Facebook Twitter

Utah Utes football: With BCS bowl reps watching, Utes make case for big game invite

SHARE Utah Utes football: With BCS bowl reps watching, Utes make case for big game invite

You couldn't miss them — they were the guys walking around in the bright sport coats.

Eight bowl representatives, two each from the Orange, Fiesta and Sugar bowls and one from the Poinsettia and New Mexico bowls had seats in the press box for Thursday night's game and were the subjects of interviews from various reporters.

Because of the high positions of Utah (8) and TCU (12) in the latest BCS standings, Rice-Eccles Stadium was the place to be on a day when only one other major college game was being played.

"This is a game that could have great impact for a BCS bowl," said Eric Poms, the CEO of the Orange Bowl committee. "This gives us an opportunity to see the teams and visit with the coaches and A.D.s."

Each of the major bowls has a conference tie-in, of which they're required to take a team if that conference doesn't have a team in the national championship. A team from the Mountain West could possibly be an at-large pick for one of the four major bowl games (the Rose Bowl is the other).

Poms acknowledged it was "very premature" in the process, but because the title game is in Miami this year, the Orange Bowl has the last pick of the at-large teams. To some that means that a Mountain West might be the last team picked if it qualifies as an at-large team.

"We don't like to look at it like the last team picked," Poms said. "Any team that gets to the BCS is well-deserved."

Keith Daigle of the Sugar Bowl executive committee, said, With the way the BCS is these days with so many things out of our control, all we can do is to come in and look at teams that are possibilities to be in the BCS bowls. We want to get to know everybody and let them know that if things work out, we'd love to have them come to the Sugar Bowl."

The Fiesta Bowl has the first at-large choice of the four bowls, but according to Fiesta Bowl Chairman of the Board Dave Tilson, that doesn't mean that there's little chance of a MWC team being selected.

"If you have the chance, you're going to take the best-rated team," said Tilson, who pointed out that there are other factors including which team travels well.

Tilson said that a team like Utah just may end up as the highest-rated team the way things are going and they'd love to have the Utes again.

THEY DID IT: As Brian Johnson entered the interview room, he was wearing a black shirt with a large print of the face of President-elect Barack Obama.

"He did it and so did we," Johnson said.

When asked about the shirt, Johnson said he and Louie Sakoda had started wearing them over a month ago.

"I was rooting for him the whole way," Johnson said. "That was a huge moment in American history and something that we will be talking about for a long time."

GAME NOTES: Utah's 11th straight win ties it with Texas Tech for longest winning streak in the nation ... The Utah men's and women's basketball teams were introduced at halftime and, as usual, coach Jim Boylen took the mike to address the crowd ... Perhaps it was a good omen that the Utah women's soccer team defeated TCU 2-1 in overtime in the semifinals of the MWC Tournament earlier in the day ... Sakoda's second field goal of the game tied MWC record for career field goals at 54. Also, his 19 field goals on the season is the most in Ute history for a season ... Sakoda struggled a bit with his punting, averaging 36.8 yards, although he did have one inside the 20 and one downed at the 2-yard line ... In network-televised games on Thursday nights, Utah is now 6-3. TCU is 2-6 in Thursday night games.

DAN IN REAL LIFE: Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Fouts, who played for the NFL's San Diego Chargers from 1973-87, provided color commentary for the CBS College Sports Network broadcast. Fouts is the uncle of former Utah quarterback Mike Fouts (1995-96). "I just talked to him the other day and he wishes the Utes the best of luck tonight," Dan Fouts said before the game. "He's going to be watching."

Uncle Dan noted that Mike Fouts now resides in Seattle, where he is the vice-president of a mortgage company. Mike is married to former Utah basketball player Laura Fowler.

PACKED HOUSE: Thursday's announced attendance of 45,666 was the second-largest in Rice-Eccles history, passing the 1998 BYU game (45,634) for the No. 2 spot behind the 46,768 who watched the Utes defeat California in 2003. Five of Utah's top 16 crowds have come this season.

Contributing: Dirk Facer

E-MAIL: sor@desnews.com