Tom Smart, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Almost every superhero movie has the same storyline. The good guy goes about curbing the forces of evil, but eventually finds his greatest weakness exposed.
Suddenly he appears to be just a regular guy in a silly costume.
It certainly didn't take long for that to happen around here. Utah and BYU are looking like Iron Man without his helmet.
This recently occurred to me as I was reading a story that referred to Utah as the original BCS-buster "other than Boise State." How soon they forget. Back then Utah wasn't the "other" anything. It obliterated Pitt in the Fiesta Bowl two years before Boise's attention-grabbing win over Oklahoma. Then the Utes embarrassed Alabama in the 2008 Sugar Bowl, a year before Boise edged TCU in another Fiesta Bowl.
So the Utes were ahead of BSU twice, yet the Broncos are getting credit for starting the whole uprising.
Maybe that's a moot point, because both the Utes and Cougars have clearly lost their mystique. That can happen when teams upgrade their schedules. They can't say they weren't warned. People were saying for years that a scheduling upgrade would make things difficult. One writer told me beforehand that he had covered the Arizona schools since they left the WAC, and that things were going to get complicated for the Utes. He pointed out Arizona still hasn't played in the Rose Bowl.
But who knew the Pac-12 would unmask the masked man so quickly?
Everyone but me, I guess.
I had seen Utah beat UCLA, Arizona and Cal in recent years and even come within a touchdown of Oregon. Now it's doubtful the Utes will even be bowl eligible this year. BYU likely wouldn't be in a bowl game, either, if not for its kindergarten November schedule.
Both teams deserve to be home wrapping presents during the holiday season.
I bring this up not only because Utah is 2-5 and BYU 4-4, but because both stopped providing reasons to take them seriously just when people actually were taking them seriously. The Utes and Cougars are looking like the guy who interviews for a new and important job, but when the boss says, "Any questions?" he responds, "Yeah, where's the break room?"
I'm not just piling on. On second thought, yes I am. Heaven knows the Cougars and Utes had their share of advance praise this season. Utah was picked to finish second to USC in the Pac-12 South. BYU was getting top-25 votes by the second week of the year and had cracked the rankings by the third week. Some predicted the Cougars would be this year's BCS-buster.
It's not just a matter of talent, though they could use more of that too. BYU recruited the best prep quarterback in America and somehow Jake Heaps became so unhappy he left for Kansas. The Jayhawks are 1-6 this year.
He had to be pretty unhappy to go to that program.
Utah has 23 players in the NFL. It isn't supposed to beat USC and Oregon, but there's no reason it can't compete with Oregon State, Colorado, Cal, the Arizonas, the Washingtons (not counting George and Denzel) and even Stanford.
Overall they've failed to win games against good teams, mostly due to their own poor execution. Kyle Whittingham is 7-11 against ranked teams as a head coach but just 2-8 since 2009. That 2008 win over Alabama seems like a century ago.
Meanwhile, BYU has itself to blame for relying on teams like Idaho and New Mexico State to reach a bowl game. Bronco Mendenhall was the one who brought up national championship talk when the Cougars went independent, not the media or even the fans. Yet he is just 4-12 against ranked teams.
And the Cougars want a tougher schedule?
I say book a 10-year home-and-home with Akron.
It's safe to assume preseason prognosticators are going be skeptical next year, maybe to the point of saying BYU and Utah are not only undeserving, but boring and unwatchable.
Whoa. That would be harsh.
Even the fourth Superman movie wasn't that.
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