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National Games to Watch: Week 10

NCAA Football: Baylor at West Virginia Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

The first College Football Playoff poll was released this week and the Utes were well represented, landing at number 15. Couple that with Utah’s recent dominance on the field and a very real possibility to claim the PAC-12 South title for the first time, and the Utes are squarely in the middle of the national landscape. With eyes on a bigger prize, there are some national games to keep an eye on this weekend that could have big implications for the soaring Utes.

#13 West Virginia vs #17 Texas Saturday 1:30 PM - FOX

Quarterback Will Grier leads the West Virginia offense into Austin this weekend to battle the Longhorns in what looks to be a thrilling Big 12 matchup that could help the Utes climb higher in the national rankings. Texas is a -2 favorite (for those who don’t follow sports betting, home field advantage is good for -3 points, meaning Vegas is basically calling this game a pick ‘em), and ESPN’s Matchup Predictor gives the slightest of advantage to the home team, as the Longhorns currently hold a 51% chance to win. A Texas victory would likely vault the Longhorns past the Utes in the rankings, while West Virginia may not drop below 15 with a loss to a ranked Texas. If the Utes hope to keep climbing, this game holds big implications.

#14 Penn State vs #5 Michigan Saturday 1:45 PM - ESPN

With the possibility of representing the South division in the PAC-12 Championship game at the end of the month, there’s a very real possibility the Utes could be looking at a historic chance to play in the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day against a Big 10 opponent. Current projections place the Wolverines in the final playoff spot, meaning the Utes could matchup against a familiar face in Urban Meyer’s Ohio State Buckeyes if the Rose Bowl is indeed in the cards for Utah. But a Penn State victory over the Wolverines would completely alter projections, possibly making way for Oklahoma or Washington State to claim the final playoff spot. This hypothetical opens up a whole new litany of possibilities for Utah’s bowl game opportunities and possible opponents. A Penn State victory would likely help the Utes most, as it would inch Washington State closer to a playoff berth, giving Utah much better odds of clinching a spot in the Rose Bowl even if they don’t claim the PAC-12 championship.

#1 Alabama vs #3 LSU Saturday 6:00 PM - CBS

Before we dive into this matchup, allow me to preface this by saying what you already know; I am not an expert, merely a highly evolved primate with a keyboard. What you’re about to read is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to write…but this week, Utah fans far and wide need to rise up and cheer for an Alabama victory over the LSU Tigers.

Again, I am far from an expert and I could very well be completely off the mark here, but if LSU pulls the upset and hands the Crimson Tide their first loss of the season, it opens up a potential nightmare scenario for nearly every other conference aside from the ACC. Allow me to elaborate.

An LSU win likely wouldn’t drop Alabama very far in the rankings, as losing to a one loss, 3rd ranked SEC opponent is hardly enough to blemish Alabama’s resume. It’s very likely the Crimson Tide would only fall as far as 4th in the rankings with Clemson claiming the top spot, LSU climbing to 2nd, and Notre Dame making the slight jump to 3rd. With a very manageable schedule ahead of them, it’s hard to imagine a scenario where Alabama relinquishes the final playoff spot, all but guaranteeing the SEC and ACC as the only conferences being represented in the CFP. This would make it next to impossible for Utah to possibly grab a Fiesta Bowl bid if the Rose Bowl is not an option, relegating the Utes to a late December bowl game.

It’s a hard pill to swallow, but for the sake of the integrity of NCAA football and the CFP…Roll Tide.