Jim BUrton Extra Point Graphic


Stop right there.

Bite your tongue.

Don’t say it.

Save yourself the embarrassment.

It’s a big deal, absolutely. Regardless of whether the Michigan Wolverines are up or down or somewhere in between, beating them in The Big House, their famed cathedral of a home field, is a major accomplishment. And the fact Utah did it in such convincing fashion Saturday makes it even more impressive.

So, please, if you’re tempted to discount it because Michigan isn’t quite what it has been in the past, save it.

Better yet, shut it.

By earning a 26-10 win, which was by all accounts more dominating than the final score indicates, the Utes ran their record to 3-0 on the season, giving them a nice little springboard into their Pac-12 schedule, which starts Saturday at home at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

The Wolverines, who fell to 2-2 on the season, 2-1 at home, had won 20 consecutive September home games and had never lost a non-conference home game under coach Brady Hoke.

Before Saturday, Michigan had earned two largely unimpressive home wins this season and the temptation, therefore, would be to dock the Utes some degree-of-difficulty points. Although they’d be completely wrong, a poor misguided soul might argue the win doesn’t mean all that much because the Wolverines aren’t really that good.

I’ll grant you Saturday’s team won’t win a Big Ten championship, much less a national title. On the other hand, although the Utes face some storied programs inside their own conference, playing a game at The Big House is still a Big Deal.

Better than 103,000 people were on hand at the start of the game, only a relative few of them wearing crimson. That fact alone makes the place intimidating; now add to it Michigan’s iconic helmets and uniforms, the past Heisman Trophy winners and all the other history.

On the heels of an underwhelming 5-7 record last season there were plenty of “experts” in the media who saw the Utes winning their first two games this season (at home vs. Idaho State and Fresno State) but the Michigan game was a slightly different story.

The narrative seemed to be, winning those first two would be a cakewalk and if Utah was 2-1 going into Pac-12 play, well, that wouldn’t be so bad.

To be fair, it’s not like the Utes were given no chance to win in Ann Arbor. There certainly was a belief they could win there but few, if any, envisioned such domination.

But it was dominant, in all areas. And by the time that fourth-quarter weather delay came rolling in, the Wolverines and their fans had had enough.

By the way, how amazing was it to see the cavernous Big House reduced to a crimson-and-white pep rally once the game resumed? How satisfying for the Utes must it have been knowing they sent all those people home cold, wet and grumbling?

Using a current media buzzword, the “optics” of the situation will stay with the Utes and their fans the rest of the season and beyond. The question now is, will the confidence coming from Saturday’s win last as long?

Beating the Wolverines on their home field is a monumental thing and the Utes needn’t apologize for it. But now, with conference play starting next weekend, it’s critical they take from Ann Arbor more than just smiling faces and soggy shoes.

Today, there is happiness; and there should be. But two months from now, if beating Michigan in the Big House was the only highlight of the season, somewhere along the way the season took an awkward turn.

Jim Burton is the Standard-Examiner’s sports columnist. He can be reached at 801-625-4265 or at jburton@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter @StandardExJimbo

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