Monson: Is BYU better than Utah? Are you sure?
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2009, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

BYU is good, Utah not as good.

You think? Are you sure?

That's what Saturday's results might have indicated, and what the college game always encourages, always requires.

Reaching for conclusions, when accurate conclusions are yet in short supply.

Some consider that just part of the charm of college football. I call it evaluation in a hurry.

We all do it. Often erroneously.

Judging the early evolution of a team is a dicey deal, like attempting to determine who's going to win the Miss Universe crown after only the evening gown competition, or who's going to win the Indy 500 after five laps.

Nobody would do that because ... well, it's idiotic.

Everybody knows beauty is a complete crapshoot until after the swimsuits are painted on. How often does the initial leader at the Brickyard take the checkered flag?

At least at Indy, the starting order is set via recent time trials, as opposed to college football's extrapolating best guesses out of what happened the year before, or what school logo is on the helmet.

From there, in the college game, we all look at every available piece of evidence dropped our way, like chicks in the nest scrapping for bits of worm.

And, then, we turn to the polls, because the polls are sanctioned as the only way to determine a champion or a championship contender.

Those polls are polluted by preseason placements, but, typically, the No. 1-ranked team at the start of the season is not No. 1 at the end. In the nearly 60-year history of the AP poll, the initial top team has finished at the top only 10 times.

Florida might be an exception this season, but ... maybe not.

The guessing trickles down from there, week by week, with everyone establishing the relationship between certain teams based on what those teams do against completely different teams.

Some weeks, it's like guessing who was better ... the 1972 Lakers or the 1996 Bulls.

Or who was hotter ... Miss Brazil 1998 or Miss Sweden 2007.

There's no telling.

The Cougars go up against Tulane, a lousy bunch, and crush it by 51 points, while the Utes thrash their way through San Jose's Spartans, a humbly moderate WAC outfit, winning by 14.

Exactly what that means is ... not a lot.

Is BYU really better than Utah? Will it be at season's end? You don't know because nobody knows.

Not yet.

That makes us all guessers and posers, which is what being a pollster, what being a college fan descends into.

Fans of pro football, of every other pro and college sport, do similar guessing, but they also know that their guesses are meaningless because the whole thing will be legitimately settled on the playing surface.

College football hands the decisive power over to opinion.

Sometimes, that opinion makes no sense. Houston beats Oklahoma State by 10 points on the Cowboys' home field Saturday, and when the polls come out, OK State is ranked five spots ahead of Houston in one and in the other OSU is 17th and the Cougars aren't ranked.

BYU edges Oklahoma and then thumps Tulane, and flies to No. 7 in the AP and No. 9 in the coaches'. Utah handles Utah State and next plays imperfectly against San Jose, but still wins, hovering at No. 18 and No. 16.

All that said, would you bet your house that BYU is better than Utah? Or that Utah is better than BYU?

Only if you're a fool.

The swimsuits are still nowhere in sight.

Yeah, the Utes looked unfocused against San Jose, while the Cougars destroyed Tulane.

Just like BYU rolled UCLA, 59-zip, one week last season and Utah barely got by Air Force the next. We know how all that turned out.

The 2009 Utes have athletes, although the extent of Matt Asiata's shoulder injury could disrupt their future success. If those athletes smooth their rough edges, the Utes will be dangerous. First, they must get past Oregon on the road Saturday.

BYU has great promise, too. Whether it will be realized has huge tests in Florida State, TCU, and Utah.

A side note: What if the Utes finish at 9-3 and the Cougars at 11-1, but Utah beats BYU? Who's better then?

Point is, all the early declarative statements hurled around by you and me and people who vote in polls are reaches in the dark. They're guesses, all of them premature, all of them rushed.

But that's the sorry nature of college football.

Some think it's fun. Some think it's dumb.

Actually, it's both.

GORDON MONSON hosts the "Monson and Graham Show" weekdays from 2-6 p.m. on 1280 AM The Zone. He can be reached at gmonson@sltrib.com .