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U. appears headed for Emerald Bowl in San Francisco

If all goes as expected, Utah will be invited to play in the San Francisco-based Emerald Bowl as early as today.

The Utes (6-5) will likely face the winner of Saturday's Maryland (5-5) at North Carolina State (5-5) game at SBC Park, home of baseball's San Francisco Giants, on Dec. 29. Kickoff is set for 2:30 p.m. MT.

Though athletics director Chris Hill declined to comment on specifics, he did confirm that an announcement of some sort regarding Utah's bowl plans would come before Thanksgiving.

"That would be my goal," he said after acknowledging that a lot of discussions have taken place.

Gary Cavalli, executive director of the Emerald Bowl, was equally as evasive.

"There's quite a few different scenarios that we're looking at," Cavalli said. "But certainly the one involving Utah is a viable one."

With the Pacific 10 Conference unable to field a qualifier for the game, Emerald Bowl entered into discussions with the Atlantic Coast Conference. The ACC has six agreements, but may have as many as nine bowl-eligible teams.

As the dominoes fall in place, there's a sense of urgency to make announcements and begin selling tickets.

"Obviously, the clock is ticking, but we have to wait and see what the Las Vegas Bowl ahead of us does," Cavalli said. "The dust will clear here in the next couple of days."

The Las Vegas Bowl is expected to issue an invitation to BYU at a press conference this morning.

A rash of announcements may follow.

It's anticipated that league champion TCU is headed to the Houston Bowl — to fill a vacancy created by a lack of qualifiers from the SEC.

Colorado State, meanwhile, is ticketed to face Navy in the inaugural Poinsettia Bowl.

New Mexico, the MWC's lone remaining bowl-eligible team will play in Fort Worth Bowl if the Big 12 is unable to produce a qualifier. The Lobos won't know their fate until Saturday's games are complete.

Timing, however, is prompting swift announcements regarding the other teams. The Emerald Bowl considers it important.

"We'd like to do something sooner rather than later. In fact, we'd love to try to get it done before Thanksgiving," Cavalli said. "I think when a lot of people sit over their Thanksgiving turkey they start to think about what they're going to do over Christmas.

"So to get the word out before Thanksgiving, I think, definitely facilitates people's travel planning for the holidays," Cavalli added. "So I'm hopeful that we can do that."

Utes honored

After starting his first-ever NCAA Division I-A game, Utah junior quarterback Brett Ratliff was named Mountain West Conference Offensive Player of the Week. Ratliff completed 17-of-32 passes for 240 yards and four touchdowns in Utah's 41-34 overtime win at BYU. Ratliff also rushed for 112 yards on 19 carries (5.9 yards per rush) and one touchdown.

Utah safety Casey Evans, who forced and recovered a BYU fumble to produce the game's lone turnover, was named Defensive Player of the Week. He finished with a career-high 13 tackles.