Utah's hopes for Top 25 fall just short
SALT LAKE CITY -- Utah football players had hoped an upset over a ranked team from a major conference could get the Utes a national ranking for the first time in seven years.
They're still hoping. The Utes (4-1) went from receiving no points in last week's Associated Press media poll to 67 after beating then-No. 19 Oregon 17-13 Friday night. Although Utah is relegated to the "others receiving votes" status, it is progress.
"We talked about it a little bit. We said we're either going to be there or we'll be knocking at the door," linebacker Zach Tune said. "That's not our main concern -- to get in the Top 25. Our main concern is to win the conference."
A national ranking would be nice, too. The Utes, who host San Diego State (3-3) on Saturday, haven't been in the Top 25 since 1996, when Utah opened the season 7-1 and were ranked as high as No. 20. They'll be back in it if they keep winning. Utah's 67 poll points trailed No. 25 Virginia (98), Bowling Green (77) and Texas Tech (76).
"In some ways it's good. We don't need to be thinking about whether we're ranked or not. We've got to get ready for San Diego State," said quarterback Alex Smith, who was named Monday as the Mountain West Conference co-offensive player of the week.
Making just his third start, Smith completed 25 of 38 passes for 340 yards and two touchdowns after coach Urban Meyer opened up Utah's spread offense. Utah's game plan had been relatively conservative in wins over California and Colorado State.
"I'm kind of surprised actually. I thought I could have played a lot better," Smith said. "But it's nice. I think we finally opened up the passing game a little bit, so it's nice to get rewarded for that."
Smith, who shared the conference honor with San Diego State's Jeff Webb, has been starting for Brett Elliott, who is still recovering from a broken wrist. Elliott is practicing again and should be available Saturday, but Smith is listed at No. 1 on the depth chart.
And after completing 65 of 93 passes so far without an interception, it could be difficult for Elliott to reclaim his starting job. Meyer said the position will be open every week during practice. Whoever plays better during the week will start the game.
Smith wasn't the only Ute to be honored Monday. Defensive end Josh Savage was named the MWC defensive co-player of the week after getting seven tackles -- three for a loss with one sack -- and knocking down three passes against Oregon.
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