With four games remaining in the regular season, the preseason goal of a Pac 12 title is gone. The Utes aren't mathematically eliminated, but one more loss will do the trick. With ASU, UCLA, USC, and Arizona all at least two games ahead of Utah, the point is pretty much moot. The Utes are now playing for bowl eligibility, plain and simple. The final four game stretch is a mix of good, elite, average, and below average teams. Four different tiers, and four different teams, that play four different styles. Getting those two wins that send Utah back to postseason play won't be easy to come by, but the opportunities are there. Here is what it looks like:
Confidence Level In a Utah Victory
1:No chance. Might as well being playing the '95 Nebraska Cornhuskers. Put it down as an L in thick black ink.
10: Over before it's played. Utes will run away with it.
vs Arizona State
Saturday November 9
ASU is rolling right now, looking like the best team in the Pac 12 South. In league games against the Sun Devils since entering the conference, Utah has lost by a combined score of 72 to 21. Neither game was close. Arizona State just went to Pullman and destroyed a Wazzu squad that is fairly equal to Utah. The same Wazzu squad that beat USC at the Coliseum at the beginning of the year. Utah has had nightmares this year with quarterbacks that are mobile, and teams that spread the ball out. That's pretty much Arizona State. The Utes needed a cold, snowy night game. Instead their getting a day game with 55 degrees temperatures in the sun. They'll need a Stanford-esque performance to knock off a team that seems to have their number.
Confidence Level: 3.5
Saturday November 16
This is Oregon. They're arguably the best team in the country, defeating opponents by an average score of 55 to 17 . They've been tested once this year....for a half when UCLA played them to a draw. Then turned up the heat and rolled to a 42-14 victory. So far, they've shown no weaknesses. Having arguably the best player in the country at quarterback is a luxury. Oregon does play Stanford the week before their matchup with Utah, and Stanford has physically beat teams up to the point where they don't receover the next week. Stanford opponents are now 2-6 this year in the game following their matchup with the Cardinal. Unfortunately for Utah, Oregon plays Stanford on a Thursday night, giving them an extra two days to heal. The Utes have faced one elite team this season (that same Stanford squad) and beat them. Why not slay another giant?
Confidence Level In a Utah Victory: 1.5
at Washington State
Saturday November 23
I've said it since the beginning of the season; something about this game stinks. Washington State has been up and down like Utah. Winning at Wazzu this year would be Utah's best road win since joining the conference, which is a rather sobering thought. The Cougars are going to throw it, throw it, and throw it some more. Utah has been adequate in slowing the passing game in recent weeks and the one dimensional attack will allow Sitake to simplify the game plan. Conner Halliday has 17 interceptions this year. This might be the time for Utah to pick off a couple of passes. Offensively, Utah should be able to move the ball. Washington State doesn't play a ton of defense, so the Utes should have some success offensively. If this was at Rice-Eccles, I'd take Utah every day of the week. It's on the road though. Utah needs to show me that they can beat a decent team away from Utah before one can be very confident in picking them to do so.
Confidence Level: 5
Saturday November 30
Will it matter at this point? Utah needs to win one of the three previous game to make the 'rivalry game' matter. Colorado is still one of the two worst teams in the conference along with Cal. Those two are your definitive 11 and 12 teams in the conference with the other ten looking significantly better through two-thirds of the season. The Buffs are now starting a true freshman quarterback and continue to battle inconsistency. They do have one of the top offensive threats in the conference with receiver Paul Richardson, but this team still has plenty of deficiencies. Even with Utah's inconsistency this year, this game is at Rice-Eccles, where they've been much more consistent. This is by far the most likely win of the four.
Confidence Level: 8.5
4 To Win 2
Ute Zone Top Stories
Film Room: Utah vs. USCUteZone breaks down the biggest plays in Utah's win over USC.
Ute ZoneYesterday at 11:16 PM
UteZone Roundtable: 9/25The UteZone staff talks about Utah's big win over USC, what we've seen from the Utes so far this year and what to expect against Cal.
Ute ZoneSunday at 8:50 PM
Position Grades: Utah vs. USCSteve Bartle grades each position group following Utah's big 31-27 win over USC.
Ute ZoneSaturday at 1:09 AM
Video Recap: Utah vs. USCUteZone's Michelle Bodkin recaps Utah's thrilling win over USC Friday night.
Ute ZoneSaturday at 12:39 AM