Phil Steele, with math, on why Utah wasn't championship game worthy last year.
Essentially: if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it is a duck. Utah wasn't a duck.
Their 2004 team, in my view, was much better than last year's (Sagarin predictor agrees 2004 vs. 2008) and if that team had been around in 2008 or better yet the grotesque show that was college football in 2007 they make a much more compelling case to be in the championship game. So much of college football is timing though and their timing was off last year as a trio of excellent teams emerged in Florida, Oklahoma and Texas.
Utah made the mistake of going undefeated but keeping its powder dry until the bowl game, after the regular season had already been played out. When folks looked back on their 2008 regular season, they saw a narrow road victory over the worst Michigan team in decades, a furious fourth quarter rally to blow past rival BYU (aided by a +6 turnover margin) and nail-biting escapes against Oregon State and TCU.
Scoreboard yes, but at some point you gotta do something mighty more than once against the good teams on your schedule.
That or pray you land on "Ohio State 2002" in the annals of good timing and luck.