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Best Season Ever: The Utah Utes Bust The BCS

Urban Meyer's first BCS road stop.
Utah fan holding up a giant U.

SALT LAKE CITY, UT - OCTOBER 4: Utah fans cheer during a game between the USC Trojans and the Utah Ute's during the first half of a college football game on October 4, 2012 at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)

Note:This post is part of a series dedicated to each PAC-12 team’s best season since 1980. Check out Jacy’s posts for CalColoradoArizonaArizona State, Washington, Washington State and Oregon State.

In their first year in the PAC-12 conference, the Utah Utes finished fifth this past 2011 season. Though still adjusting to its new division, Utah football can seek influence from its best season in 2004.

The 2004 Utah Utes, under second year head coach Urban Meyer, represented the first undefeated University of Utah football team since 1930. The team from Salt Lake City dominated the Mountain West Conference, winning every game by at least two touchdowns. They triumphed in their rivalry games by at least 20 points: beating Utah State in the Battle of the Brothers, crushing Colorado State in the Rumble in the Rockies, and overcoming BYU in the Holy War.

As a result of their domination, the Utah Utes were invited to play in the Fiesta Bowl, making them the original “BCS Buster”. This meant that the match-up between Utah and Pittsburgh was the first Bowl Championship Series (BCS) game to feature a team from a non-BCS conference. Utah, which had been ranked in the Top 10 for eight consecutive weeks, traveled to Sun Devil Stadium to face the Big East rep.

The Utes came out on fire and scored 28 quick points, demoralizing Pitt. Directing a spread offense and completing 29 of 37 passes, quarterback Alex Smith guided the Utes to an impressive 35-7 win over the Panthers. Utah receiver Paris Warren caught a Fiesta Bowl record 15 passes and two touchdowns. The BCS victory was the team’s twelfth consecutive win, making it the most wins in a single season in Utah’s history.

Alex Smith finished the season as MWC Offensive Player of the Year, TSN Player of the Year, Fiesta Bowl MVP, and finalist in the Heisman voting. In John Coon’s “Utah Ute’s All Time Top 25 Players”, Alex Smith’s 2004 season earned him the title as best Utah football player of all time. That’s probably why he was the No. 1 draft pick for the NFL the following season.

Head Coach Urban Meyer, voted National Coach of the Year in 2004, led his Utes to an overall No. 4 national ranking. Utah managed to dominate the Mountain West Conference in 2004, but it's a different story in the PAC-12. As the Utes gear up for their second season in their new conference, perhaps a look back to their BCS busting predecessors can guide them to another undefeated season.