Tic Tac Toe, three bowl eligible schools in a row! Utah, Utah State and BYU all won at least as many games as they lost and that means they all more than likely will be featured in one of the many bowl games in college football’s money centered version of the postseason.
Nobody is playing for a championship though there are several big money bowls that could help out the program a lot. It’s time to find out in the upcoming week whether each team will roll a strike, spare, gutter ball or somewhere in between in their respective bowl bids.
Utah Utes Football (9-3):
Best case scenario: The Rose Bowl
The Utes have never played in Pasadena on New Year’s before but the PAC-12 ties with the bowl make the winner of the PAC-12 championship in Santa Clara on Friday a shoe in for the New Year’s Six Bowl.
The Rose Bowl is known as “The Granddaddy of them All” because it is one of the oldest college Bowl games in American history. The first one was played in 1902 with Michigan routing Stanford 49-0. Since then we have seen schools from the Beehive State blossom from small struggling programs to successful ones.
The reason neither PAC-12 team has a shot at the college football playoff is because the winner would be a three loss champ. This year isn’t the year to have a lot of losses. There are currently 4 undefeated teams and 3 of those teams have a decent shot to make the playoff. Sorry UCF. Since Notre Dame is Independent they will finish the season likely undefeated and headed for the playoff. Alabama and Clemson are unlikely going to lose their championship games but even if they do they have a solid case as one loss champs.
If and when Georgia loses they will have two losses so it doesn’t seem likely that Georgia cracks the top four again. That leaves one loss Oklahoma or one loss Ohio State. The PAC-12 “Conference Of Champions” is nowhere in sight although they could beat you in a rousing game of water polo.
No two loss team has ever made the four team playoff since its inception four years ago, let alone a three loss team. Washington State had the best shot as a one loss team until the big dog Washington Huskies defeated them in the frozen Apple Cup. There was “snow” much snow it played for a wild game that played to the defensive prowess of the purple and gold.
To make a long story short, if Utah wins then they’re in the Rose Bowl and that’s the best they can get. An ideal situation would be the opportunity to play another big name like Ohio State. The Utes haven’t been afraid of big names in the past. They defeated Pittsburgh 35-7 in the 2004 Fiesta Bowl. Ok maybe Pitt isn’t the biggest name but they are a Power 5 school that was good that year and the Utes of the little Mountain West took it to them. They also defeated the big name Alabama Crimson Tide in the Sugar Bowl in 2008 and just this year were awarded a national championship. Hey, sometimes a decade campaign is worth it.
Whether they win against Ohio State or lose to Northwestern I think just the appearance will be a big win as they will get a lot of money. The payout is 4 million. Yes they have to share some with the conference but that’s still a large chunk of change. I think Northwestern would most likely be their opponent.
Ohio State is a big name and thus will make the playoff. Yes that 29 point loss to Purdue is glaring but it looks better than Oklahoma’s defense lately. Oklahoma allowed 48 point to Texas in a loss and needed a 59 point miracle to squeak past West Virginia. Yes they have the highest scoring offense in the nation but that offense won’t put up similar numbers against a top team like Alabama. Ohio State is the best all around team and Urban wants to work some magic on Bama like he did on Nick Saban in 2015 when Ohio State was again just a four seed. Ohio State missed the playoff as a two loss champ last year. They won’t be left out as a one loss unless they win a very close ugly game and the other contenders just route their opponents. Utah is definitely on the outside looking in. They are currently ranked #17 in the CFP poll, not moving much after needing a miracle of their own to edge a struggling BYU team. If Utah wins over #11 Washington, you could see a sad day for the PAC-12 as their champ might not even crack the top 10 in voting. For Ute fans though it’s time to wake up and smell the Roses! This is the best it will get unless they can somehow string together another perfect or one loss season.
Worst Case: Las Vegas Bowl
As I stated before the only way this happens is if UCF loses, Boise wins big and the Aggies squeak into the Vegas Bowl. The committee loved forcing the Utes into a Holy War in Sin City in 2015 and they would love a forced Battle of the Brothers this year too. The Utes still have to hang their head high that their worst case scenario is the best case scenario for the Aggies. It’s still a decent payout at over one million dollars. If they lost to their little brother though then that would be a true worst case scenario.
Most likely scenario: Whatever the “experts” say
Sports Illustrated: Remember the Alamo
ESPN says: We really want to see the Utes play a school from “The Hawkeye State”.
CBS Sports says: A bowl named after a bad Green Day song.
The Hive Sports says: PAC-12 loser vs Big Ten loser on New Years Eve. “This is the dawning of the bowl of your lives…. The Holiday!” Cue the smashing guitar.