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After a week when the Utah Utes were praised for beating Oregon by all kinds of subjective observers — prominently, in many publications, and in passing, in a Tribune obituary — the cold calculations of the ESPN Football Power Index have upgraded Utah's chances of going 12-0 in the regular season to exactly 1 percent.

Sure feels more like 99 percent, right?

The Utes' 62-20 win at Oregon kept resonating this past weekend, when the team was idle. No victory in the first half of any season in school history has done more for this program, that's for sure. The win over Alabama in the 2009 Sugar Bowl gave the Utes credibility, but it also ended their season, with no playoff opportunity.

The family of Salt Lake City's Dick Johnson is thankful the Utes "gave him an incredible win over Oregon before his passing," according to his obit, and there may be much more to come for the remaining Utah faithful. The Utes are ranked No. 5 in the AP Top 25, two weeks after standing 18th. ESPN's "GameDay" crew is coming to town for Saturday's meeting with California, creating the biggest buildup to any October game ever played at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

Their ascent offers the Utes potential awards never available to them, thanks to the College Football Playoff. Or imagine the Rose Bowl becoming a consolation prize, if the Utes fail to make the CFP semifinals. That's good stuff, for a program that won two Pac-12 games two years ago.

Even if the evidence is only from the school's Mountain West era, recent history offers some guide about how this season will play out for the Utes, after their sixth 4-0 start in 62 years. The conclusion: They won't crumble. If they do, it won't be because they got ahead of themselves or overlooked an inferior opponent.

Ute coach Kyle Whittingham has enough experience with phenomenal seasons to have learned how to keep his players grounded. "This team has a maturity about it that reminds me of the '08 team and the '04 team," Whittingham said Monday.

The '04 Utes of Alex Smith and Eric Weddle ransacked the Mountain West, but they did wobble early in their conference opener. Utah trailed Air Force 14-0. "There was only one person panicking … the head coach," Urban Meyer said in an interview for a 10-year anniversary story. Smith, safety Morgan Scalley and Whittingham, then the defensive coordinator, assured Meyer, "We got this."

The Utes rolled to a 49-35 victory and were never really threatened the rest of the season. The Utes finished 12-0, beating Pittsburgh 35-7 in the Fiesta Bowl.

In '08, the Utes survived some tough tests. They drove 80 yards for a touchdown after being tied with Air Force, then produced 11 points in the last three minutes of a 31-28 win over Oregon State, after previously failing to score in the second half. Against powerful TCU, the Utes had gained 210 total yards and trailed 10-6, before Brian Johnson led an 80-yard touchdown drive on the way to the Sugar Bowl.

Utah's most recent example of a great start is sobering. The last "GameDay" appearance came in November 2010, when the Utes were 8-0 and TCU steamrolled them, 47-7. In a downturn that partly resulted from quarterback Jordan Wynn's condition (he eventually had shoulder surgery), the Utes also fell 28-3 at Notre Dame the next week and then lost 26-3 to Boise State in the Las Vegas Bowl to finish 10-3. So the biggest lessons of 2010 are to prevent one loss from turning into another, after the unbeaten opportunity is gone — and to keep quarterback Travis Wilson healthy.

Probability is an interesting thing. ESPN's Football Power Index projects the Utes as solid favorites in every remaining game except Oct. 24 at USC, where they're given a 17.9 percent chance of winning. Yet the calculations say they'll lose another game, with a projection of 9.6 wins. Ohio State, meanwhile, is targeted for 11.4 wins, with a 22.6-percent chance of staying unbeaten.

The Utes' 1-in-100 chance of going 12-0 is attributable to the FPI's No. 19 ranking. They're obviously better than that, as they showed at Oregon, although hardly anyone would have made such a case after their games against Michigan, Utah State and Fresno State.

Regardless, the timing of the Utes' rise in 2015 means they can keep playing until they lose — not, as in '04 or '08, when somebody tells them to stop.

Twitter: @tribkurt —

Following through

Utah's season results after 4-0 starts:

Year W/L* Rec.

1902 T 5-2-1

1905 L 6-2

1912 L 5-1-1

1922 W 7-1

1923 L 4-3

1926 W 7-0

1928 T 5-0-2

1929 W 7-0

1930 W 7-0

1934 L 5-3

1936 L 6-3

1947 W 8-1-1

1953 W 8-2

1985 W 8-4

1994 W 10-2

2004 W 12-0

2008 W 13-0

2010 W 10-3

*Game 5 result