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Patrick Kinahan: Granddads rejoice – Utes are going to the Granddaddy

Utah Utes quarterback Cam Rising (7) and teammates celebrate after the Utes beat the Oregon Ducks in the Pac-12 championship game at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas on Friday, Dec. 3, 2021.

Utah Utes quarterback Cam Rising (7) and teammates celebrate after the Utes beat the Oregon Ducks in the Pac-12 championship game at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas on Friday, Dec. 3, 2021. (Spenser Heaps, Deseret News)



Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

LAS VEGAS – Pinch yourself, all long-suffering Utah football fans. Wake up and smell the roses.

You remember the 1970s, the decade that featured consecutive 1-10 seasons. Hey, and how about the 1980s, which was a whole bunch of mediocrity all the while watching the reality of that bitter rival down south soaring to national prominence.

Better times followed in the subsequent decades, but they were nothing like the gaudy present. Utah, previously known as that gutty, overachieving team buried in the mountain snow, will play in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1.

The Granddaddy of them all is yours. Congratulations, the prestigious honor belongs to the Utes.

As expected, based on the overwhelming evidence two weeks ago, Utah whipped Oregon again to capture that elusive Pac-12 championship. This time, the Utes won 38-10 Friday before a heavily partisan red-clad crowd at Allegiant Stadium.

For those keeping score, the combined tally of Utah's two wins over Oregon is 76-17. And, really, neither game was as close as the scores might indicate.

How is it possible — the best team in the Pac-12 resides in Salt Lake City, an outpost that barely registered a blip on the national college football scene for decades. Fact is, this team has earned a berth in the most storied bowl game played in the most glorious setting.

Is the Rose Bowl better than undefeated seasons that resulted in Fiesta and Sugar bowl berths? Yes, yes and yes.

Besides, both of Utah's appearances in those games were eons ago for the current crop of youngsters. Pasadena, California, is the best bowl the sport has to offer that is not determined by a committee in a board room.

You better believe, Utah is a football powerhouse, a slight cut below the traditional juggernauts that typically dominate the college football playoff. And who knows, if any of these hot-shot five-star recruits also would wake up and smell the roses, the Utes maybe will join the likes of Alabama and Ohio State competing to play into the middle of January.

Really, there's no excuse for any recruit in the Pac-12 footprint to not seriously consider committing to Utah. Whatever they are looking for — strong academics, passionate community support, playing for championships, etc. — Utah has it.

"In my opinion, not enough of the great high school players from our footprint currently play in the Pac-12," said commissioner George Kliavkoff Friday.

Listen up, all local Utah prep stars, stay put and be a hometown hero. If BYU is your thing, fine, but don't be running off to the disappointing northwest or be sucked in by the sunshine of La La Land.

You want stability, something that USC hasn't provided in nearly 15 years? Utah's the place. Hot hire Lincoln Riley, USC's latest hire, promises a return to glory, as did Lane Kiffin, Steve Sarkisian and Clay Helton.

If you're into offense, don't ignore Utah anymore. The new Kyle Whittingham, the coach formerly known as Mr. Protect the Defense, has adopted an aggressive style.

Only three plays from scrimmage were needed to prove Utah would take all the necessary chances to land the grand prize. Facing a fourth-and-1 from near midfield on their first possession, the Utes never even remotely considered backing off. Send the message early — Utah was going to demolish Oregon for the second time in two weeks.

Not only did quarterback Cam Rising get the necessary 1 yard, the offense went anti-Utah by taking to the air to storm down near the goal line, where Tavion Thomas barreled into the end zone untouched. Immediately, Utah established the tone — the team in red, not the grossly overhyped group in green, would be taking home the trophy.

From there, the outcome was a foregone conclusion. The only mystery is whether coach Mario Cristobal will take another pay raise — which would be his third in the last four years — from Oregon or jump ship for more ridiculous money from Miami, where he played and coached.

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