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Bowl projections: What Utah’s bowl prospects look like heading into Pac-12 championship game

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Utah quarterback Cameron Rising (7) throws a pass against Southern California during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 15, 2022, in Salt Lake City.

FILE - Utah quarterback Cameron Rising (7) throws a pass against Southern California during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 15, 2022, in Salt Lake City. The Utes and Trojans will play in the Pac-12 championship game on Friday.

Rick Bowmer, Associated Press

In the penultimate College Football Playoff rankings released Tuesday night, Utah leapfrogged Washington — with the Utes coming in at No. 11 and the Huskies at No. 12.

That makes Utah the second-highest ranked team from the Pac-12, behind only No. 4 USC, who the Utes will play in the Pac-12 championship game this Friday (6 p.m. MST, Fox).

The final CFP rankings come out Sunday, deciding the matchups for not only the playoff but all the New Year’s Six bowls.

Does this mean Utah could earn a Rose Bowl invitation even if the Utes lose to USC in the conference title game?

Not so fast, my friend.

The Rose Bowl website outlines the selection procedures for “The Granddaddy of Them All,” which has conference tie-ins with the Big Ten and the Pac-12. 

If a team from either the Big Ten or Pac-12 is selected to go to the CFP, the Tournament of Roses will select the “next-highest CFP-ranked team from that conference.”

Currently, the Big Ten’s Michigan is No. 2 in the CFP rankings and in line for a playoff berth, making No. 5 Ohio State the potential Rose Bowl participant from that league, or perhaps No. 8 Penn State if the Buckeyes sneak back into the CFP picture if an upset or two happens during championship weekend.

In the Pac-12, if Utah wins the Pac-12 championship, it will be headed to the Rose Bowl for a second straight season as league champions. 

If USC wins this weekend, though, and makes the playoff, who would be the Pac-12’s representative in the Rose Bowl?

The bowl’s site further explains a caveat about selecting the next-highest CFP-ranked team from either the Pac-12 or Big Ten for its game. 

“If the next-highest ranked team is in a ‘cluster’ of teams, meaning there is another team or teams from the same conference ranked within several spots of each other, the Tournament of Roses will select the team from that cluster that will result in the best possible matchup for the Rose Bowl Game,” Rose Bowl Management Committee Chair Scott Jenkins said in a statement.

The site reads: “In a cluster situation, the Tournament of Roses will take into account factors, in no particular order, such as: the last time a team played in the Rose Bowl Game, head-to-head results, regular season schedule, overall record, opponents played, past playoff or bowl appearances and performance, and historical matchups.”

What does the national media think will happen for Utah?

Bowl projections for Utah football after Week 13

A survey of the latest bowl projections from several major publications this week was clear: they predict USC will win the Pac-12 championship and Utah will be headed to a secondary bowl option.

Eight of those 10 projections — many of which released before the CFP rankings came out, while a few were updated since then — have Utah playing in the Alamo Bowl against Texas. The other two predict for the Utes to end up in either the Las Vegas Bowl or Holiday Bowl.

All 10 projected the Trojans to make the CFP and play Georgia in the semifinals, and nine of the 10 predicted Washington will face Ohio State in the Rose Bowl. The other, Action Network, has the Huskies playing Penn State in the Rose Bowl.

What is the Pac-12 bowl selection order in 2022?

Here are the Pac-12’s bowl tie-ins for 2022 and the order in which the bowls will select their participants.

  • CFP/Rose Bowl 
  • Alamo Bowl
  • Holiday Bowl
  • Las Vegas Bowl 
  • Sun Bowl
  • LA Bowl
  • One spot in these ESPN-run bowls (Armed Forces, Gasparilla, First Responders)

In the selection process, bowls do not have to select their participant in order by where they finished in the conference standings. They can bypass the next available team (or teams) in the standings for someone else, as long as there is only a one-game difference between schools in conference record. 

That makes it likely that if Utah misses out on the Rose Bowl, it wouldn’t fall any further than the Las Vegas Bowl — this year, the Pac-12 had six teams with a 6-3 or better record in conference play.

What are Utah’s most likely bowl scenarios?

If Utah wins

This is simple: the Utes go to the Rose Bowl with a victory. 

It’s likely they could face No. 8 Penn State, for a couple reasons. 

First, a USC loss could knock it out of CFP contention and elevate No. 5 Ohio State into the CFP to replace the Trojans in the playoff field.

If that happens, Penn State is the next-highest ranked Big Ten team in the CFP rankings.

Second, even if USC wasn’t knocked out of the playoff with a second loss to Utah, it’s unlikely that the Rose Bowl would prefer a rematch of Utah and Ohio State this year.

The Buckeyes beat the Utes 48-45 in last year’s Rose Bowl, and the Rose Bowl could prefer to select Penn State as an alternate option to represent the Big Ten to face Utah.

There’s also the possibility that Purdue, which faces Michigan in the Big Ten championship this weekend, could upset the Wolverines and represent the Big Ten in the Rose Bowl.

The Wolverines, of course, are expected to be playoff bound no matter this weekend’s result after convincingly beating Ohio State last week.

If Utah loses

The Utes are a strong candidate to play in the Alamo Bowl, which they last played in back in 2019.

Utah’s opponent in the Alamo Bowl would likely be Texas, which is third in the Big 12 standings.

Undefeated and No. 3 TCU is expected to stay in the playoff field even if it loses in the Big 12 championship game to No. 10 Kansas State, while the Wildcats are a lock for the Big 12’s tie-in with the Sugar Bowl — barring the Horned Frogs falling out of the playoff picture.

That would make the Longhorns the most logical choice to represent the Big 12 in the Alamo Bowl.

Texas and Utah met in the 2019 Alamo Bowl, with the Longhorns winning 38-10.