BYU Football may be Utah's Best Hope to Make the Playoff
As weird as it sounds, Utah fans should be cheering for the Cougars to win every game for the rest of the season.
Although the scoreboard was not as close as the game actually was against BYU, the Utes 30-12 win is starting to look really good win for them. Meanwhile, the rest of the Pac 12 is starting to look weak from the top, despite six teams being ranked, mostly between 19-24.
The reality of the conference is that Oregon lost to Auburn, Washington lost to California and USC lost to BYU. Sure, all of those teams can still finish out well, but for Utah to break the Top 4, they are going to need help.
Help from BYU.
The entire reason why UCF hasn't made the College Football Playoff is because of their strength of schedule. Playing good teams like Memphis, Cincinnati and Houston just don't cut it next to teams like Tulsa, UConn and FAU.
Before, Utah beating teams like Washington, Washington State, USC and later Oregon in the Pac 12 Championship game seemed like it may be enough despite games against UCLA, Arizona and Idaho State. That isn't the case anymore though because all of the top teams, other than Washington State, have already lost a game.
In a best realistic case scenario, Washington State and BYU are the only two teams that can finish 10-2 with a loss to Utah. Despite Cal, USC and Washington all having paths to that same record with a loss to Utah, the odds of that are to slim to be given consideration at this point.
The Pac 12, although better than the AAC, is starting to stack up as a team not strong enough to send a worthy candidate to the Playoffs. If Utah beats USC, they beat an unranked 2-2 USC team. Looking at Utah's future schedule, there isn't a lot going for them as far as chances for statement wins.
Schedule Breakdown (Assuming wins)
USC - Great, Utah beat a now 2-2 USC team with a backup freshman quarterback. Crazy how the narrative can change so crazy isn't it? Just last week it was "Freshman Phenom"
Washington State - Quality win, but WSU could still easily drop games to Oregon and Washington.
Oregon State - Not a good win, but every conference has a team like that (Rutgers, Kansas, Vanderbilt)
Arizona State - Potentially a really good win, but there is already a huge asterisk next to this team after the officials messed up on the last play of the game against Michigan State.
California - The Bears, although showing promise early this season at 3-0, will likely have two losses by this game.
Washington - This could be the alternative to BYU. If UW beats BYU, the Utes better hope that the Huskies are 7-1 coming into this game.
UCLA - Have you seen their fan base lately?
Arizona - May make a bowl game, but not because they are good.
Colorado - The most average team in College Football.
Granted, there are some teams that could give the Utes a boost to their ranking/RPI, but in all likelihood, Colorado, California, USC and Arizona State will all finish in the 7-5/8-4 range and WSU/UW will be in the 8-4/9-3 range. If that happens, Utah needs BYU to be 10-2 at worst.
Even if Washington were to win this Saturday, they would still be 10-2 at best this season if they lost to Utah, and that would assume they take down Oregon, Washington State and USC. In all likelihood, they will drop one of those games making them 9-3 to finish out the year. In fact, Utah needs the Huskies to lose to Oregon so that Oregon remains a quality opponent in the Pac 12 Championship.
That scenario would make Utah's best regular season win over a 9-3 Washington team in a conference that has been undoubtedly the weakest of the Power Five the last few years. The Utes need more than 9-3 Washington to get in the playoff. They need a 10-2 or better BYU.
BYU's schedule honestly plays out sort of like the Pac 12 with three really good teams (Utah, Washington and Boise State), four quality opponents (USC, Tennessee, San Diego State and Utah State), three weak opponents (Toledo, USF and UMass) and two automatic wins (Idaho State and Liberty). By BYU going 10-2 or better, they honestly could be the best opponent that Utah beats all season. Even if that isn't the case, they would undoubtedly be a top three team, which would be essential in the eye test for Playoff Committee.
Ute fans, normally I say stop obsessing about BYU so much, but this time you may have a reason to.