February 5, 2023

Utes meets USC, who likely advance to the college football playoffs with a win at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas

Utah running back Micah Bernard, right, leads the touchline after running in the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022 in Boulder, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

las vegas If No. 4 USC wins the Pac-12 championship game Friday night and advances to the college football playoffs, No. 12 Washington will likely jump to No. 11 Utah in the college football playoff rankings on Sunday. That would guarantee the Huskies, not the Utes, a trip to the Rose Bowl as the second-highest team in the conference behind the Trojans.

Right?

That’s conventional wisdom, but on Tuesday night, CFP selection committee chairman and North Carolina state athletic director Boo Corrigan took a different view.

After beating Colorado with one win, Utah moved up three spots to 11th, while Washington’s Apple Cup win at Washington State with 7 wins moved it up one spot to 12th.

What?

“As we looked at, Utah’s win over Southern Cal (on Oct. 15) as Southern Cal continues to climb, as well as the win (on Oct. 1) over (No. 15) Oregon State, a couple of them losses for UCLA and Oregon,” Corrigan said on a conference call. “I think the other side of that is Washington’s defeat at Arizona State (on October 8th) that took everyone by surprise in the room, but when you look at the entire work, you have to take everything into account.

“When we were talking about it and talking about these Pac-12 teams in this area, it was a topic of conversation and that loss at Arizona State really stood out.”

Fair enough. Washington’s loss to the 3-9 Sun Devils was terrible and ultimately cost the Huskies a trip to the Pac-12 championship game.

Corrigan referenced Utah’s loss to Oregon, but in terms of a whole lot of work, shouldn’t we be talking more about Washington beating the Ducks on Nov. 12?

“It’s part of what we’re talking about,” Corrigan said. “From a Washington point of view, they got another win over Oregon and a win over Oregon State, but if you look at the whole job the way we looked at it, two really good teams that both had really good wins and you’re looking for one differentiator as we went through this, and as we did, this Arizona State game really stood out as one that, if you will, couldn’t compete with the other games.

Let’s say Utah went up three spots after beating Colorado because their inclusion in the Pac-12 championship game essentially made them the No. 2 team in the conference, so the CFP wanted to reflect that?

That’s a little silly, but good. I have a question now.

If Washington’s loss to Arizona State is the differentiator between Washington and Utah, how can that change if Utah loses to USC?

The answer is it can’t. The only thing the Utah selection committee needs to hammer on after a Friday loss is that it would be the Utes’ fourth loss, which admittedly is a lot, but it would also equate to a split with the No. 4 team in the country.

Cautiously assuming Utah isn’t blown away by USC, given the resumes and what Carrigan said Tuesday, I think it’s fair to at least consider why the selection committee would drop the Utes among the Huskies?

Just some food for thought for kickoff at Allegiant Stadium.

Other things on my mind

• Dalton Kincaid Not being a finalist for the Mackey Award, given annually to the nation’s top tight ends, is criminal.

The All-Pac-12 senior is the national No. 1 tight end for yards received (850) and yards after catch (378), and No. 2 nationally for his position in receptions (66) and touchdowns (8).

Forget the Mackey, Kyle Whittingham wondered aloud Monday why Kincaid didn’t get more affection for the Biletnikoff Award, which is given to the nation’s top recipient regardless of position. Kincaid for Biletnikoff is a bit much, but I can appreciate the vibe.

• Utah basketball’s win over No. 4 Arizona Thursday night at the Huntsman Center was the first standout moment of Craig Smith’s 40-game tenure as head coach. From wire to wire, Branden Carlson was the best player on the floor for the minutes he played, the Utes defended, and they withstood several second-half attacks from the Wildcats, who slept at the wheel for most of the first half.

• Utah-USC is by far the most compelling Power Five championship game this weekend, thanks largely to the Trojans essentially facing a win-and-in scenario for the CFP. A Pac-12 source said Thursday that Allegiant Stadium is expected to see a “uplift in national media” compared to previous Pac-12 championship games, while FOX and the Pac-12 network are both known for their respective pregame events. shows will be on site.

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