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With three weeks left in the regular season, Utah is still alive in the Pac-12 championship race.
It’s a similar scenario to last season, where after dropping its second Pac-12 game to Oregon in the second-to-last week of the season, four results went two-conference-loss Utah’s way in the final weekend of the year — Utah won at Colorado, Washington won at Washington State, UCLA won at Cal and Oregon State won vs. Oregon — and the Utes won a four-step tiebreaker to advance to Las Vegas and beat USC in the Pac-12 championship game.
“Mathematically we’re still in it, but it’s all one week at a time. We’re not worried about the big picture right now. We’re just trying to figure out a way to try to go up to Seattle and play well.” — Utah coach Kyle Whittingham
The Utes still have everything to play for, even with an injury list that includes quarterback Cam Rising, tight ends Brant Kuithe and Thomas Yassmin, running backs Micah Bernard and Chris Curry, wide receiver Mycah Pittman, linebacker Lander Barton and defensive end Logan Fano, to name a few, along with a host of others who missed at least a couple games this season.
Utah’s last gasp in the Pac-12 title race begins with a trip to Seattle Saturday, where No. 18 Utah will play No. 5 Seattle (1:30 p.m., Fox).
“Mathematically we’re still in it, but it’s all one week at a time. We’re not worried about the big picture right now. We’re just trying to figure out a way to try to go up to Seattle and play well,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said.
First and foremost, to appear in the Pac-12 championship game for the third-straight time, Utah has to win out. A three-conference-loss team is not going to make it to Las Vegas.
Going 3-0 to close the regular season is no easy feat, as Utah is on the road at No. 5 Washington, then visits Tucson to play No. 21 Arizona before closing out the year at home vs. Colorado; the “Rumble in the Rockies” won’t be a cakewalk like it was last season.
Even if the Utes go 3-0 through the home stretch, like last season, they’ll need help from other teams.
All of the below scenarios assume Utah has won out.
We’re going to pencil Oregon into the Pac-12 championship game in this scenario. The Ducks are 5-1 in conference play and hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over USC and Utah. Crazier things have happened before in college football, and the Ducks close with USC, Arizona State and Oregon State, but Oregon would have to lose two of those games to be knocked out of title game contention.
Undefeated Washington needs to end up with two losses, and in the scenario where Utah wins out, there’s one loss. After the Utah game, the Huskies close at Oregon State and vs. Washington State. If Washington were to lose two games, including one to the Utes, Utah would hold the head-to-head tiebreaker with the Huskies.
Utes on the air
No. 18 Utah (7-2, 4-2 Pac-12)
at No. 5 Washington (9-0, 6-0 Pac-12)
Saturday, 1:30 p.m. MST
Radio: ESPN 700/92.1 FM
Oregon State sits at two conference losses and owns the head-to-head tiebreaker against Utah. The Beavers host Stanford and Washington and finish the season out at Oregon. Washington is likely to beat Washington State in the Apple Cup, so Utah fans would need to cheer for the Beavers to beat Washington on Nov. 18, then hope Oregon State loses to either Stanford or Oregon.
The other two-conference-loss teams are USC and Arizona. Utah holds the head-to-head tiebreaker with USC, so if the Utes win out, it doesn’t matter what the Trojans do the rest of the way. The Wildcats would be at three Pac-12 losses in this scenario, since they would have lost to Utah.
It’s a long shot, but Utah still has hope alive on Nov. 10. Can everything fall into place like 2022?
We’ll find out starting Saturday.