Utah football: At 4-4, Utes aiming for a bowl bid
Utah receiver Dres Anderson is a young guy still learning the nuances of playing football at the college level, but he knows enough to appreciate the importance of reaching a bowl game.
"To play in a BCS game would be beautiful," he said. "I know that won't happen this year, but to play in a bowl every year, that is something I want to do."
Luckily for Anderson and his Utah teammates, the Utes' bowl hopes are very much alive.
The Utes, who play at Arizona on Saturday, must win two of their last four games to become bowl eligible for the ninth straight year.
Such an achievement is well within their reach, considering the only team with a winning record remaining on their schedule is UCLA, which visits Nov. 12.
"We know we have a great opportunity for a bowl game," tight end Luke Matthews said. "That is something we want every year, to end with a bowl game. It's a great thing for our fans and us."
One of the benefits of joining the Pac-12 for the Utes was the possibility of playing in higher-profile bowls. The Rose Bowl and all of its prestige would be a pinnacle for the Utes, even though they've played previously in two other BCS bowls.
But the Pac-12 has other well-known bowl tie-ins too, including the Alamo, Holiday and Sun bowls.
All of those bowl games feature higher payouts than the Las Vegas Bowl, where Utah landed last year as the second-best team in the Mountain West since the champion, TCU, qualified for a BCS bowl.
This year, the Utes could wind up in Las Vegas again or possibly go to a better bowl even though their record will be worse than the 10-2 mark with which they finished the 2010 regular season.
Stanford and Oregon both could end up in BCS bowls and Arizona State seems destined for the Alamo Bowl since its remaining schedule is easier than Washington's, leaving the Huskies as a likely candidate for the Holiday Bowl.
Since USC is ineligible for a bowl this year, Utah could be the best candidate for the Sun Bowl if it wins out. Georgia Tech is projected to be the ACC's No. 4 representative in the bowl, which offers a combined payout of $4 million.
Key games to help the Utes in that quest would be for Arizona State to beat UCLA on Saturday and for the Utes to beat the Bruins next week.
If the Utes can't run the table, they could slip farther down, although they really aren't considering that a possibility.
Right now, the only thing they are focusing on is a win Saturday against the Wildcats, who must win out to qualify for a bowl.
The rest of the scenarios and possibilities they'll leave up to the fans to worry about, lineman Tony Bergstrom said.
"We have a lot to play for," he said. "But Arizona is the only thing I am worried about right now."
Pac-12 Bowl ties
Rose Bowl • Jan. 2. Pac-12 No. 1 vs. Big Ten No. 1At Pasadena, Calif. Payout: $36 million*
Alamo Bowl • Dec. 29. Pac-12 No. 2 vs. Big 12 No. 3At San Antonio, Texas. Payout: $6.35 million*
Holiday Bowl • Dec. 28. Pac 12 No. 3 vs. Big 12 No. 5At San Diego, Calif. Payout: $4.3 million*
Sun Bowl • Dec. 31. Pac 12 No. 4 vs. ACC No. 4At El Paso, Texas. Payout: $4 million*
Las Vegas Bowl • Dec. 22. Pac-12 No. 5 vs. MWC No. 1At Las Vegas. Payout: $2.2 million*
Hunger Bowl • Dec. 31. Pac-12 No. 6 vs. ArmyAt San Francisco. Payout: $1.675 million*
New Mexico Bowl, Albuquerque • Dec. 17. Pac-12 No. 7 vs. MWC No. 5At Albuquerque, N.M. Payout: $750,000*
*Both teams' shares included in payouts
Utah at Arizona
P Saturday, 5 p.m.
TV • KJZZ