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Utes playing for pride

Published November 19, 2012 2:26 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham isn't trying to make Friday's game against Colorado anything more than it is. There will be no talk of it being a sort of bowl game for the Utes or anything along those lines he said Monday. The coach who is enduring his first losing season said pride should be enough to motivate the Utes. "The message is we need to finish on a positive," he said. "We hoped to send the seniors out on a positive note Saturday in their last home game and didn't but we get one more opportunity at the very culmination of the season. If you have competitive drive and character, you shouldn't need a carrot out in front of you to play hard. Respect for the game and competitive fire within should be enough." Whittingham said this his season has been his most frustrating. "Without a doubt," he said. "The most frustrating, difficult, most trying, all the above. This is a challenging profession no doubt about it and you know that going in and it's how you like it. We will be all right. I'm confident in the long run we will be just fine." Defensive tackle Tenny Palepoi said the Utes will give it their best against Colorado. "Everyone is of course sad about not being bowl eligible and how the season has gone," he said. "But we are excited we get one more game and send the seniors off with a 'W.' Quarterback Travis Wilson had a similar outlook. He was feeling much better about his play on Monday than he did a week ago after his poor performance at Washington. "I knew it was a do or die situation and I tried my best out there to leave everything on the field," he said of Saturday's showing when he was 28-for-40 for 311 yards and two touchdowns. Even though the Utes lost, the game helped him improve, he said. "I had a lot more confidence and was more calm too," he said. "At Washington I felt too antsy and was hanging onto the ball too long and I got the ball out a lot quicker this game and was able to find easy targets and completions." There is a slight chance Utah could still go bowling if there aren't enough bowl eligible teams available to fill the 70 spots for the 35 bowls. Right now there are 62 bowl eligible teams. Most projections estimate there won't be enough teams to reach six wins in the remaining two weeks of the season. This season the NCAA created a new tie-breaking process for such a scenario. Normally teams can only count wins against the Football Championship Subdivision as part of their bowl eligibility if the FCS team meets scholarship requirements. Under the tie-breaking process, any win against a FCS team would count. A team that finishes 6-7 and loses in a conference championship would be next followed by 6-7 teams that play a 13-team schedule, call it the 'Hawaii rule,' if you will. Bowls could also invite FCS teams making the move to FBS if they have at least a 6-6 record. Texas State (3-7) eliminated itself from that scenario after losing to Navy on Saturday. Finally, teams with 5-7 records that have a top-five APR could be considered. The Utes are ranked No. 33 in APR. Rice at No. 6, Wake Forest at No. 18, Missouri at No. 21 and Virginia Tech at No. 30 could all be in that group with the Utes, depending on how things play out in the final weeks. The bowls would decide which team would be selected. Whittingham said he hadn't heard of the possibility of a 5-7 going bowling until Monday and wasn't interested in discussing the possibility the Utes could be one of those teams. "We aren't at five yet," he said of the wins. "So we aren't in the mix right now. Our goal is to get to five this week and if that happens and materializes we'd have to take a look at it and see what opportunities there are." - Lya Wodraska

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