Las Vegas • If No. 4 USC wins the Pac-12 championship game Friday night and advances to the College Football Playoff, No. 12 Washington will likely hop No. 11 Utah in the College Football Playoff rankings on Sunday. That would all but assure the Huskies, not the Utes, a trip to the Rose Bowl as the conference’s next-highest-ranked team behind the Trojans.
That is conventional wisdom, but on Tuesday night, CFP selection committee chair and North Carolina State athletic director Boo Corrigan was pedaling a different line of thinking.
After beating 1-win Colorado, Utah moved up three spots to No. 11, while Washington’s Apple Cup win at 7-win Washington State bumped it one spot to No. 12.
“As we looked at it, Utah’s win over Southern Cal (on Oct. 15) as Southern Cal continues to move up, as well as the win (on Oct. 1) over (No. 15) Oregon State, a couple of their losses to UCLA and Oregon,” Corrigan said on a conference call. “I think the other side of it is the Washington loss at Arizona State (on Oct. 8) was surprising to everyone in the room, but when you’re looking at the entire body of work, you’ve got to take everything into account.
“As we talked about it and talked over those Pac-12 teams in that area, it was a topic of conversation, and that Arizona State loss really stood out.”
Fair enough. Washington’s loss to the 3-9 Sun Devils was horrid, ultimately costing the Huskies a trip to the Pac-12 championship game.
Corrigan referenced Utah’s loss to Oregon, but in terms of a full body of work, shouldn’t we talk some more about Washington beating the Ducks on Nov. 12?
“It’s part of what we talk about,” Corrigan said. “Again, from a Washington standpoint, they’ve got a win over Oregon and a win over Oregon State, but when you take in the full body of work as we were looking at it, two really good teams, both of whom had really good wins, and you’re looking for a differentiator as we go through this, and as we did, that Arizona State game really stood out as kind of one that didn’t measure up, if you will, to the other games.”
Let’s assume Utah jumped three spots after beating Colorado because its inclusion in the Pac-12 championship game essentially made it the conference’s No. 2 team, so the CFP wanted to reflect that?
That’s a little silly, but fine. I now have a question.
If Washington’s loss to Arizona State is the differentiator between it and Utah, how can that change if Utah loses to USC?
The answer is, it can’t. The only thing the selection committee is going to have to hammer Utah on after a loss on Friday is that it would be the Utes’ fourth loss, which is admittedly a lot, but it would also equal a split with the No. 4 team in the country.
Cautiously assuming Utah does not get blown out by USC, given the resumes and what Carrigan said on Tuesday, I think it’s fair to at least ponder, why would the selection committee drop the Utes below the Huskies?
Other things on my mind
• Dalton Kincaid not being a finalist for the Mackey Award, given annually to the nation’s top tight end, is criminal.
The All-Pac-12 senior is No. 1 nationally among tight ends in receiving yards (850) and yards after the catch (378), and No. 2 nationally at his position in receptions (66) and receiving touchdowns (8).
Forget the Mackey, Kyle Whittingham wondered aloud on Monday why Kincaid wasn’t getting more love for the Biletnikoff Award, which is given to the nation’s top receiver, regardless of position. Kincaid for the Biletnikoff is a bit much, but I can appreciate the sentiment.
• Utah basketball’s win over No. 4 Arizona on Thursday night at the Huntsman Center was the first signature moment of Craig Smith’s 40-game tenure as head coach. Wire-to-wire, Branden Carlson was the best player on the floor in the minutes he played, the Utes defended, and they withstood multiple second-half charges from the Wildcats, who were asleep at the wheel for most of the first half.
• Utah-USC is by far the most compelling Power Five championship game this weekend, mostly thanks to the Trojans essentially facing a win-and-in scenario for the CFP. One Pac-12 source on Thursday indicated there was an “uptick in national media” expected at Allegiant Stadium compared to past Pac-12 championship games, while FOX and the Pac-12 Network will both be onsite for their respective pregame shows.