Mike Sorensen: Utah Utes football: U. helped Pac-12 embarrassment

Published: Sunday, Nov. 27 2011 7:43 p.m. MST

UCLA linebacker Sean Westgate (11) upends Utah quarterback Jon Hays (9) Saturday, Nov. 12, 2011 in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Tom Smart, Deseret News

Enlarge photo»

SALT LAKE CITY — Embarrassing.

That's about all you can say about the way the Pac-12 South football title chase ended over the weekend.

The first embarrassment was Utah's 17-14 loss Friday afternoon to a Colorado team that was clearly the worst in the conference this year. They say anything can happen on a given Saturday, but the Utes clearly weren't ready to play in an abysmal first-half performance when they were outgained 254-39 and had one measly first down.

The second came Friday night when an Arizona State team that had been ranked in the top 25 in the nation for much of the year, dropped its fourth straight game — the fourth straight game it was the favorite — a streak which kept the Sun Devils out of what seemed an almost sure berth in the Pac-12 title game.

The third embarrassment came Saturday night when UCLA, which had already backed into the championship game thanks to Utah's loss, was crushed by cross-town rival USC 50-0. Fifty to nothing!

So UCLA, a team that lost to Utah 31-6 just two weeks earlier and also lost to 4-8 Arizona 48-12 earlier in the year, will represent the Pac-12 in the first-ever championship game at Oregon.

Talk about embarrassing.

You can bet the Pac-12 would have rather had a Utah team on a five-game winning streak in the title game than a 6-6 UCLA team coming off a 50-0 loss. But the Utes blew their chance.

MORE EMBARRASSMENT: Speaking of embarrassing, how about Utah's performance in the Battle 4 Atlantis basketball tournament in the Bahamas? The Utes lost three games by an average of 21 points.

It marks the second straight year that the Utah basketball team has finished in eighth place in a holiday tournament. Last year the Utes lost all three games at the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii.

WEAK LEAGUE, AGAIN: The Pac-12 conference is looking like a weak basketball conference again this year with its share of embarrassments in the first couple of weeks of the season.

— UCLA, the team picked for first, is off to a 1-4 start, including home losses to Loyola Marymount and Middle Tennessee.

— USC is 3-4, including a 42-36 home loss to Cal Poly.

— Arizona State lost at home to Fairfield 55-44

— Cal has the best record in the league at 5-1, but its one loss was by 39 points to Missouri.

As was the case last year, the Mountain West Conference looks to be superior to the Pac-12 in basketball. All eight teams have winning records and the cumulative record of the MWC is 37-10

On the other hand, the Pac-12 is just 38-28 so far.

And in head-to-head meetings, the MWC is 6-2 against the Pac-12.

RICE OFF TO HOT START: How about the job former BYU assistant Dave Rice is doing so far? The new UNLV coach has led UNLV to a 7-0 record, including a 90-80 upset of No. 1-ranked North Carolina Saturday night.

It's true Rice did inherit some good players from Lon Kruger and hasn't played outside of Las Vegas yet this year, but beating the Tar Heels is a big deal.

We'll check back in another month after the Rebels have played a few more games.

3 MONTHS LATER: In the spirit of accountability, it's time to check back on those predictions I made in August about the state's five college football teams.

I hit one right — Weber State's 5-6 mark and would have pegged Utah correct at 8-4 except for its head-scratching loss last week. I also had the Utes going to the Sun Bowl, which is still a possibility.

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