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Utah Utes football: Whittingham silent about BCS bowl implications

Published: Thursday, Nov. 12 2009 12:00 a.m. MST

Don't ask Utah coach Kyle Whittingham about it, because he's just focused on one thing — winning the game.

However, if the Utes should upset TCU, which is a 20-point favorite in the latest lines from Las Vegas, they could find themselves talking about going to another BCS bowl game for the second straight year and third time in six seasons.

Of course there would have to be a few other things line up for the Utes after Saturday if they happen to win, including wins over San Diego State and BYU the following two weeks and a Boise State loss. But the first step would be knocking off the mighty Horned Frogs, undefeated and ranked No. 4 in the nation.

Right now, Utah is ranked No. 16 in the BCS standings, down two spots from a week earlier, thanks mostly to the fact that they had to play 0-8 New Mexico.

The Utes actually went up in the human polls but slipped significantly in the computer polls because the Lobos happen to be one of the worst teams in America and beating them hurts, rather than helps you in computer polls, which are based partly on strength of schedule.

However, if Utah beats TCU, No. 4 in the BCS standings, it will climb in both the human and computer polls and almost certainly climb into the Top 12 of the BCS standings, perhaps even the Top 10.

Then the Utes would need to have Boise State lose to one of its remaining four WAC opponents and the Utes would likely end up as the best non-BCS team (Houston of Conference USA is a spot ahead of Utah in the current BCS standings, but the Utes would undoubtedly leapfrog the Cougars because of their games against TCU and BYU). The most likely upset for Boise would be to Nevada, which has won six straight games and laid 63 points on UNLV, 70 on Idaho and 62 last week against San Jose State.

But all of this talk is for the fans and media.

When asked at his Monday press conference what he thought about the national implications of Saturday's game, Whittingham quickly said, "We don't pay any attention to that. It's out of our control. Whether I cared a great deal about it or didn't care at all, it would have no bearing. All we do is try to win the next game and try to get that Mountain West Conference title."

Mountain West Conference title? What about another BCS bowl game?

"It doesn't matter one bit whether I dwell on it 24 hours a day or don't think of it at all, it doesn't change things," Whittingham said later in the week. "I only worry about what we can control. And going out and trying to win football games is what we have to do because we have no control over the other stuff. I know it sounds like a broken record, but that's what we preach to our team."

Whittingham did say he would welcome the chance to play in another BCS bowl, but that would be a byproduct of his team taking care of business each week and getting a little help from friends such as Nevada or Utah State.

One thing a Utah victory would do is cost the Utes and fellow Mountain West Conference a nice payday.

Last year Utah received $3.1 million for playing in the Sugar Bowl and netted about half that after expenses. The other eight teams split $3 million and collected around $400,000 apiece. In these economic hard times, that's a pretty piece of change.

That kind of money may be available again if a MWC team makes it to a BCS game. But the Utes would rather beat TCU and take their chances on another BCS bid.

"I want to get our own money," said Utah athletic director Chris Hill, who nevertheless wouldn't turn down a paycheck provided by a TCU BCS bowl game.

Also, this year there may be even more on the line for TCU, which is in position to possibly play for the national championship if things fall right. Even though Utah ended up ranked No. 2 in the AP poll last year, it had no chance of playing in the national championship game.

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