The mystery surrounding which team would be Utah’s opponent next weekend was finally solved Sunday morning.

That’s when the Pac-12 Conference announced the pairings for the final week of the regular season, which includes the Utes hosting Washington State (Saturday, 11:30 a.m. MST, FS1). 

On Friday, No. 13 USC is scheduled to play Washington in the Pac-12 Championship game. 

In its first season under coach Nick Rolovich, Washington State is 1-2. The Cougars were sidelined for three consecutive weeks from the middle of November to early December due to COVID-19 cancellations. 

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Washington State fell at USC 38-13 on Dec. 6. The Cougars’ game against Cal on Saturday was canceled. Washington State beat Oregon State 38-28 on Nov. 7 in Corvallis. 

Utah (2-2) pounded Colorado 38-21 Saturday in Boulder in a game that saw the Utes score 28 unanswered points in the second half. Utah’s defense was dominant, particularly after giving up a 61-yard touchdown on the first play of the second half. 

“The energy feeding off each other was huge. Our defense is playing great and it’s exciting to watch.” — Utah quarterback Jake Bentley

In its fourth game, Utah put together a complete game for the first time this season. 

“The energy feeding off each other was huge,” said quarterback Jake Bentley. “Our defense is playing great and it’s exciting to watch.”

The Utes are coming off two straight wins, turning in their best performances of the season. But now it’s almost over.  

“It is sad. This is the first time in my career that we’re not playing for a championship. Or the opportunity to go to a championship,” said wide receiver Britain Covey. “It’s different. You’ve got to dig deep. You’ve got to find what motivates you. We’re going to have one more game and this has been such a weird season.”

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On the other hand, it’s been an arduous season for Utah, particularly from a mental and emotional standpoint. 

“The honest truth is, and I don’t think that anyone could criticize team for saying this, we’re all pretty burnt out. You saw what Boston College did, opting out of their bowl game,” Covey said. “I don’t blame them at all. The whole team, we’re pretty burnt out, just with the  emotional drag of this season. To have one game is not fun but we’re ready to finish strong. We want to finish with a winning record going into next year.”

Coach Kyle Whittingham said he likes the way his players have battled through the adversity — not just last Saturday, but all year long. 

“It has been rough. It’s been different. It’s been challenging. But our guys have responded as well as they possibly could have. It was tough getting the rug pulled out from under them at the 11th hour in those first two games,” he said. “That was a little bit disheartening. But it was the right decision to make. They responded and played their hearts out. It’s been a four-game season but it seems like a 14-game season. It’s been a journey. But you’ve got to be resilient, you’ve got to be tough and keep fighting. That’s what they’ve been doing.”

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