SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – The Utes football team still has a good chance to make the College Football Playoffs, if they win out.
After shellacking UCLA on Saturday, 49-3, Utah stayed at #7 in the latest CFB Playoff Poll released on Tuesday.
LSU is still #1, followed by Ohio State, Clemson, Georgia, Alabama and Oregon.
The Utes finish the regular season with games against Arizona and Colorado. If they take care of business, Utah will face Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship Game, with the winner possibly earning a bid to the College Football Playoffs.
Head coach Kyle Whittingham says his team is responding well to all the national attention lately, and it may be a positive to keep the team focused knowing all that is at stake.
“As we talk about it, and as the players sense it and feel it, and as the coaches stress block in out and focus, yeah I think it can work in that way,” Whittingham said.
“It’s definitely an honor, but we know what we’re after,” added defensive back Terrell Burgess. “If people are saying that’s what we are, we just need to prove them right every week. Every day when we come out to practice, we have to prove that we are, what are we, 7th right now? The 7th best team in the country. We like to say that we’re the best, but there’s those nay-sayers, and we just want to keep going out, proving people right and just playing to the best of our ability.”
The Utes are heavily favored to make the Pac-12 title game, and may need to blow Arizona and Colorado out in order to impress the selection committee.
But while Whittingham acknowledged there may be value in big blowouts, he would never intentionally run the score up against an opponent.
“In reality, as much as you hate to say it, there probably is,” Whittingham said. “Especially for people who haven’t seen your game, and all they do is look at the score. If you beat someone 35-10 as opposed to 56-10, that probably does sway them a little bit and have an impact. But still, I don’t believe in that, we don’t believe in that. We’ve got to be ready to play. It’s a Pac-12 game, and every week if you’re not on your game, and you’re not ready to go, then bad things are going to happen.”
No defense in the country is playing as well as Utah’s right now. The Utes defense haven’t given up a touchdown at home in the last 14 quarters.
“That’s actually insane,” Burgess said. “I didn’t even know that was a thing. That’s a lot of quarters right?
Ya, that’s 3 1/2 games.
“That’s crazy,” Burgess said. “We try to make sure that we don’t let anybody do anything. People are going to make plays, but we need to try to limit the damage as much as we can. So I think the biggest thing is if they don’t score, they don’t win.”
On offense, Zack Moss has over 1,200 total yards and 14 touchdowns, Tyler Huntley is 5th in the nation in passing efficiency, as he has found a new weapon in tight end Brant Kuithe, who had a career game against UCLA with five catches for 132 yards and a touchdown.
“We just take whatever they give us,” Kuithe said. “Whenever I get the ball in space, make a move, get up field. Credit the o-line for blocking and to Tyler for throwing me the ball and creating space for me.”
“He’s playing his best football without a doubt,” Whittingham said about Kuithe. “He’s not the biggest guy for a tight end, 6-2 and 225 pounds, but he has tremendous quickness and speed, soft hands and just has a knack for finding open spaces.”
The Utes (9-1, 6-1 Pac-12) will go for their 7th straight victory Saturday at Arizona. Kickoff is slated for 8:00 p.m. mountain time.