by Jason Burrows
The Utes have been a powerhouse for the last 20 years, yet they have rarely managed to stem the likes of the Crimson Tide of Alabama, Clemson, or Georgia in recent times. With Utah sitting at 6-1 in their conference and 7-3 overall, they’re in a terrific position to make the PAC-12 title game.
But where does this leave them in the context of the NCAAF title? That’s a more complex issue as the Utes have destroyed teams and then lain a goose egg. Let’s see what the latest odds are for the Utes.
Odds on the Utes claiming the title
The latest odds for college football betting picks reveal that the Utes are a long way from being able to compete with the likes of Georgia, Alabama, Michigan, and Ohio State.
While the Utes and their quarterback Cam Rising have been dominating across several offensive metrics, serious questions have been raised over the quality of the team on defense and special teams.
For example, take the ugly 38-29 win over Arizona after demolishing Stanford 52-7. Arizona carries a record of 1-9 and the fact Utah struggled exposed the frailties of the team.
When it comes to claiming a national title, only the bravest would bet on Utah over a team like Georgia, Alabama, or even Notre Dame.
Rose Bowl or Bust for Utah
Most analysts put the poor performance against Arizona down to looking ahead to their next game against the Oregon ducks. The Ducks themselves had to grind out a win against Washington State earlier that day.
As it stands, there’s a near-guaranteed rematch on the horizon in the PAC-12 title game. But with the Utes sitting pretty with a great record, they shouldn’t be content with simply appearing against the Ducks in that game.
The famous Rose Bowl should be on the horizon as the Utes clinched the PAC-12 South race. Oregon has shown tremendous vulnerability lately and winning the PAC-12 championship is the Utes’ best chance of gaining an automatic berth to the famous bowl.
Alternatively, the Utes could find themselves in the Rose Bowl only if they win the championship. They’re the second-best ranked PAC-12 team. If the Ducks had remained in the top four, Oregon would be going to the College Football Playoff, which would mean the next-best team would be going to the Rose Bowl. Utah would be that next team after their 38-7 victory over the Ducks. With that being said, it’s a do-or-die situation in that title matchup which could be against either the Ducks, their rival Oregon State Beavers, or Washington State Cougars.
What about the CFP Ranking?
Oregon may have a one-game lead over the Utes at 9-2, but this is significant as several other teams across the country also have better regular-season records than Utah.
So, where does that leave Utah in terms of the national playoffs?
Utah’s current ranking is still down at #16 which is five places behind Oregon. It means there’s practically no chance of receiving an invite to the playoffs this year.
Some fans have even dared to suggest that if the Ducks had beat Utah twice, it would all but guarantee Utah’s place in the Rose Bowl because Oregon would be certain to head to the national playoffs.
What does Utah need to do to win more votes?
Since college football isn’t just based on records, like the NFL, the strength of schedule and performance on televised games all play into where teams are ranked.
Utah has all the tools necessary to become a nationwide force, but what do the Utes need to do to make the playoffs? The issue is the defense simply has not been up to its usual standards and special teams have been an unmitigated disaster from start to finish.
While Utah has beaten some good teams, they’ve also made hard work against outfits that should have been dismissed handily.
Going into next season, Utah needs to make some serious changes if they’re going to push for the national playoffs.
Utah Rose Bowl Odds
Experts are now projecting that the Utes are almost certainly going to be one of the Rose Bowl contenders in 2021. But who are they likely to face?
Most experts agree that the most likely opponent will either be Michigan or Michigan State. In all likelihood, Michigan will find itself in the college playoff, which would open the door for Michigan State.
At first glance, the current rankings say that Michigan State would defeat the Utes in the Rose Bowl in most situations. But college football is different. Fairy tale stories and underdog dominance are not unheard of.
In short, a national championship is not in the cards for the Utes this year, but the Rose Bowl is on. It will all come down to how they perform against the Ducks or whoever wins the PAC-12 North.
Featured image courtesy Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News