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Utah Utes football: Utes have gone from pretender to contender

With help, Utah can still reach the title game

Published: Monday, Nov. 21 2011 8:07 p.m. MST

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah's climb back into conference contention has been accompanied by a measurement of sorts.

After an 0-4 start in Pac-12 play, the Utes have steadily wiped out the deficit and enter Friday's regular season finale against Colorado with a chance to finish with a winning league record. They've seen their chances of playing in the inaugural conference championship game increase ever since.

Utah is in with a win over the Buffaloes and losses by Arizona State and UCLA this weekend. The Sun Devils host California on Friday, and the Bruins visit crosstown rival USC on Saturday.

"All we can do is take care of what we can control, which is our game against Colorado," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said before outlining the progression back from pretender status.

At 1-4, he thought it a "major miracle" to get back in the race. The situation improved to a "minor miracle" at 2-4 and became a "longshot" at 3-4.

"Now that we've got to 4-4, it's probably a 50/50 proposition," Whittingham said. "We've sat back and watched it develop along the way."

BIRTHDAY BOY: Whittingham celebrated his 52nd birthday Monday.

"I wish you wouldn't have said that," he joked while thanking a member of the media for bringing it up at Utah's weekly press conference.

LEADERS OF THE PAC: The Utes enter the final week of the regular season ranked No. 1 in the Pac-12 in several statistical categories, including scoring defense (19.9 ppg), turnovers gained (30), interceptions made (18), opposition fourth-down conversions (23.5 percent), red zone defense (74 percent), pass efficiency defense (113.7 rating) and kickoff coverage (47.2 yards). Individually, Petersen leads the Pac-12 with 17 field goals. Teammates John White IV and Conroy Black are tied for conference stat leads — White in total touchdowns (16) and Black in interceptions (4).

GET USED TO IT: For those who enjoy Utah's "Deseret Duel" with BYU, here comes another catchy slogan "Rumble in the Rockies." It'll be used for all matchups between the Utes and Colorado. According to a Utah press release, the moniker was chosen with fan input from both schools.

Email: dirk@desnews.com

Twitter: @DirkFacer

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