history. The last game to rival its significance was in 2009 as the Utes capped off a perfect 13-0 season upsetting Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. Controversy surrounded the build up to that game, as people question weather Utah deserved a place in the Sugar Bowl after beating up on a non-BCS schedule in the Mountain West Conference. The Utes silenced the critics with a shocking 31-17 win over Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide. The implications of that game contributed to Utah being included in the Pac-12 conference 2 years later. Since joining the pac-12, however, the Utes have struggled to prove their belonging. Until NOW!
Utah has struggled since joining the pac-12 going just 7-13 in conference play. The program was in desperate need of a signature win, and they finally got one on Saturday night. More impressive than the win itself is the in which they won. They didn’t do it with fluky trick plays to miraculously worked, but with long sustained drives dominating the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. They out toughed one of the most physical team in the nation in a definitive statement of Utah’s arrival on the big stage.
This great victory though, is in danger of becoming a forgotten memory if they cannot sustain this momentum and finish the season strong. This victory proves the teams talent, but with a tough road schedule ahead, a losing skid could ensue if the Utes have a let down.
This week the Utes leave the state for the first time, traveling down to Tucson to face the 3-2 Arizona Wildcats. The Wildcats are in desperate need of a win after dropping two strait to open pac-12 play. While this game is huge for the Wildcats, it’s even bigger for the Utes who are on the cusp of national significance. The significance of the Stanford upset will be all but forgotten if the Utes drop the ball in the second half of the season. Utah plays on the road four of the next six contests, including games at USC and Oregon. The road ahead for the Utes is not easy which makes this game against a struggling Arizona critical for legitimizing the Stanford win.
Utah faces the tough task of shaking off an emotional victory and getting back to work against Arizona. Despite the odds makers favoring Arizona by 4 points, the Utes are a better football team than Arizona. And they need to prove it on Saturday night to cement themselves as a team to reckon with moving forward.