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Utah players light the U as they defeat BYU at Rice Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Sunday, Nov. 25, 2018. Utah won 35-27. (Scott Winterton, Deseret News)
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Utes Already Playing For 2019 In Holiday Bowl

Utah players light the U as they defeat BYU at Rice Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Sunday, Nov. 25, 2018. Utah won 35-27. (Scott Winterton, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Utah is looking for its first 10-win season since 2015 if they can defeat Northwestern in Monday’s Holiday Bowl (5 p.m. on FS1).

Getting to double-digit wins is nice but does it really matter when these bowl games are just glorified exhibitions?

Both the Wildcats and Utes were hoping to get to the Rose Bowl, so dropping conference title games and going to San Diego is a big let down. Utah should just get ready for 2019 and use this game as a springboard to start of next year on the right foot.

Mitchell Wants Utes To Build For Future

KSL’s Unrivaled host Scott Mitchell specifically wants this Ute team to get a head start for next season.

“A lot of times it is about sending seniors out in a good way, but really most of this Utah team is coming back next year and it is about what they will be next year,” Mitchell said.

The 2019 season should already be underway for Utah. It does not start after the Holiday Bowl, not when spring practices begin, not for the start of fall camp, or Week 1 game prep against BYU; it should have started once bowl prep began.

Getting ready for next year does not mean the Holiday Bowl is any less important for Utah to win because a loss will set this team back, but getting the win will almost certainly cement the Utes as a preseason top 20 team.

Kirry Sees Big Things Ahead For Utah

Alex Kirry, the host of KSL’s Unrivaled, see’s a Holiday Bowl win as a stepping stone to bigger and better things going forward.

“Utes have to play for next season in this bowl game. This is an opponent they do not play a lot and don’t play very much in the future,” Kirry said. “Utah doesn’t want to match up with [Northwestern] every year because it means you are playing in the Cheez-It or Red Box Bowl.”

This Ute team has the potential to be great going forward as they bring back a lot of talent and lose only six seniors on the entire two-deep, and potentially one or two more depending if any declare early for the NFL Draft.

Huntley Will Be A Game-Time Decision

One player to look forward to seeing in the Holiday Bowl and a glimpse of next year is quarterback Tyler Huntley. Huntley has been out since the Arizona State game where he broke his clavicle but said he will play if healthy, and currently on the Ute depth chart he is listed as co-starter with Jason Shelley.

“Fans want to see Tyler Huntley come back and give them hope for next season as almost all of our entire football team is coming back from this season, Mitchell said.

Voters, Take Notice

Winning the Holiday Bowl will give those who vote in preseason polls one last look at a team going into next year, and a Ute victory over the Wildcats will leave an imprint of how they view Utah going into 2019.

“I think this will be a team ranked in the preseason and will probably be the favorite to win the South again next year,” Mitchell said. “I do think the South is going to be tough again and a lot of teams have improved themselves.”

Tune into KSL’s Unrivaled every Monday through Friday, 7-9 p.m., or download the KSL NewsRadio app to subscribe to the podcast.