Ranking Ute teams

Heard some talk on the radio the other day about where this year’s team ranks among Utah’s best of all time. It’s an interesting discussion. Even with three losses, this has to be one of the highest-ranking Ute teams in program history. If Utah beats Ohio St., where would that put this year’s team? As of right now, here are my thoughts on ranking the best Ute teams:

1- 2008 (13-0). Gets the nod for having beat tougher competition. Alabama, BYU, and TCU were all ranked, and I think Oregon St. was close (the Beavers had just beaten No. 1 USC). Also, this squad had a lot of future NFL players on it.
2- 2004 (12-0). Urban Meyer’s team was more dominant than the 2004 squad, not winning by fewer than 14 points in any game. But the 2004 Utes only faced one ranked team (Pitt).
3- 2021 (10-3 so far). Winning the PAC-12 and going to the Rose Bowl are first-time accomplishments that deserve a lot of praise.
4- 2019 (11-3). The final two games were clunkers, but this was still a great team that was in position to reach the playoff.
5- 2015 (10-3). Maybe this is too high. At its best, this was a great team. Utah crushed Oregon in Eugene 62-20, beat Harbaugh’s Michigan team in his debut, and had nice wins over Arizona St. and Washington. But the blowout at USC and the head-scratchers at Arizona and against UCLA marred what could have been a special year.
6- 1994 (10-2). This was easily McBride’s best team. Utah had several players that would end up in the NFL as well as a first-year defensive line coach named Kyle Whittingham. At 8-0, Utah somehow lost at New Mexico and then the following week at Air Force, two losses I still can’t understand. But this was the best season of Utah football in my lifetime up until Urban Meyer arrived.
7- 2003 (10-2). Speaking of Urban Meyer, his first team wasn’t as dominant as his second, but Utah was good in the clutch. We got a good look at what Alex Smith, Paris Warren, and Steve Savoy would do the following year.
8- 2010 (10-3). For a while, this looked like perhaps a repeat of 2004 and 2008. Utah started off 8-0, winning most of its games in blowout fashion. Then the TCU debacle happened, which I think affected the team for the rest of the year.
9- 1964 (9-2). I’m stepping way back here, but I think this team need to be mentioned. This was Utah’s last bowl-winning team and the team with the most wins in a season until 1994.
10- 2016 (9-4). Utah’s four losses that year came by a total of 19 points. Utah beat USC and won at ASU by 23.
Others to consider: 2018 (9-5), 2014 (9-4), 2011 (8-5), 2009 (10-3), 2007 (9-4), 1999 (9-3), 1996 (8-4), 1985 (8-4), 1981 (8-2-1).

I’d agree with the rankings, except I’d probably flip 5 and 6.

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You have 1994 too low on your list. They That team is right now #3 on the list of all time great Utah football teams. They had victories over #11 Oregon (Pac-10 Champion), #16 Colorado State, #18 BYU, and #20 Arizona. Utah was ranked #10 (all rankings from final AP).

A win over Ohio State would overtake the 1994 team. It’s harder to say where to put this year’s team if they lose.

As noted, 1994 was Kyle’s 1st year. 9/10 listed above have Kyle as part of the program and identity of the team. Culture is perhaps the key element to any program. It can change rapidly with new coaching. Makes me think that to keep the culture and approach and reputation of Utah near what it is we have to have a Utah man lead and not some coach from the outside.

McBride set a tone of family and hard work while Kyle created a defensive meanness. Urban came and went so quick but energized the program and showed what a good offense, stellar defense, and stand-out ST could do. Kyle built on that into his version of Whitball which has evolved when we had the right players. All have had to develop players. It’s nice to develop a few 4* and many more 3* players now :wink: .

If Utah wins or loses the Rose bowl this year, it will still be hard - do we judge the whole year and record or what the team has become? It still seems like there was a preseason hangover from 2020 covid season and then conference play was a different season. With the comraderie and struggle against such strong off-the-field adversity with TJ/AL, maybe it’s not the best, but it sure is maybe my favorite team of all time. I don’t think I’ve know so many names and numbers on any other team.

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You left the #1 Utah team off… the 2022 Utes.

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1994 defense was led by Luther Ellis. One of the greatest individuals to ever play for us.

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