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Three Games Utah Fans Should Watch

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

It seemed almost certain after the Utes fell to Arizona that they were out of the College Football Playoff picture, but the committee did not feel that way, ranking the Utes No. 13. It would be a huge uphill battle for the Utes to make it into the final top four, but a New Year's Six bowl is not out of the equation. For the games to watch this week, we will mostly focus on Pac-12 games since the Utes need some help to win the Pac-12 South. Let us take a look at Pac-12 Championship game scenarios, and what it would take to make them happen.

The Pac-12 North

Stanford was stunned at home by Oregon, falling for the first time since losing at Northwestern to start the season. The Cardinal only have one Pac-12 loss, which is one fewer than any other Pac-12 team. They have one Pac-12 game remaining, at home against Cal for the annual "Big Game." If Stanford beats Cal, they win the Pac-12 North. If Stanford loses to Cal, Oregon could win the Pac-12 North if they beat USC and Oregon State.

The Pac-12 South

With Utah losing, it has opened the door for USC to claim the top spot. UCLA also controls their own destiny. If either of the L.A. schools win out, they win the Pac-12 South. If the Utes win out, they need USC to lose either at Oregon or at home against UCLA to win the Pac-12 South.

Now, on to the games to watch!

No. 9 Michigan State at No. 3 Ohio State 1:30 p.m. MT on ABC

Why should Utah fans watch and who should they cheer for?

This game may be difficult for Utah fans to watch since it is at the same time as the Utah-UCLA game, but it is the ESPN College GameDay game this week. It is a matchup that lost a little of its luster when Michigan State fell to Nebraska on a controversial final play. It still has massive CFP ramifications though. A Michigan State win would put the Spartans in a great spot to win the Big Ten East with only Penn State at home left. Michigan State would have tie breakers over both Michigan and Ohio State if they win. If Ohio State wins, they still have to play at Michigan, which would decide the East if Michigan wins this week at Penn State.

The College Football Playoff has four spots, and there are five Power conferences. This may seem obvious, but at least one Power Five conference champion will be left out. Right now, it would be the Pac-12 Champion who would be left out. If Michigan wins the Big Ten, and Utah wins the Pac-12, it would be hard to leave the Utes out in favor of the Wolverines since Utah has the head-to-head win. For Michigan to win the Big Ten, they need to first win their division, and the best chance for Michigan to do that is for Ohio State to win against Michigan State. It must be hard for Wolverines fans to cheer for the Buckeyes this week.

What would a win by each team mean for Utah?

Both of these teams have shown flaws this season. Ohio State has been in close calls with many teams that they should have beaten handily. Michigan State won multiple games ugly before finally getting beaten on the final play of the game against Nebraska. Either team could win this game.

If Michigan State wins, they will likely win the East unless they fall at home in their final game against Penn State. Michigan State has a win over Pac-12 North contender Oregon. They also only have one loss on a controversial call at Nebraska. A one-loss Michigan State team with a win over likely Big Ten West Champion Iowa, would get into the CFP over a two-loss Pac-12 Champion.

If Ohio State wins, they still have a very tough game left: at Michigan. Playing on the road in a rivalry game is challenging. If Michigan beats Penn State on the road (which is by no means a guarantee), the Michigan-Ohio State game will be for the Big Ten East crown. If Ohio State wins the East then beats Iowa to win the Big Ten, they are in the CFP. However, if Michigan wins the Big Ten, the Pac-12 Champion has a shot to get in over a two-loss Michigan team. Utah has a win over Michigan, and Stanford is currently ranked ahead of Michigan. Michigan winning the Big Ten is the best case scenario for the Pac-12 Champion, so for that to happen, Ohio State almost certainly needs to win this game. My pick to win the game is Ohio State since it is a home game, and they look better with J.T. Barrett playing quarterback.

No. 24 USC at No. 23 Oregon 1:30 p.m. MT on ESPN

Why should Utah fans watch and who should they cheer for?

It seems like most of the important games for Utah are happening at 1:30 p.m. MT on Saturday, making it difficult for Utah fans to watch. I broke down the Pac-12 scenarios earlier in this article, so it should be obvious who Utah fans should cheer for in this game: the Oregon Ducks. This should be a fun game to watch. The last few times USC and Oregon have played, they have been good games. In 2011, Oregon only lost two games, and one of them was at home against USC. In 2012, both teams lit up the scoreboard in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, with the Ducks topping the Trojans 62-51. When the Ducks and Trojans play, it is typically an exciting game to watch.

What would a win by each team mean for Utah?

An Oregon win would be huge for Utah. It would then put Utah in control of their own destiny again in the Pac-12 South. Utah also beat the Ducks by 42 points at Autzen Stadium, so the better the Ducks look the rest of the season, the better that win looks for the Utes. Having the strongest possible resume is essential for a two-loss Utah team to make the College Football Playoff.

If USC wins, it does not end Utah's hope of winning the Pac-12 South. USC would still have to play UCLA in the final week of the season. The Trojans have not beaten the Bruins since Jim Mora took over as UCLA head coach before the 2012 season. According to FPI, USC has a better than 50% chance to win each of these games, but it sees the Oregon game as the more difficult of the two (personally, I think FPI is overrating USC and underrated Oregon with a healthy Vernon Adams Jr.).

Cal at No. 11 Stanford at 8:30 p.m. MT on ESPN

Why should Utah fans watch and who should they cheer for?

This game could decide who plays in the Pac-12 Championship game as the winner of the Pac-12 North. If Stanford wins, they win the North. Utah has already played Cal this year and missed Stanford. The Cardinal lost in their first game at Northwestern then rattled off eight straight wins before falling at home against Oregon. Stanford still only has one loss in conference, so they will clinch the North if they win regardless of what Oregon does down the stretch. If Stanford loses, Oregon needs to win out against USC and Oregon State to clinch the North. The better matchup by far for Utah in the Pac-12 Championship game is Stanford. Now, I now what you are thinking, Utah beat Oregon on the road by 42 points. Well, that was Oregon without a healthy Vernon Adams Jr. Oregon's defense has also improved since that game. Oregon would also love to get revenge against the Utes as well. Beating the same team twice in one season is a tough endeavor. Utah has historically matched up well against Stanford, going 2-0 against the Cardinal since joining the Pac-12. Utah played an excellent game against Oregon earlier this year, but they typically do not matchup well against teams like Oregon and play much better against pro-style teams like Stanford. So, since Utah needs Oregon to beat USC, cheer for Stanford here, so they still win the North.

What would a win by each team mean for Utah?

A Stanford win puts them in the Pac-12 Championship game. If Utah wins the South, it gives the Pac-12 the best matchup in the title game between two two-loss teams. It would also be the better matchup for Utah to win the Pac-12. Stanford is an excellent team, and they would likely be favored against Utah in the Pac-12 Championship game, but I still feel that is the better matchup than a rematch against a hungry and improving Oregon team.

If Cal wins, Oregon likely wins the North. I see the Ducks beating USC and Oregon State to close out the year. A rematch is never as exciting of a game, and Oregon is a lower ranked team that presents more of a matchup problem. If Utah wins the South, playing Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship game is the worst case scenario for Utah.