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Ute playoff hopes still faint, despite chaotic Saturday

Utah defensive tackle Pasoni Tasini (59) is mobbed by teammates after forcing a safety against Arizona during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Oct. 8, 2016. Arizona leads Utah 14-12 at halftime.
Utah defensive tackle Pasoni Tasini (59) is mobbed by teammates after forcing a safety against Arizona during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Oct. 8, 2016. Arizona leads Utah 14-12 at halftime.
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SALT LAKE CITY — Recently a friend asked me why no one in the local media was talking about Utah’s chances of making the college football playoffs. My answer was that the Utes’ chances were extremely faint because of their No. 15 ranking and how everything would have to fall exactly right for the Utes to move all the way into the top four.

Well those faint hopes were brightened a bit Saturday when six teams ahead of the Utes, including No. 2 Clemson, No. 3 Michigan, No. 4 Washington, No. 8 Texas A&M, No. 9 Auburn and No. 14 Virginia Tech each lost.

Still, it’s a tall mountain for the Utes to climb to jump all the way to the top four by early December.

Utah should move up to about No 12 in the CFP rankings that come out Tuesday, assuming the Utes pass Texas A&M, Auburn and Virginia Tech.

Then Utes will obviously need to win their next three games, against Oregon Saturday, at Colorado the following Saturday and in the Pac-12 championship game the following Friday. That will eliminate two contenders ahead of them (Colorado and Washington, which could also be beaten out by Washington State for the title game spot).

Either Oklahoma (11) or Oklahoma State (13) will lose in their matchup on Nov. 26, dropping one of those two. Michigan (3) and Ohio State (5), will play the same day, but the loser of that game probably won’t fall behind the Utes because the loser will have just two losses, like Utah. Strangely,

Louisville (6) is in prime position for a playoff berth now, but it could have trouble with Houston this week, which could drop the Cardinals.

The Big Ten is a jumbled mess with five teams 8-2 or better. The Utes may not be able to pass either Wisconsin (7) or Penn State (10), because each have easy finishing games, although each could lose in the Big Ten title game (Penn State will make it, if it wins out and Ohio State beats Michigan).

Clemson will likely win its last two games against Wake Forest and South Carolina, keeping it well ahead of Utah with just one loss. But it does have the ACC title game to worry about.

So barring some huge upsets the next two weeks, the path to a college playoff for Utah still looks dim. Remember, the CFP committee is not going to automatically reserve a berth for a Pac-12 school and would take two schools from another conference in a minute.

PAC-12 DOWN: After getting 10 teams into bowl games last season, the Pac-12 may end up with just six or seven teams in bowl games this year.

Already three schools — Oregon (3-7), Oregon State (2-8) and Arizona (2-8) can’t finish at .500, while Cal and UCLA each have six losses and one of them will finish with at least seven losses since they play each other in the regular-season finale.

Arizona State is 5-5, but must play at Washington this week, although the Sun Devils will be favored to beat Arizona on the road in their season finale.

With seven bowl berths available for the league, plus a possible spot in the playoffs, the Pac-12 will likely come up short this year unless a few bowls are forced to take some 5-7 teams again.

FAMILIAR FOE FOR COUGS: BYU will play in its 12th straight bowl game thanks to its 37-7 victory over Southern Utah Saturday, which gave the Cougars their sixth win of the season.

The Cougars are headed to the Poinsettia Bowl on Dec. 21 in San Diego against a representative from the Mountain West Conference. The Cougars are likely to get an old familiar foe, either San Diego State, Wyoming or New Mexico. It’s unlikely Boise State will be considered since the Cougars and Broncos already played this year.

It may not be San Diego State, which could be headed to a New Year’s Six bowl if it wins out and beats one of the aforementioned teams in the MWC title game. That would leave the Cougars against Wyoming or New Mexico, which play each other on Nov. 26.