KSL UNRIVALED

Has Noted Utah Hater Paul Finebaum Changed His Tune On The Utes?

Aug 31, 2022, 9:40 AM
Paul Finebaum of SEC Network...
TV/radio personality Paul Finebaum of the SEC Network speaks on air before the Goodyear Cotton Bowl at AT&T Stadium on December 31, 2015 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
(Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY – Utah football is getting a lot of praise heading into the 2022 college football season. There are many publications that are calling for the Utes to be a playoff team and chatter about quarterback Cam Rising being in the Heisman Trophy conversation.

The Utes return an abundance of returning production with 66% and 13 starters. Basically, everyone has the Utes doing well, they are projected to win the Pac-12 by the media and that includes SEC Network’s Paul Finebaum who has not always been a fan of the Utes.

Back in 2019 when Utah had a chance to make the College Football Playoff heading into the Pac-12 title game, he was not convinced despite the Utes being ranked No.  5 and playing the No. 13 ranked Ducks. A win at the time would not fully guarantee Utah a playoff spot as Oklahoma and Baylor were squaring off in the Big 12 title game and each were ranked No. 6 and 7, respectively.

The day before the Pac-12 title game, Finebaum went on ESPN’s Get Up and said the country didn’t want to see Utah be a sacrificial lamb in the playoff.

“Let’s be honest, the country does not want to see Utah in the College Football Playoff…, I’m sorry, It’s Utah,” Finebaum said with a laugh.

The Utes weren’t ready that year to make the playoff as they fell to Oregon in the Pac-12 title game and fell down to the Alamo Bowl, but that is some harsh criticism for a team that was ranked No. 6 at the time.

Finebaum Changing His Stance On Utah?

A lot has changed since that 2019 Pac-12 title game. The Utes won the Pac-12 title and went to the Rose Bowl this past year in a thrilling game that they ultimately lost to Ohio State.

Teams need time to grow and get better and people change their mind with a new set of data points, but to hear Finebaum say out loud that if the Utes go into the Swamp and beat Floriday then they have a very nice path to the College Football Playoff is a big jump from his last comments about Utah.

“In August, we talk to people from around the country and everyone’s got a story to tell,” Paul Finebaum said on WJOX . “Hey, if Utah goes to Florida and wins that game, then they have a clear path. But, ultimately, these schools have to get past the SEC or Ohio State in the Playoff. And, I think that’s really the problem.”

Finebaum doesn’t go all the way and predict the Utes to do anything in the playoff as he sees the national title race as a two-team race between the usual suspects of the Buckeyes and Crimson Tide. Just hearing a notable figure from the South and an SEC homer say that made Unrivaled’s Alex Kirry very happy.

“Here’s what’s great. When that’s being said, what we’re talking about here is how amazing would it be because we talked about Utah as being that No. 4 [seed], but if there really isn’t a clear three or four, or if Ohio State ends up beating Notre Dame early and then they kind of carve their way all the way through and they’re the number one team in the country, why not?” Kirry asked. “What if Utah is at four and Ohio State’s at number one and you have a rematch from last year’s Rose Bowl? That would be, to me, the way that Utah is able to be the first non-SEC team in a long time to be able to actually win in the first round [of the College Football Playoff].”

A Rose Bowl rematch would be must watch TV for any college football fan and the Utes did hang with the Buckeyes until the very end with a depleted secondary and having to put in a backup quarterback late in the game. Even with that, it was close, so to see that matchup again would not only be great football but the Utes wouldn’t be intimidated on that bigger stage.

The other half of Unrivaled, Scott Mitchell, really is taking in Finebaum’s comments because it means that the Utes have made it when someone who is known to bang the drum for the SEC is giving a team in the West a legitimate shot at making the College Football Playoff.

“This validates what we’ve been saying this whole entire off-season. At the epicenter of it, Paul Feinbaum, before the season started, says Utah wins its game against Florida and it has a clear path,” Mitchell said. “It’s not like, well, they may be considered. You got to watch out for them. It’s like they’re going to get on the map, boom, immediately they’re going to validate what happened a year ago and off they go. That’s the significance of this game against Florida”

People are taking notice of Utah and now the pressure is on to perform. The Utes can’t have a slip-up and be out of contention early on because people will come out of the woodwork and say ‘I told you so.’

Tune into Unrivaled every Monday through Friday, 3-7 p .m. on 1280 The Zone and 97.5 FM, or subscribe to the podcast. Also, download the all-new KSL Sports app on iOS or Android.

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