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Rivalry week: Utes go BCS busting with a win; BYU most likely Vegas bound

SHARE Rivalry week: Utes go BCS busting with a win; BYU most likely Vegas bound

Aside from bragging rights and conference championship implications, bowl destinations are also riding on Saturday's rivalry showdown.

With a victory over BYU, Utah will earn a Bowl Championship Series bid and could be headed to the prestigious Sugar Bowl or Fiesta Bowl.

With a loss, the Utes could fall to the Poinsettia Bowl, where they played last season.

The Cougars, win or lose, are likely ticketed for the Las Vegas Bowl for the fourth consecutive season. There is a remote possibility that BYU could wind up in the BCS, but it must defeat Utah first.

Here's a look at possible scenarios:

IF UTAH WINS: A victory for Utah, rated No. 7 in the BCS standings, over No. 14 BYU, would give the Utes a coveted BCS berth as an at-large team, though it won't become official until Dec. 7.

With a loss, the Cougars appear to be headed back to the Las Vegas Bowl, which has the first pick of remaining Mountain West Conference teams.

The Utes could go to the Sugar Bowl, which has the second pick of the three BCS at-large picks, against the loser of the Florida-Alabama SEC championship game.

The prevailing notion is that the Fiesta Bowl, which has the first pick, will take USC, if Oregon State ends up winning the Pac-10 and going to the Rose Bowl. Or, if USC goes to the Rose Bowl, then the Fiesta Bowl would take Ohio State or Penn State, whichever doesn't make the Rose Bowl, to play a Big 12 team.

The Sugar Bowl, with the second pick, would have the choice between Utah and the Big East champ, which isn't tied into a bowl but gets an automatic berth. The guess is that the Sugar Bowl would take a 12-0 Utah team over Cincinnati or Pitt or West Virginia, each of which would likely have a 9-3 mark at best.

However, if the Sugar Bowl didn't want to take a chance on another non-BCS team after getting burned by Hawaii last year, that would leave Utah in the Orange Bowl against the ACC champion.

IF BYU WINS: Even with an upset of the Utes, the Cougars will likely land in the Las Vegas Bowl. The Cougars' opponent would be the No. 4 Pac-10 team, probably either Arizona or California.

A BYU win means Boise State of the Western Athletic Conference would have the inside track to busting the BCS — as long as it remains undefeated. But should the Broncos falter on the road against Nevada, or against Fresno State, both BYU and Utah would stay alive for a BCS berth.

Would a Cougar victory this weekend be enough to overtake the Utes in the final BCS standings? That will be determined by the human polls and the computer polls. BYU's strength of schedule, which has been a liability in the computer polls, would be enhanced with a road win over Utah. But would the computers rank the Cougars ahead of the Utes, who boast victories over nationally ranked Oregon State and TCU?

Meanwhile, a Cougar win could send Utah to the Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego. Larry Baber, president of the Holiday Bowl committee, which oversees the game, told the Deseret News last weekend such a scenario is possible because he believes the Las Vegas Bowl would take BYU with the first pick it has of MWC teams. The Poinsettia Bowl has the second selection.

"Then we would get Utah," Baber said. "We'd be fine with that. How could we argue with an 11-1 team?"

The opponent could be a Western Athletic Conference team because the Pac-10 probably won't have enough bowl-eligible teams to meet its contractual obligation to the Poinsettia Bowl.

If BYU somehow breaks into the BCS, expect Utah to go to the Las Vegas Bowl.

Now, what if both the Cougars and Utes qualify for a BCS bid? Would the BCS take two non-BCS schools? The chances of that happening are improbable.

For two non-BCS schools to crash the BCS, both the Pac-10 and Big Ten would have to become one-bid conferences, along with the Big East and the ACC. That would mean losses by Oregon State and Ohio State and Michigan State.

Contributing: Mike Sorensen and Dirk Facer

E-mail: jeffc@desnews.com