Utah Football is on the map. Officially. Indelibly. We’ve been talking about it for several years now, and watching it ramp up over the last several weeks, but Saturday saw another threshold crossed. College Gameday swung in to town and forced fans around the country to look West, even if the late kickoff forced some East Coast viewers to tap out before the game was over. Cal’s blond-haired uberkind QB and a 23rd ranked Cal team brought one of the country’s best offenses in to face a formidable Utah defense that hasn’t been as dominant in stifling yardage this year, but has made the plays that count. 4-0 vs. 5-0 on brand new turf. The stage was certainly set. THIS game was the exact type of showcase opportunity the Utes want and need to win recruiting battles and establish themselves as perennial conference contenders (still lots of work to be done on that front). All the Utes had to do was go out and WIN. Of course they did just that. It wasn’t a gorgeous blowout performance like the one against Oregon, but it was a stellar defensive effort, and more importantly, it was enough to get the necessary W and advance to 5-0.
Perhaps more importantly though, they are watching. Who is “they”? The Royal “THEY”, that’s who. The folks that make rankings and publish polls and create buzz around a program. By itself, buzz and publicity aren’t worth much. But combined with a style of play that validates the attention, a team with great leadership and family atmosphere, world class facilities, and a no-nonsense coaching staff, the buzz becomes food for thought in the hearts and minds of high quality players looking for a college to commit to.
I wish I knew WHY it matters that John Stockton, the entire Utah Jazz Roster, the Dirty Bird and a slew of other local and national legends were in attendance, but all I know for sure is that it DOES. Domo Hatfield (and by extension, the Utes) Got a shout out from Snoop Dog on Instagram and Twitter after the game. That probably shouldn’t be the reason an elite recruit pays attention to Utah football, but if it is, are Ute fans and coaches going to turn their nose up at it? NO!
The spotlight is shining ever-brighter on Kyle Whittingham’s squad. The pressure incrementally becomes more intense. Can the Utes handle it? Even with Sparky, the old ASU nemesis, coming in to Rice-Eccles this week, I am inclined to say yes. And more importantly, Snoop Dog probably agrees with me.