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Utah to play USC in Pac-12 championship game after improbable weekend


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BOULDER, Colo. β€” It was an improbable path, but one that was possible, too.

Coming into the final weekend of the regular season, Utah was on the outside looking in for a potential Pac-12 championship game appearance. There was still a narrow chance the Utes could defend their 2021 title, but everything had to go as planned over the weekend.

Utah needed four games, to be exact, to go their way. If they did, they'd be in the program's fourth title game appearance in five seasons:

  • UCLA needed to beat California
  • Oregon State needed to beat Oregon
  • Utah needed to beat Colorado
  • Washington needed to beat Washington State

As the final score flashed on the video board at Folsom Field, Utah fans erupted in cheers.

It wasn't Utah's 63-21 win over Colorado to closeout the regular season β€” one of the four necessary steps β€” but a 38-34 result in favor of Oregon State over rival Oregon in the game formerly known as "The Civil War." That was the game that seemed the most likely to cause problems for Utah, and the Beavers took care of it.

Suddenly, the path for Utah came down to one game (UCLA beat Cal on Friday night to unlock the first step), a late-night Apple Cup rivalry that would determine the team's fate.

It was one for the ages, too, where the winner of the game determined which outside team got into the championship game to face a USC team on the verge of a potential College Football Playoff bid. If Washington won, Utah was in the championship; if Washington State won, Oregon was in.

After a wild back-and-forth, high-scoring affair, it was Washington that came out on top with a 51-33 win over their rival.

Utah was in.

For Utah, it was the equivalent of hitting a parlay β€” making two or more bets as one to increase the amount of money won that also comes with a higher risk β€” in sports gambling, and Utah collected big.

Easy, right? Not exactly. If looking at standard betting odds in a four-team parlay, the chance to win were about 7.5% ... or a 15.3% chance according to ESPN for Utah specifically.

Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham said he was made aware of the Oregon-Oregon State game at different points throughout the end of their game against Colorado, but it wasn't a constant check β€” he was coaching a blowout game, after all.

"Not until the very end," he said. "I mean, I saw the score flash up like everyone else did periodically, but not until deep into the fourth quarter was I getting some feedback from my guy on the sidelines."

It was on everyone's mind, though, and was hard to put away.

"Yeah, we were looking," Utah quarterback Cam Rising said of the occasional glances to Colorado's video board when the scores showed.

Whittingham said after the game that they'd be "rooting hard for the Huskies and see where it takes us."

The Huskies took the Utes back to Las Vegas for another meeting against USC.

Utah is the only team to beat USC this season and the Trojans will be looking to avenge a 43-42 loss in Rice-Eccles Stadium on a gutsy 2-point conversion by Cam Rising.

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Josh is the Sports Director for KSL.com and beat writer of University of Utah athletics β€” primarily football, men’s basketball and gymnastics. He is also an Associated Press Top 25 voter for college football.

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