Utah Utes football: Utes focused on UCLA, becoming bowl eligible
SALT LAKE CITY — Of all the subplots and storylines associated with Saturday's game at Rice-Eccles Stadium, Norm Chow isn't interested in being one of them. Utah's offensive coordinator, who held the same post with UCLA from 2008-10, made his position on the matter quite clear Tuesday afternoon.
"I'm too old for that. I really am," Chow said. "It's just another game that we have to win, these guys have to win. We want to get bowl eligible."
That's the bottom line.
"I'm serious about that," Chow added.
The Utes (5-4) are one win away from bowl eligibility. A victory over UCLA, or remaining opponents Washington State or Colorado for that matter, will almost certainly result in a ninth consecutive bowl bid for the program.
The Pac-12 has seven bowl arrangements and four teams out of contention. USC (7-2) is ineligible because of NCAA sanctions, while Oregon State (2-7), Arizona (2-7) and Colorado (1-9) already have too many losses. Washington State (3-6) is on the verge of joining them.
"Definitely our goal is to get to a bowl game and send the seniors out the right way, as Coach Whit says," said punter Sean Sellwood. "So we can definitely see that is within sight now."
When and where, however, won't be known until the dust settles. The winner of the inaugural Pac-12 Championship Game earns a berth in the Bowl Championship Series — either in the national title game or the Rose Bowl.
The conference may get two teams in the BCS this year with Stanford and Oregon among the nation's elite.
Besides the Rose Bowl arrangement, the Pac-12's other affiliations include the Alamo, Holiday, Sun, Las Vegas, Kraft Fight Hunger and New Mexico bowls.
Potential destinations, however, aren't being discussed.
The Utes are too busy thinking about the UCLA Bruins.
"They're the next in line and so they're the top goal right now," said senior right tackle Tony Bergstrom. "They're the only thing we're worrying about."
It's an approach that has served the Utes well. Bergstrom added that they've learned to just worry about the next opponent. Going bowling is on their minds, he acknowledged, but it's kind of on the backburner right now.
"It's something we want. That's a top priority there," Bergstrom said. "But obviously we've got to beat UCLA to get there. So that's what we're thinking about."
Back-to-back wins over Oregon State and Arizona, as well as the lack of turnovers in both games, has the Utes regaining a bit of their swagger after a disappointing 0-4 start in Pac-12 play.
"We always knew we were at least a bowl team," said senior cornerback Conroy Black. "So getting that sixth win will be big for us this week."
Real big. It'll most likely lead to an extension of Utah's lengthy run of consecutive bowl berths. The streak began with the 2003 Liberty Bowl and was followed by appearances in the Fiesta, Emerald, Armed Forces, Poinsettia (2007 and 2009), Sugar and Las Vegas bowls.
"Our team is starting to come together," Sellwood said as the Utes close in on another postseason addition. "Our team is starting to realize how good we are and how good we can be."
Good enough, perhaps, to be going bowling — again.
Utes on the air
UCLA (5-4, 4-2) at Utah (5-4, 2-4)
Saturday, 4:30 p.m.
Radio: 700 AM
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