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Utah football coach Kyle Whittingham isn't bitter about not having the chance to play for a national title. However, he rejects the notion that, without the Bowl Championship Series format, his Utes would not have been able to show off their wares in a major bowl game, as they did against Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.
Atlantic Coast Conference commissioner and BCS coordinator John Swofford recently told The Associated Press that, "The BCS provided a platform for Utah to show the nation what a terrific football team they had this year. Preceding the BCS, I don't know if that platform would have been there."
Undefeated Utah (13-0), which wound up ranked fourth and second in the USA Today Coaches Poll and the AP writers poll, respectively, was listed sixth and seventh in those same polls prior to defeating Alabama 31-17.
"Even if there were no BCS structure in place, how could you not include us in some major bowl?" Whittingham said. "We would have been invited regardless of what system was in place.
"We feel like we can play with anyone in the country."
Naturally, Whittingham's sentiments are shared by his players. Whittingham was the only coach among the 61 voting in the USA Today poll not to give BCS champion Florida a No. 1 vote.
"I'd like to play all of them," said Utah junior offensive tackle Zane Beadles when asked a possible national championship opponent. "We know we had a great year. We've done all we can do."
USC coach Pete Carroll summed up the feelings of many college football fans when he said Thursday, "I don't think you know who the best team is. You just know which team got the most votes."
Whatever disappointment there is for Beadles and Whittingham not to have a chance to play for a national championship is more than tempered by the school's football success as a whole.
"It was a huge positive," Whittingham said.
Also, the Mountain West Conference, which was 6-1 against the Pac-10, may have opened the eyes of the BCS powers. TCU finished seventh in the coaches' poll, while Brigham Young was No. 21.
In a bit of good news for the MWC and other non-BCS leagues, Swofford said it is possible that in 2012, when the BCS evaluates the conferences which receive an automatic bid, another conference could be added to the six that enjoy automatic invitations to major bowls and major money.
The six conferences with an automatic bid to the BCS are the Southeastern Conferences, the Big Ten, the Big 12, the Big East, the Pac-10 and the Atlantic Coast Conference.
"I'd have to think we'd be at the top of that list," Whittingham said. "We made so many statements on the field.
"Nobody puts more pressure on coaches to win than themselves. The Mountain West Conference certainly put itself on the map this year."
Whittingham created a stir when he cast his vote for Utah and not Florida. He voted Utah fifth at the end of the regular season, and explained his jumping Texas and USC by pointing to the Utes' manhandling of the Crimson Tide. Texas coach Mack Brown, who also said he would vote for the Longhorns, ultimately voted for Florida.
Whittingham will not lose BCS voting privileges for his renegade vote, according to Grant Teaff, executive director of the American Football Coaches Association.
"From a personal and professional point of view, Kyle Whittingham is one of the outstanding young coaches and a fine man," Teaff said. "As a person who spent 37 years coaching, I understand his passion for his team.
"The point is, there is no first-place vote in the final poll. The [trophy] goes to the winning team."