The College Football Playoff picture is clear in many ways, except when it comes to the fourth team making the tournament. Utah is one of several teams fighting for the final spot, and the Utes have a chance to make their first College Football Playoff with a win over Oregon.
A win over the Ducks would be Utah’s best win of the season. Utah’s other key wins are over Washington State, Washington and BYU which were not exactly powerhouses this season. The committee seems to be valuing Utah’s consistency with their balanced offense and defense along with their only loss coming to a ranked USC.
Heading into the Pac-12 title game, Utah had a 34 percent chance to make the College Football Playoff by FiveThirtyEight’s computer projections. Oklahoma has greater odds in the computer model with a 50 percent chance to make the postseason.
There are two things that would likely eliminate Utah from consideration for making the College Football Playoff. The obvious one would be a loss to Oregon in the Pac-12 title game. A second loss for Utah would be the kiss of death and knock the Utes out of contention for the playoff.
A loss to Oregon not only knocks Utah out of the playoff picture but it also eliminates them from the Rose Bowl. The loss means Utah would likely be heading to the Alamo Bowl.
Secondly, a Georgia win over LSU in the SEC Championship is expected to send both the Tigers and Bulldogs into the College Football Playoff. Under this scenario, Utah would be rooting for chaos for the remaining games, but still would have a distant chance to making the postseason.
What Happens If Clemson or Ohio State Loses Their Conference Championship Games?
This likely means that Utah would need Clemson or Ohio State to lose in their conference title games. Even if Clemson or Ohio State lose, their resumes are both strong enough that they would be the favorites to still advance to the playoff. Utah’s biggest competition is Oklahoma and Baylor who square off in the Big 12 Championship.
If either team has a blowout win while Utah struggles against Oregon, it would not help the Utes chances of securing the No. 4 seed. College Football Playoff committee chair Rob Mullens described on a media call how they evaluated Utah heading into the conference title game.
“When we look at Utah, we see a season-long balance of very consistent play on both sides of the ball,” Mullens explained. “Very dominant wins. Their only loss is on a Friday night on the road at a No. 22 ranked team when a key player on offense missed the majority of the game.”
Here Is the Best-Case Scenario for Utah Regarding the College Football Playoff
The best thing that could happen for Utah is simple. The first thing is Utah needs a decisive win over Oregon in the Pac-12 title game. Next, the Utes are rooting for a close Big-12 title game and Baylor to upset Oklahoma.
Baylor would still have a chance to make the playoff, but the Bears poor non-conference schedule is likely to be a key deciding factor in giving Utah the bid under this scenario. It is worth noting Utah does not have the strongest non-conference schedule either with games against BYU, Northern Illinois and Idaho State.
Utah and Oklahoma are both favored to win their conference title games creating a nightmare scenario for the committee. Heading into the final weekend, the committee had Utah ranked above Oklahoma, but only the people in the room know how far apart the two teams are in the mind of the voters.
If there is a wide gap, it would seem Utah just needs to win their conference title game. Given both team’s resumes, it is hard to imagine the margin is sizable which means style points will matter. The Big 12 and Pac-12 championship games will be each team’s final impression they are leaving with the committee with less than 24 hours to potentially to decide between the two teams.
Utah would still be the favorite if both teams win their title games. The only exception would be if Utah struggles to squeak out a win over Oregon, while Oklahoma crushes Baylor. All this leads to an intriguing conference championship weekend heading into the unveiling of the College Football Playoff rankings on Sunday.