Utah must win against Washington State.
It gets no simpler than that. A loss will doom 'em to their second consecutive losing season and pretty much end what looked, at one point, to be a promising year.
I don't know exactly how they're going to do it - but Utah needs to find a way to beat the Cougars this Saturday. The program can ill afford another losing season and ultimately, if Utah is going to prove itself in this conference, they're going to have to start winning games.
They've not done much of that the last two years. In fact, Utah is just 4-12 in Pac-12 play. Yes, this year's schedule has been brutal (the toughest in the nation), and Travis Wilson's injury, and now absence, has put a huge damper on things, but excuses don't wash. They don't win games.
The reality here is Utah needs to win because so much is on the line for the program. Recruiting, momentum, confidence and, above everything else, trust, will all be tied to their performance in these next two games. If they can't find two wins, if they can't reach .500 and then bowl eligibility, what tone does that set heading into an uncertain 2014 - especially if, God forbid, Wilson is forced into medical retirement?
Utah is a team that has lacked total momentum and success these past two years and I fear it's a mood that will settle into the program if things don't change these next two weeks. Yes, each season is independent of the last, but overall, for a team still stuck in conference limbo, what they do now helps set a precedence that will define the program going forward.
We really do need this win.
The thing is, much of this week has been, or will be, spent thinking, and wondering, about Travis Wilson. It's a distraction, and a worry, that ultimately shows how unimportant these next couple weeks truly are in the entire scheme of things. Wilson's health is the story, and will continue to be the story until we have a definitive answer on it and it's hard overlooking that, or moving beyond that, to focus on this must-win game against a Wazzu team that did something Utah couldn't - beat SC and Arizona on the road.
If we're having a difficult time approaching this game, and I'll concede, most my thoughts have been with Wilson these past few days, what about the team?
It's hard to focus when your leader goes down - especially with something as scary as what we witnessed with Wilson.
Part of me would love to see this week as a Win One for Wilson situation. But I fear that's too cheap. It feels like it trivializes Wilson's injury and puts too much importance on something that, ultimately, is far less important than health. And yet, I don't doubt the players want to win this for Wilson. I think everyone, from the coaches on down to the fans, is just exhausted with this season and the bad news that has dominated it - from Brian Blechen going down, Gaius Vaenuku dying, Kenneth Scott's season-ending injury in the first game to the recent development with Wilson. Utah, it seems, has not been able to catch a break.
Boy wouldn't it be fun to win one and inch our way toward bowl eligibility?
Yeah. This season has been wrought with struggle. Too much struggle. It's been enjoyable in only pieces and nothing more. That can change this Saturday.
There's no question, we really do need this win.
Maybe not for the program's sake, but the sake of our sanity.
It may have been the best of times and the worst of times in Charles Dickens' 'A Tale of Two Cities', but for Utah football, it's certainly the worst of times - both on and off the field - and only the worst of times.
I hope that ends this Saturday.
It needs to end this Saturday.
Please, I implore the football gods, let it end this Saturday.
Let Utah reemerge victors and satisfy our exhausted spirits.