ALTHOUGH THE lights dimmed on Utah last Saturday, the school's BCS bowl prospects brightened considerably the same day. A power failure at War Memorial Stadium in Laramie delayed the start of the Utes' game against Wyoming for more than 90 minutes and knocked the Mountain West showdown off the air. Viewers missed another near-flawless performance by Utah, as quarterback Alex Smith completed 17 of 27 passes for 244 yards and three touchdowns, and carried 14 times for another 90 yards in a 45--28 win.
The victory, coupled with Wisconsin's loss to Michigan State (page 136), lifted Utah (10-0) back to sixth in the BCS standings. That's the promised land for the Utes: A Top 6 finish by a non-BCS conference team like Utah guarantees the team a spot in a BCS bowl--for the Utes, it's likely the Fiesta, on Jan. 1--and a payout of $14 million to $17 million for its conference.
By strengthening their bowl position, the Utes weakened the BCS status of once-beaten Cal (4) and Texas (5). A guaranteed at-large berth for Utah would leave only one spot for those two teams. With a comfortable advantage over the Longhorns in the voting and the BCS computers, the fourth-ranked Golden Bears appear to be sitting pretty. Then again, this is the BCS.