While only two weeks remain in college football’s regular season, there are still plenty of things to determine, particularly for the state of Utah’s three FBS programs.
Both Utah and Utah State could clinch conference division championships this weekend. BYU, meanwhile, returns to action hoping to win again and get some help for a long-shot New Year’s Six bowl possibility.
Here’s a breakdown of who fans of these programs should be cheering for this weekend for best possible bowl outcomes, and how these games could influence the three teams.
Results that could help BYU’s odds of making a New Year’s Six bowl
No. 14 BYU beats Georgia Southern. The Cougars return to action after a bye week, and waiting for them is a matchup with the 3-7 Eagles. BYU keeps its slim hopes for a New Year’s Six bowl alive with a win while improving to 9-2 and likely stays ranked in the top 15 nationally.
Iowa State beats No. 13 Oklahoma.
Kansas State beats No. 11 Baylor.
Texas Tech beats No. 9 Oklahoma State.
Oklahoma State, Baylor and Oklahoma all sit within five spots above BYU in the latest College Football Playoff standings, and for the Cougars to improve their NY6 hopes, they’ll likely need at least two of these Big 12 teams to lose at least once more.
There are opportunities for all three to lose in subsequent weeks as well — the Cowboys host the Sooners on Nov. 27, for example — but this weekend, they all face opponents with winning records.
No. 23 Utah beats No. 3 Oregon. Here’s the logic behind this one: an Oregon loss drops them out of playoff possibility, though this comes with a caveat. If the Ducks lose to Utah on Saturday, at least for BYU’s hopes, Oregon (assuming it wins the Pac-12 North) will then need to beat the Utes in the Pac-12 championship game.
That way, the Ducks would head to the Rose Bowl and not potentially steal an at-large bid to either the Fiesta Bowl or Peach Bowl.
Also, a Utah win would, in a way, bolster BYU’s resume, since the Cougars beat the Utes earlier this season.
No. 5 Cincinnati beats SMU. The Bearcats currently are in line to earn the Group of Five automatic bid to the New Year’s Six, and if they make it to the College Football Playoff, that would open up an at-large spot in the NY6 pool.
The Mustangs will provide a good test, as they come into the game with an 8-2 record.
No. 21 Arkansas beats No. 2 Alabama. The Razorbacks have the opportunity to play spoiler to the Crimson Tide’s playoff hopes. If Alabama were to lose, they’d expect to fall outside playoff possibility, and in turn, that could mean that only two SEC teams make either the CFP or New Year’s Six, especially if No. 12 Ole Miss loses in the next two weeks.
Georgia Tech beats No. 8 Notre Dame. This is an extreme long shot, with the Irish a heavy favorite over the 3-7 Yellow Jackets. If Georgia Tech pulled the upset, though, Notre Dame could fall far enough to rank right above or even below BYU.
Virginia beats No. 18 Pittsburgh. The Cavaliers are still in contention to win the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Coastal Division and would take the inside track to the division title with a win. That could pay dividends for BYU, which beat Virginia earlier this year.
No. 4 Ohio State beats No. 7 Michigan State.
Maryland beats No. 6 Michigan.
Like the Big 12, there are three Big Ten teams who, depending on how the next three weeks play out, could impact BYU’s New Year’s Six hopes with how the Big Ten title race plays out.
The Buckeyes play both Michigan and Michigan State in the next two weeks, though they’re the favorite to win out and make the Big Ten championship. If that holds true, BYU could benefit from Michigan and/or Michigan State falling over the next couple weeks.
Results that would help Utah in Pac-12 South title chase
No. 23 Utah beats No. 3 Oregon. The winner of this game will clinch their own Pac-12 division — Oregon in the North, Utah in the South. There’s a strong possibility these two teams will also be playing again in the Pac-12 championship on Dec. 3.
The loser could also clinch their division and a spot in the Pac-12 championship, depending on how the weekend plays out.
For Oregon, if it loses to Utah but Arizona State beats Oregon State, the Ducks would win the Pac-12 North. For Utah, if it loses to Oregon but Oregon State beats Arizona State, the Utes would win the Pac-12 South.
Got all that?
Oregon State beats Arizona State. The Sun Devils sit one game back of Utah in the Pac-12 South standings with a 5-2 league record and are the only other team that could win the Pac-12 South — if Utah loses its final two regular-season games and Arizona State wins both of its final two games.
The Beavers, meanwhile, still have a path available to win the Pac-12 North, but that requires beating Arizona State. An Oregon State win, too, would give Utah the Pac-12 South title if the Utes lose to Oregon earlier in the day.
Utah State Aggies
Results that would help USU in MW Mountain Division title chase
Utah State beats Wyoming. The Aggies sit atop the Mountain West’s Mountain Division right now and would move to 6-1 in conference play with a win, heading into the regular season’s final week.
Utah State has won a league-high five straight games, and at worst a win Saturday would put the Aggies in position to win the Mountain Division with a victory over New Mexico (1-5 in MW play) in the regular-season finale if needed.
New Mexico beats Boise State. The Lobos are the heavy underdogs here, but New Mexico beating the Broncos would be a big boost for Utah State. Boise State is currently one game back of the Aggies in the Mountain Division standings and owns the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Aggies.
If Utah State wins and Boise State loses, though, the Aggies will win the Mountain Division and earn a spot in the MW championship game.
Nevada beats Air Force. Like Boise State, the Falcons sit one game back of Utah State in the Mountain Division. Utah State owns the head-to-head tiebreaker with Air Force and a Falcons loss (or Utah State win) this weekend would eliminate Air Force from winning the Mountain Division.