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What do BYU, Utah and Utah State have to play for over the regular season’s final month?

Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Jaren Hall gets pushed by Utah Utes cornerback Clark Phillips III.
Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Jaren Hall gets pushed by Utah Utes cornerback Clark Phillips III during the second half of an NCAA college football game at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. BYU won 26-17.
Shafkat Anowar, Deseret News

With four weeks left in the regular season, there is plenty on the line for BYU, Utah and Utah State.

Can the Utes and Aggies win a conference championship in their respective leagues? Can BYU finish the regular season with double-digit wins?

Here’s what each team is playing for in the final month of the regular season:


BYU Cougars

(7-2)

The Cougars have already made a lot of impressions through the first nine weeks of the 2021 season, having beaten five Power Five opponents and coming in at No. 15 in the initial College Football Playoff rankings.

Still, there’s the possibility of having 10 wins by the end of the regular season — and perhaps a very slim chance at a New Year’s Six bowl.

The Cougars will be heavy favorites in their next two games — vs. Idaho State and at Georgia Southern — which should set up BYU with the chance to grab that 10th win when the Cougars play USC in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum to finish the regular season. BYU is currently underdogs for its game against the Trojans, according to ESPN’s Football Power Index.

As for their bowl prospects, the Cougars are virtually locked into the Independence Bowl. To earn an at-large New Year’s Six invitation, they would likely need to be ranked No. 10 or higher in the final CFP rankings, which is a long shot at best right now.


Utah Utes

(5-3, 4-1 in Pac-12)

A Rose Bowl berth and first-ever Pac-12 championship is very much in play for the Utes.

Utah, which last won a conference championship in 2008 as a member of the Mountain West, essentially has a two-game lead in the Pac-12 South. Arizona State trails the Utes by a game in the standings, but Utah won the head-to-head matchup earlier this year, and owns the tiebreaker over UCLA and USC, too.

If Utah goes 3-1 or better down the stretch, it will win its third Pac-12 South title in the past four seasons.

Of the Utes’ final four regular-season games, they play the worst two teams in the Pac-12 South — Colorado and Arizona are a combined 1-9 in league play — and Stanford, the worst team in the Pac-12 North (though the Cardinal have beaten Oregon and USC this year).

Utah is favored to win every one of its final four regular-season games, according to ESPN’s FPI, including its home game against Oregon, No. 4 in the initial CFP rankings, on Nov. 20. That game could very well be a preview of the Pac-12 championship on Dec. 3 at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.


Utah State Aggies

(6-2, 4-1 in Mountain West)

The Aggies currently have the inside track to the MW’s Mountain Division title, sitting one game up on Air Force — Utah State also holds the tiebreaker over the Falcons by virtue of beating them earlier this year.

There’s still plenty to be decided in the Mountain Division, though, with Boise State and Colorado State also sitting at 2-2 in conference play. If Utah State wins out in league play, though, the Aggies — who last won a conference title in the WAC in 2012 — will play in the MW championship game.

Utah State is favored in every one of its final four games, according to ESPN’s FPI. Following a nonconference game against New Mexico State this weekend, the Aggies play at defending Mountain West champion San Jose State before finishing with the bottom two teams in the Mountain Division standings — hosting Wyoming and playing at New Mexico, two teams who are a combined 1-7 in league play.

If the Aggies manage to go through November unbeaten, not only will they play in the MW championship game — there are other scenarios where USU could lose a conference game but still make the title game — but they would have a double-digit win season as well.