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Pac-12: Champ coming to Utah in 2013

Published November 30, 2012 10:52 am

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Utah's 2013 home football schedule just became more attractive, thanks to the pairings in tonight's Pac-12 championship game.

Utah is guaranteed to have the Pac-12's defending champion come to Rice-Eccles Stadium. Stanford, which hosts UCLA, is in the 2013-14 rotation of North division opponents and UCLA is making a regular visit as a South rival.

So who wins tonight? I definitely favor Stanford, although the game should be closer than Saturday's 35-17 victory for the Cardinal at the Rose Bowl.

UCLA's degree of motivation was an issue in that game, with the Bruins knowing they were promised a berth in the title game. Stanford has to win to get there. Yet the statistics were fairly even, so I'm forecasting a good game on the Farm.

Stanford will be the team that advances to the Rose Bowl, completing another admirable season for coach David Shaw. He's done it without quarterback Andrew Luck. What's more, Shaw was willing to make a quarterback change in November, going with redshirt freshman Kevin Hogan, who has responded nicely.

Utah obviously won't build its season-ticket promotions around opposing players, but it will be fun to watch Hogan and UCLA's Brett Hundley at Rice-Eccles in 2013.

In the Utes' two seasons of conference membership, USC is really the only glamorous team to have visited Rice-Eccles Stadium. Never mind that the Trojans' season crumbled after they came to town in early October.

In 2011, the Utes hosted Washington, Arizona State, Oregon State, UCLA and Colorado. Of those teams, only UCLA (5-4) posted a winning record in conference play. This season, in addition to USC, Utah welcomed Cal, Washington State and Arizona. Only the Trojans (5-4) had a winning record in the league.

In 2013, the Utes will meet Stanford, UCLA, ASU, OSU and Colorado at Rice-Eccles, plus Utah State and Weber State. That schedule merits some anticipation of the season, the only problem being that it's nine months away, with the Utes out of the bowl picture for the first time since 2002.