I think it's a legitimate question today: Is Utah the best college football team in the country?
They sure looked like it in dismantling Alabama last night. That first quarter was about as perfect of a quarter as I have ever seen played -- particularly if you factor in how well Bama had played in 1st quarters all season.
Here's where the whole 4-team playoff or Plus-One system breaks down: The natural bias against non-BCS-conference teams.
Do you think that Utah would have been included in a 4-team playoff? Or ranked in the Top 2 ("Plus-One") following the bowls? Nope. But are they one of the 4 best teams in the country? Without question. Are they one of the top 2 teams in the country? Based on last night: There is a case to be made.
I think they would give Florida fits and would give USC a game -- remember, against common opponents, the Utes were superior to the Trojans. I think Utah could score at will on either Texas or Oklahoma; Alabama's defense was vastly superior to any in the Big 12.
Utah won't win the national championship, although they will be the only team to finish the season unbeaten -- in the process beating the team that was No. 1 heading into the final week of the regular season (Bama) and beating the team that beat the team everyone suddenly seems to think is tje best in the country (USC). All while rolling through the MWC, an underrated league that dominated the Pac-10 this season.
So who's No. 1, if not the Florida-Oklahoma winner? Forget USC: If anyone has a claim, it's Utah.
Meanwhile, the Texas Tech-Ole Miss game was even better than the fairly high expectations. And, as a proxy for "Is the Big 12 for real?" vs. "Is the SEC overrated?" debate, the SEC won.
As I noted yesterday: It's going to be awfully hard for Big 12 partisans -- particularly Texas fans -- to knock Florida's loss to Ole Miss anymore... not when Ole Miss clocked the team that beat the Longhorns.
Peyton Manning is NFL MVP, again: I guess you could argue that he deserves it, but for novelty's sake, can't we invoke the "Michael Jordan Rule" and look for some diversity in the award to a player who truly breaks through this year? Like DeAngelo Williams? Or Michael Turner?
NFL Coaching Carousel: Here's an intriguing rumor -- do the Broncos want Oklahoma's Bob Stoops? That could be a small distraction this week for Oklahoma. Or do they want Steve Spagnuolo? Or Jason Garrett?
Meanwhile, the Browns talked to in-house candidates (DC Mel Tucker) and Josh McDaniels, while Jets fans can't possibly be happy to hear that Bill Callahan made the interview list, along with Brian Schottenheimer.
Here is the ideal distribution:
Browns: Josh McDaniels (with Scott Pioli)
Jets: Steve Spagnuolo
Broncos: Bob Stoops
(For the record, I don't think Stoops is leaving college football -- his gig at Oklahoma is too powerful and too high-paid, even factoring in NFL money. That said: Yet another BCS blow-out loss might make him wonder if things could be easier in the NFL.)
NBA: My favorite highlight was the can-you-top-this exchange in Oklahoma City -- Kevin Durant hit a 3 to put the Thunder up with just seconds to go, then Carmelo set up and hit a buzzer-beater to break OKC's spirit and win the game.
MLB Hot Stove: But not involving a player. Jeff Moorad is leaving his post running the D'backs to buy the Padres. I wonder if Jake Peavy will be off the table for good after that.
Meanwhile, it's the first day of Wild Card Weekend in the NFL: Colts-Chargers should be totally fascinating; Cards-Falcons perhaps less so, but whoever wins that game advances a hell of a great storyline into the Division Round. More on those games later.