Utah hurts itself, TCU with implosion

Utah is leaving TCU a nice parting gift on its way out of the Mountain West Conference.

Sure, the Utes were big enough to let the Horned Frogs walk all over them and give them the opportunity to win the league title. Great gift.

Not so great gift -- imploding at Notre Dame, with a huge game at San Diego State up next. These back-to-back performances reflect poorly on Utah, and they reflect poorly on TCU. That is a large reason why the Horned Frogs have slipped in the human polls and saw their margin over Boise State in the BCS standings cut in half.

TCU remains ahead at No. 3 in the BCS, but many believe it is only a matter of time before Boise State passes the Horned Frogs -- should both teams remain unbeaten and the Broncos win their remaining games in impressive fashion.

So Utah, in essence, is hurting the best shot the Mountain West has had at getting a non-AQ team into the BCS national championship game.

Of course, it is not Utah’s responsibility to worry about collateral damage from its collapse or the way it is viewed around the country. But there is no way Utah is happy with what has happened.

Just a month ago, coach Kyle Whittingham praised his team, saying it had the most togetherness and chemistry in his 16 years associated with the program. That includes his undefeated team in 2008.

But togetherness has meant nothing on the field in the last two games. Utah has scored a combined 10 points. The last time it was held to single digits in back-to-back-games? Back in 1990, in a 31-7 loss to Fresno State, followed by a 19-7 loss to Hawaii.

Now Utah is in danger of losing three in a row for the first time since Whittingham became coach in 2005. All of a sudden, the season finale against rival BYU is no sure thing, either, not with the way the Cougars are playing. Whittingham has seen his team lose back-to-back games now three times in his six seasons as head coach.

After the 28-3 loss to Notre Dame, Whittingham said he had considered benching Jordan Wynn, who was 24-of-39 for 194 yards with an interception. Wynn played poorly against TCU as well, going 16-of-35 for 148 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions.

After the TCU loss, I asked Whittingham for an evaluation of how Wynn played. He said, “About the same way every other quarterback has done against TCU this year.” But a bad performance against a so-so Notre Dame team has him re-evaluating the position.

“That’s some place that we have to perform,” Whittingham said, according to The Deseret News. “I don’t care what level of football you’re at, that is a key position and you’ve got to have performance and production. And that’s a couple of weeks in a row now we haven’t been able to get as much as we needed to.”

The woes are not all on Wynn. The offensive line, one of the strengths of the team, was outplayed in both losses. That has hurt to get a running game established, too. Eddie Wide and Matt Asiata have a combined 128 yards rushing in the two losses.

It is easy to say now that Utah was vastly overrated because of the competition it played leading up to the TCU game. Everybody figured the back end of the schedule would pose more problems than the front end. But that still is no excuse for the way the Utes played in South Bend against a team that game into the game off losses to Navy and Tulsa.

Whittingham knows his team is reeling. He did not seem worried last week about how his team would respond following the 47-7 loss to TCU. But he clearly should have been, because his team has taken a major hit -- a hit threatening to take TCU down with them.