In 10 minutes, Utah transformed its Saturday, its season and its postseason.
In 10 minutes that spanned the end of the second quarter and the beginning of the third, the Utes blasted through USC for 267 yards, four touchdowns, an insurmountable lead and one indisputable statement: They are back.
The victory created ample margin for error as Utah chases its seventh consecutive bowl berth (in non-pandemic years).
Excluding last winter, the Utes haven’t been home for the holidays since back in 2013, at the end of the multi-year roster fortification process that followed their transition into the Pac-12.
Their path looked treacherous in late September after a loss to Brigham Young — we didn’t think that was possible — and an overtime defeat at San Diego State.
But efficient quarterback play and an improved defense fueled consecutive victories over Washington State and USC, thereby altering the postseason calculation:
The Utes need just three wins in their final seven games to qualify — a stretch that includes dates with struggling Colorado and Arizona.
Sweep those South cellar-dwellers, and the Utes would need one more victory, anywhere, against anybody, to secure the six victories needed for qualification.
But why stop at six?
A victory Saturday over Arizona State would leave Utah as the Pac-12’s only undefeated team in conference play, with head-to-head wins over USC and ASU and only one other legitimate contender in the division: UCLA, which visits Salt Lake City at the end of the month.
Win Saturday, and by the close of October the Utes just might have full control of the South and a bowl berth locked up.
To the projections (with home and road games remaining) …
Rose Bowl (vs. Big Ten)
Team: Oregon (4-1/1-1)
Home games (four): Cal, Colorado, Washington State, Oregon State
Road games (three): UCLA, Washington, Utah
Comment: In case you lost track of Ohio State’s results, know this: The Buckeyes have won their last two Big Ten games by a combined score of 118-30. That’s good news for the Ducks, who would win a resume standoff against OSU for the final playoff berth if both teams finished 12-1.
Alamo Bowl (vs. Big 12)
Team: Arizona State (5-1/3-0)
Home games (three): Washington State, USC, Arizona
Road games (three): Utah, Washington, Oregon State
Comment: The Sun Devils are the best team in the conference right now. But we’re not quite convinced they will be the best team in the conference on the first Friday of December. Beware the early peak.
Las Vegas Bowl (vs. Big Ten)
Team: Utah (3-2/2-0)
Home games (four): Arizona State, UCLA, Oregon, Colorado
Road games (three): Oregon State, Stanford, Arizona
Comment: Utah against either of the Michigan teams at Allegiant Stadium would be a fascinating matchup given their smash-mouth similarities.
Holiday Bowl (vs. ACC)
Team: Oregon State (4-2/2-1)
Home games (three): Utah, Stanford, Arizona State
Road games (three): Cal, Colorado, Oregon
Comment: There is no remaining game the Beavers cannot win but only one remaining game they cannot lose (Colorado). So this resurgence could go any number of ways.
Sun Bowl (vs. ACC)
Team: UCLA (4-2/2-1)
Home games (three): Oregon, Colorado, Cal
Road games (three): Washington, Utah, USC
Comment: Starting with the Sun Bowl, teams are slotted into games based on …read more
Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment