For the first time this season, Utah's football team stayed in place in the AP Top 25. The Utes remained No. 8 in the poll, published Sunday.
The impact of Minnesota's 31-26 win over Penn State was that the Golden Gophers (No. 7) moved ahead of Utah and the Nittany Lions (No. 9) fell below the Utes. Similar moves occurred in the Coaches Poll, with Utah remaining No. 9.
The AP and Coaches Polls lose some value in November, when the College Football Playoff Top 25 is released each Tuesday. The CFP rankings eventually will determine the four semifinalists.
Yet to the extent that the AP Top 25 is somewhat of a predictor of the CFP list, Sunday’s rankings are a decent sign for the Utes and the Pac-12, with Oregon moving up one spot to No. 6.
After a 33-28 win at Washington on Nov. 2, the Utes (8-1, 5-1 Pac-12) this weekend had their second open date of the year, a function of the 2019 calendar that created a 14-week regular season. UCLA (4-5, 4-2), Utah’s opponent Saturday night at Rice-Eccles Stadium, also was idle. Here’s how some other weekend developments affected the Utes:
• Penn State’s loss to Minnesota and Alabama’s 46-41 loss to LSU were healthy for the Pac-12, from the perspective of either Oregon or Utah in the CFP outlook. The only way the weekend could have gone better for the conference is if Iowa State had completed its upset of Oklahoma by converting a 2-point play in the last minute of a 42-41 defeat.
Oklahoma was behind Oregon and Utah at No. 9 in the first CFP rankings and fell to No. 10 in the AP Top 25, but has a chance to boost its credentials Saturday, visiting Baylor. The Bears, who beat TCU 29-23 in triple overtime, also are unbeaten and could move into the CFP conversation by beating Oklahoma.
• Oregon also was idle this weekend; the Ducks’ remaining opponents are Arizona, Arizona State and Oregon. Oregon and Utah need each other to keep winning, creating a showdown of top 10 teams in the Pac-12 championship game Dec. 6 at Santa Clara, Calif.
If the Pac-12 winner qualifies for the Playoff, the Rose Bowl would need a replacement team and is required to select the next-highest conference member in the final CPF rankings. Oregon and Utah are the only realistic candidates.
Utah's other fallback position in New Year's Six games is an at-large berth in the Cotton Bowl, if Oregon is in the Rose Bowl. Most projections have Florida or Baylor filling that spot.
• At the fundamental level of Utah’s trying to win another Pac-12 South title and advance to the conference championship game, USC’s 31-26 defeat of Arizona State was meaningful. The Trojans are 5-2 in Pac-12 play and hold the potential tiebreaker over Utah, if the Utes slip in any of their remaining games against UCLA, Arizona and Colorado.
If the Utes lose to UCLA, then the winner of the Crosstown Rivalry between USC and UCLA could earn the South title.
ESPN’s Football Power Index gives Utah an 89.4% chance of beating UCLA.
UCLA AT NO. 8 UTAH
Saturday, 6 p.m.
TV: Ch. 13.