This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Signing a home-and-home series with Michigan is just the kind of thing the Utah Utes need to do to continue their evolution as a major player in the world of college football according to several analysts. Tony Barnhart, a college football analyst for CBS Sports, said the Utes need to have games against major non-conference teams in their schedules. "Where it helps isn't if a team goes undefeated, but if it is in the mix with a bunch of one-loss teams, then that game could become the tie-breaker," he said. "You have to have at least one good inter-sectional game. Essentially, deciding those spots (in the playoff format) is going to be like the basketball committee and you can't play three nobodies. People are going to be looking at the non-conference schedule, seeing who you played on the road and how you did." Even though the Utes don't have much experience as a member of a major conference, they do have a brand thanks to their undefeated seasons in 2004 and 2008, Barnhart said. "They've established themselves, but what they have to do now is keep re-emphasizing that brand and doing things like this, upgrading the schedule, is a major move." Mitch Light, an editor with Athlon Sports, continues to be impressed with the way the Utes have handled their transition to the Pac-12. "Utah has accomplished something that is difficult to do in the world of collegiate sports - make a significant climb up the food chain," he said. "The Utes have made the move from a solid program in a strong mid-major league to a solid program in one of the elite - and most lucrative - conferences in the nation. There isn't a huge sample size yet, but Utah proved last season that it can be relevant in the Pac-12, even in a season in which it suffered significant injuries. The program has a highly respected coach in Kyle Whittingham who has proven that he has a program that can compete on a national level." - Lya Wodraska