Santa Clara, California, 19459005 • Utah's football coach Kyle Whittingham occasionally interrupts a question.
That happened on Friday night, when someone mentioned that the previous losers of the Pac-12 championship games had never won their Bowl game in these seven seasons. Whittingham's immediate answer: "So we should not show up?"
"They had a lot of things to do this season," said Whittingham, confident that his team would do that again.
The question to Answer is on Sunday afternoon, where the Utes are sent and how far they can fall into the bowl structure of the Pac-1
The first clue will come at 13:00 pm MST, when the New Year's pairings are announced. If the state of Washington (10-2) is not included in any of these games, the Alamo Bowl will likely choose the Cougars over Utah (9-4) as a Pac-12 contender in San Antonio. Then comes the decision for the Holiday Bowl: Oregon (8-4) or Utah?
Oregon's national brand is strong, and the Ducks have junior quarterback Justin Herbert, perhaps the No. 1 in the NFL draft. Oregon last appeared in San Diego in 2008.
Utah would also be a novelty with what Sport Director Mark Harlan has termed "compelling story" by a team that clinched its first Pac-12 South title and a large fanbase north brought California for the game on Friday. San Diego is accessible from Utahns by car.
However, if the Holiday Bowl travels to Oregon, the Santa Clara-based Redbox Bowl would probably go bust because they were playing there. Utah then landed in the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas. The Pac-12 Slot # 5 (against an Atlantic Coast Conference team) would be the lowest ever for the loser of the conference championship game.
Regardless of the goal, Whittingham already has the chance for a 10th victory as a motivation. The Utes have time to regroup after playing ten consecutive weeks in mid-September.
"I'll do my best to rally these guys and go to the top," offensive Jackson Barton said.
This will be a challenge for the team and fan following after the Rose Bowl was targeted. "We were so close, but we let it go," said Barton. "That's all you can say."
College locker rooms are usually closed after regular season games, but are often open to the media after media attendance and conference tapes. When Barton spoke half an hour after Friday's game, the Utes still wore their uniform pants and waited for the locker room to be cleared.
The recipient of Utah, Siaosi Mariner, head down and handling the two most memorable games of the match – both concern Washington Cornerback Byron Murphy. A third-quarter pass passed from Mariner's hands and legs, leaped in the air and was intercepted by Murphy, who returned the ball to 66 yards for the game's only touchdown.
The final pass of the game was also intended for the Mariner hit by Murphy before the ball arrived. But no flag was thrown for passport disruption, which led to Whittingham's angry protest as the officers left the field.
Who knows what happened next? A penalty would have given the Utes the ball on the 27-meter line from Washington, 27 seconds before the end, after they had driven from their 7 riders long. Making a hit would have been difficult on a night when the Utes 188 were meters, but they always wish they had another chance.
Young players are already saying that they should return to Santa Clara in 2019, when the Utes will be the favorites of many observers in the South. This is a discussion for January and the next seven months.
The current question is how the Utes will react to what is coming in late December, with the possibility of another flop on Sunday when the bowls make their choice.
Bowl game defeats for losers of Pac-12 championship games:
2011 • Illinois 20, UCLA 14 (Combat Hunger Bowl).
2012 • Baylor 49, UCLA 26 (Holiday Bowl).
2013 • Texas Tech 37, Arizona State 23 (Holiday Bowl).
2014 • Boise State 38, Arizona 30 (Fiesta Bowl).
2015 • Wisconsin 23, USC 21 (Holiday Bowl).
2016 • Oklahoma State 38, Colorado 8 (Alamo Bowl).
2017 • TCU 39, Stanford 37 (Alamo Bowl).