College football: Utes eager to face Alabama

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 2, 2009

By Brett Martel
Associated PressNEW ORLEANS ó Unwittingly, Nick Saban added some spice to the 75th Sugar Bowl.
Saban’s intention ó after his club fell out of the national title chase with a loss to Florida in the SEC championship game ó was to remind his players of their exceptional 2008 campaign. He noted the Crimson Tide was the only team to have an undefeated regular season in a “real BCS conference.”
Then No. 4 Alabama (12-1) was paired with seventh-ranked and unbeaten Utah (12-0) of the Mountain West Conference, which doesn’t have an automatic bid to the Bowl Championship Series.
So not all 12-0s are created equal, right?
Suffice it to say the Utes intend to prove that idea wrong, and while Utah coach Kyle Whittingham would rather not make a big deal out of it, he couldn’t deny his players were aware of what Saban said.
“They’re not oblivious to things,” Whittingham said Thursday. “They hear things; they read things.
“They’re very motivated to go out and play well. If my assumption is correct, they’ll come with that same mind-set (Friday) night and play well. Whether that’s going to be good enough to win, we’ll find out.”
Ever since this intriguing Sugar Bowl pairing was announced, Saban and his players have been going out of their way to applaud Utah’s accomplishments. Alabama linebacker Corey Reamer even gave a nod to Boise State’s Fiesta Bowl victory over Oklahoma.
“Boise State proved non-BCS schools cannot be overlooked a few years ago,” Reamer said. “Utah is 12-0, and that’s not easy in college football today.”