FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Utah's Sugar Bowl victory impressed players from Florida and Oklahoma, but that doesn't necessarily mean either is willing to share a national title with the Utes.
"When they play big teams every week, maybe we can talk," Florida strong safety Ahmad Black said. "I'm not taking anything from them. They're a great team. But their strength of schedule is just not up to par."
The mention of Utah's 31-17 Sugar Bowl triumph over Alabama put a smile on the face of Florida coach Urban Meyer, who held the same position at Utah for two years. Meyer led the Utes to an unbeaten season in 2004 with current Utah coach Kyle Whittingham serving as his defensive coordinator.
"I watched as much as I could," Meyer said. "I talked to Coach Whittingham and [outgoing Utah defensive coordinator] Gary Andersen, and I'm going to talk to [Utah quarterback] Brian Johnson at some point. I'm very proud of them."
Although the winner of Thursday's BCS Championship Game between Florida and Oklahoma automatically tops the coaches' poll as the BCS national champion, voters in The Associated Press poll are free to pick any team as the national champion.
Utah will end the season as the nation's only undefeated FBS program and has victories over three of the top 16 teams in the BCS standings – No. 4 Alabama, No. 11 TCU and No. 16 BYU – as well as Oregon State, which handed USC its only loss of the season.
"I think we deserve it," Johnson said after the Sugar Bowl. "I definitely think, without question, we are one of the best teams – if not the best team – in the country."
How did Meyer respond to Johnson's comment?
"I know Brian Johnson," said Myer, who was the Utes' coach when Johnson signed with Utah. "I'd be disappointed if he said anything else."
Meyer didn't indicate whether he thought Utah merited a share of the national title, which would represent the first split in the final two major polls since LSU won the BCS title and USC topped the AP rankings in 2003.
The difference is that USC also was ranked first in the AP poll at the end of the regular season. Utah was ranked seventh in the most recent AP poll.
Utah's current poll positioning makes a split national title extremely unlikely.
"Obviously, it's the system we have and it's the system we have to deal with," Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford said. "Whether it's fair or not is not for us to say. For the Utah players, I really don't know what you would say to them. To go 13-0 and not have a shot to be in this game, it's obviously tough for them."
Florida linebacker Brandon Spikes wondered if Utah could have maintained that perfect record if it had played an SEC schedule, though he didn't want to diminish the Utes' accomplishment.
"They're undefeated," Spikes said. "They've won every game. What can I say? But I feel like if they came in this conference, it would be tough to go undefeated."
What about staging a playoff game between Utah and the winner of the Oklahoma-Florida showdown? At least one player was all for the idea.