Will newcomers compete for league titles?

History says the Utes will have a legitimate chance to win the Pac-10 championship in 2011, and that’s not just a reference to their 4-3 record against Pac-10 opponents over the past five seasons.

Actually, it’s not uncommon for teams to win conference championships in their first year of membership.

Go back to 1976, when Houston, coming off a disastrous 2-8 showing in ’75, joined the old Southwest Conference. The Cougars shocked the conference by going 7-1 in league play and sharing the championship with Texas Tech. Based on a victory over the Red Raiders, Houston represented the conference in the Cotton Bowl and defeated Maryland 30-21. The Cougars went on to win three SWC championships in their first four years of membership.