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Rose Bowl Berth Still Attainable For Utah

Wide receiver John Jackson III #80 of the USC Trojans celebrates the touchdown of running back Markese Stepp #30 against the Utah Utes at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on September 20, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Despite one loss that put a cloud of doom over Ute fans, Utah still has a legitimate chance of winning the Pac-12 South, making it to the conference championship, and earning a Rose Bowl berth for the first time in program history.

It all depends on one simple question: how badly will Pac-12 teams beat each other up over the remainder of the season?

The Pac-12 is a mess and it has been for a number of years. The last team to make the College Football Playoff from the conference was Washington in 2016. Since then, the Pac-12 has never been close to making the big dance. Year after year, the Pac-12 beats itself up, and this year seems to be no different.

After Utah’s loss to USC and the weak strength of schedule that follows, it seems fair to assume they will not make the playoff in 2019.

However, Utah fans – all is not lost.

If the Utes can make it to the Rose Bowl with a little help from other Pac-12 teams, the season is far from a failure. A Rose Bowl berth would also signify the first-ever conference championship for Utah, eight years into their Pac-12 career.

There’s still a lot of football to be played. My gut tells me at the end of the season it will be Utah, USC and Arizona State vying for the division title and spot in the Pac-12 Championship Game. Here’s how it all needs to unfold for Utah.

‘The Pac-12 Is Drunk’

Before we get into the nuts and bolts of where every team is at in the Pac 12 South, let me get one thing off my chest: Arizona, UCLA, and Colorado are no threat to Utah in their hopes of winning the division. I am not going to waste my time, and more importantly, your time, by dissecting the Wildcats, Bruins, and Buffs in this piece.

I also have no idea what to predict for the remainder of the year. KSL Sports’ Jeremiah Jensen said it best on Twitter. “The Pac-12 is drunk.”

The last Pac-12 South team to lose to USC and win the south was Colorado in 2016 when the Buff’s ended the season with an 8-1 conference record. If Utah is to win the Pac-12 South this year, one would assume they will need to replicate the Buffs from 2016 and win out.

USC Must Lose Twice

The Trojan’s toughest games left are a home encounter with the Ducks and away fixtures against Arizona State and California. Both Oregon and Arizona State are currently ranked 13 and 18 respectively in the AP Poll.

The Utes and Trojans both have one conference loss, although, because USC beat Utah earlier in the season, the Utes will need the Trojans to lose at least one more game if they are going to climb above them in the standings.

It is fair to assume that the Trojans are going to lose one more conference game. Their defense is young and inexperienced and their offense is dismantled with injuries.

Arizona State Is A Must-Win Game

Arizona State travels to Salt Lake City to take on the Utes on October 19 in what will be a must-win game for Utah. The Utes lost to the Sun Devils last year in Tempe after quarterback Tyler Huntley went down with a season-ending injury midway through the third quarter.

The Sun Devils have no easy path to the division title either. With games against Oregon, Utah, and USC still forthcoming. However, the 34-31 loss to Colorado earlier in the season suggests that the Sun Devils will be an inconsistent team moving forward. No surprise considering they have a true freshman quarterback at the helm.

Your Guess Is As Good As Mine

Nobody knows how the remaining conference games are going to play out. Utah could go undefeated, although it is more likely that they will lose at least one more game. If Utah does surrender another conference game, they will then rely on USC to lose at least two more games. USC are a team that could also win out, given the talent they have on their team, although they could also lose multiple games, opening the door for a team like Utah to prevail as division champions.

Regardless, Utah is still the most talented team in the Pac-12 South, despite already losing to USC. It is a shame, however, that the Utes have put themselves in a position where they do not control their own destiny. As many Pac-12 South teams have experienced in the past, losing to USC may well be the defining factor that prohibits them from taking part in the championship game.

Only time will tell.