Ten rules* for the Utes making any kind of legitimate run now at the Rose Bowl …
1. Never think about the Granddaddy as anything other than a vague, far-off concept, a dreamy sort of celestial, end-of-the-line, reap-what-you-sowed reward for the greasy, sump-pump work in the weeks ahead. Use it as motivation, not as presumption. Consider it this way, as a place only for the worthy: Is this heaven? No, it's Pasadena.
2. Don't get fatheaded. Remember 2007, when the last generation of Utes put up one of the all-time great performances at home against an 11th-ranked UCLA team, and followed it with … that mess in Vegas, a 27-0 red-cheeker to the Rebels. So, yeah, you throttled your rival on its home field the other night. You got a good chuckle. OK, you're still busting giggles all over the film room. You sent 64,000 people home disappointed. You held BYU's running attack, if that's what it could be considered, to 11 total yards. You scored 47 unanswered points. BFD. None of that matters anymore. Nothing to see here. Move on.
3. But before you do, realize you're nowhere near as good as you might think you are. The Cougars handled the ball on Saturday night as though they were wearing oven mitts, as though it was a spheroid-shaped beaker full of infectious disease, as though the object of the game was to bobble the ball anytime they were within shouting distance of your goal line or of their own. Future foes will not be so gracious, so accommodating, so clumsy.
4. Take advantage of a bye week. Use it as a mini-training camp, a review of everything Kyle Whittingham, Norm Chow and Kalani Sitake beat into your heads during the heat of preseason practices, all for the run-up to the heart of the Pac-12 season … such as it is.
5. Think of the Pac-12 South as the AFC East. Ignore the fact that, other than USC, which is ineligible, teams that were supposed to be decent have stepped all over themselves, and teams that weren't supposed to be decent are worse than expected. Arizona State lost at Illinois. Arizona has lost two of three, including a second-half crushing against Stanford. UCLA? They suck. Colorado? Is this the best the Pac-12 could do, really? See? Don't think that way. Don't ask questions like that. Prepare for these softies as though they were the New England Patriots.
6. Convince yourselves down to your core that the overall conference schedule really is the toughest ascent this side of K2 and Kanchenjunga Main, even though, some weeks, it will be more like rolling to the grocery store in your SUV. The sorry state of the Pac-12: Oregon State couldn't beat Sacramento State and Washington State lost to San Diego State. Washington got smacked by Nebraska. Cal is 3-0, thanks to victories over Fresno State, an overtime win over the Buffs and a 63-12 beatdown of … I'm not making this up … the Blue Hose of Presbyterian College.
7. If you're fortunate enough to play either of them in the league title game, don't be intimidated by Stanford or Oregon. Pay no attention to the 800-pound gorilla behind the curtain. Just thank your lucky stars they're not on the regular-season schedule this year or next.
8. Continue to work on that offense, because, some time or another, you'll need it. Jordan Wynn's arm and confidence looked improved against BYU. But, then, Sammy Baugh would have looked good against the Cougars and he's dead. BYU made a critical strategic error, not pressuring the quarterback enough, allowing Wynn four, five, six seconds to pick out open receivers, sometimes for touchdowns. Pac-12 defenses won't make that same stupid mistake.
9. Cultivate poise on the road. You get Washington, Arizona State, Oregon State, UCLA and Colorado at home, and play Cal, Arizona and Washington State at their places, with a trip to Pitt mixed in. Sometimes, it gets goofy out there, even when the opponent isn't a consistent winner. Small mishaps become large wrecks, a blown tire puts you into the wall. It takes more focus, more discipline, more precision, more of everything.
10. Make defensive coordinator Sitake a sort of golden child of wisdom, a modest mystic to be honored, a humble example to be listened to and followed at every turn. On Monday night, he uttered the following bits of truth: "You can't be satisfied with anything, grasshoppers. You have to get better. That's the whole point of this - to get better, stay humble, and work hard. Yes, my children, never feel like you've arrived. It's OK to feel good. You play the game to be happy that you won. But you have to be smart and know when to put it away … [The BYU] game is over with. Let's move on, oh acorns of the great oak, and get to the next opponent and get better this week."**
* This is not an endorsement of the Utes, merely guidelines for them to live by if they want to succeed.
** The grasshoppers and yes-my-children and oh-acorns-of-the-great-oak references were added for effect.
GORDON MONSON hosts "The Gordon Monson Show" weekdays from 2-6 p.m. on 97.5 FM/1280 AM The Zone. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @GordonMonson.