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Kyle Whittingham on why College Football Playoff expansion would be benefit to all

Utah coach also talks up Butkus Award finalist Devin Lloyd, recruiting and Tyler Huntley’s big day

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This Oct. 16, 2013 photo shows College Football Playoff logo printed across a backdrop used during a news conference in Texas.

This Oct. 16, 2013 photo shows the College Football Playoff logo printed across a backdrop used during a news conference in Irving, Texas.

Tony Gutierrez, Associated Press

While Utah’s blowout win over then-No. 3 Oregon was huge for the program, it means that, once again, the Pac-12 won’t have a team represented in the College Football Playoff.

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For years, one of the knocks on the league is its inability to produce a dominant team. It looked like the Ducks might have been that team before getting steamrolled 38-7 at Rice-Eccles Stadium last Saturday night.

What is it going to take for the Pac-12 to get back in the playoff discussion in the future?

The day that George Kliavkoff became the Pac-12 commissioner last June, he said, “I want to go on the record: The Pac-12 is in favor of expansion of the College Football Playoff.”

Expanding from four teams to eight or 12 would good for the league.

“The Pac-12, and we’ve said this for a lot of years now, is very competitive, very balanced,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said during his weekly press conference Monday. “Nobody has had that breakout year where you go through the league unblemished and through the season undefeated.

“That’s pretty much what it takes for the four-team format. We’ve been beating each other up a little bit. When they do eventually make the move (to expand), soon they’ll expand. That will make things a better situation for everybody — not just us, but the entire country.”

In Whittingham’s mind, the playoff should include even more than 12 teams. 

“I think 16 would be ideal,” he said. “Twelve would be a big step in the right direction. And 16 would be the ultimate.”

The Utes have been sitting at No. 23 in the CFP rankings, and they’re expected to make a big jump Tuesday. 

Utah, champions of the Pac-12 South, closes out the regular season at home Saturday (2 p.m. MST, Fox) against Colorado before taking on either Oregon, Oregon State or Washington State in the Pac-12 Championship game on Dec. 3 in Las Vegas. 

With national signing day coming up in mid-December, recruiting is heating up right now. The Utes will have less time to devote to recruiting because they’ll be playing in the championship game. 

But Whittingham is fine with that. 

“It’s definitely worth the trade-off. Playing in the championship absolutely outweighs losing some time in recruiting,” he said. “The best thing you can do for recruiting is to win and exposure. Playing in that game is a big positive. Yes, we’ll miss out on four, five days of evaluations and contacts, but it’s well worth the trade-off. We’ll take that scenario every single year.”

Whittingham added that recruiting momentum is growing because of the way Utah has been playing. 

“We hope to get more commitments down the stretch,” he said. “I think it’s directly tied, or somewhat tied, to the success we’ve had the last six or seven weeks of the season.”

Also Monday, Whittingham congratulated linebacker Devin Lloyd for being named one of six finalists for the Butkus Award, emblematic of the nation’s top linebacker. 

“We’re proud of Devin and what he’s done for us here at Utah,” he said. “He’s having a terrific year. He’s definitely one of the top linebackers in the country and he’s deserving of being a finalist for the Butkus Award.”

A panel of coaches, recruiters, scouts and journalists will vote for the winner, which will be announced on or before Dec. 7.

Lloyd is the No. 3-rated linebacker in the country, according to Pro Football Focus, ranking No. 2 in the nation with 21.0 tackles for loss this season. He’s the only FBS player this season with 14 tackles for loss and multiple interceptions. He’s ranked fourth in Utah history in career tackles for loss with 42.  

Lloyd has recorded at least one sack in five games this season, including two against Arizona State, which came on the last drive of the game against the then-No. 18-ranked Sun Devils.

Whittingham was asked about his reaction to the firing of Florida coach Dan Mullen, a former Utah assistant. 

“Tough news. I really like Dan. Obviously we were here together back when Urban was here. He’s an outstanding football coach,” Whittingham said. “It just illustrates the mentality and the nature of the beast in this day and age … of instant gratification and people want results now. That’s how it is. If you don’t like it, if you don’t have the stomach for it, get out of the profession because it’s not going to change.”

Also, Whittingham was asked about his former quarterback, Tyler Huntley, who made his first NFL start Sunday. 

Huntley led the Baltimore Ravens to an improbable 16-13 win over the Chicago Bears. 

“Awesome. To see him win the game with two late touchdown drives, I texted him today and told him how proud we are of him. He’s one of the most competitive and toughest kids that’s ever come through here,” Whittingham said. “It doesn’t surprise me the success he’s had. He’s absolutely a football junkie that loves everything about the game. Every minute of every day he’s doing something to make himself better. I’m proud of Tyler.”