SALT LAKE CITY — Even before Utah’s convincing 49-27 victory over Cal Saturday night, CBSsports.com had the Utes playing in a bowl game.
Yes, it’s odd to have a 2-5 team projected for a bowl game, but the folks at CBS must have looked at the Utes’ schedule and been impressed enough that Utah was better than its record indicated.
The Utes are now 3-5, and they should be picked to beat 2-6 Washington State this week and 1-7 Colorado in the season finale. That would get them to five victories, but they’d still need a win in one of their other two games, at home against Arizona or on the road at Washington, to earn a bowl berth.
So what bowl did CBS have Utah going to? It must have been the Kraft Hunger Bowl in San Francisco or the New Mexico Bowl in Albuquerque, which get the sixth and seventh picks from the Pac-12, right?
Actually it’s the Pinstripe Bowl, which is played Dec. 29 in New York’s Yankee Stadium.
And how would that happen?
The Pac-12 could end up getting as many as nine bowl eligible teams, which would allow the league to pick up a couple of bowl spots that other conferences can’t fill.
For instance, the Big East has seven bowl slots but may only have three teams that are bowl eligible, the way things are shaping up.
The Pinstripe Bowl, which was first played two years ago, pits the No. 4 team from the Big East against the No. 7 team from the Big 12, which CBS projects as Baylor.
Other bowls affilliated with the Big East that may have open slots include the Liberty Bowl (Memphis), Beef O’Brady’s Bowl (St. Petersburg, Fla.) and the BBVA Bowl (Birmingham, Ala.).
But before the Utes start thinking about bowls, they still need three victories, which won’t be an easy task.
BACK TO SAN DIEGO: BYU is headed to the Poinsettia Bowl this year for the first time ever, assuming it can win one more game to get bowl eligible. That shouldn’t be a problem, considering two of the Cougars' remaining games are against 1-7 Idaho on Nov. 10 and 1-7 New Mexico State Nov. 24 with a road game against a decent 6-2 San Jose State in between.
The opponent in the Poinsettia Bowl is the No. 2 team from the Mountain West Conference, meaning the Cougs will get to play a familiar opponent from recent years. San Diego State, which is 6-3 overall and tied for second place in the MWC, is the most likely opponent right now, although Air Force and Fresno State are also 4-1 in the MWC, behind 5-0 Boise State.
The Cougars have played in 11 Holiday Bowls, but — assuming another victory — this will be BYU’s first trip to San Diego for a bowl game in 19 years.
PAC-12 PARITY: The parity of the Pac-12 Conference could hurt Oregon’s chances of making it to the BCS Championship game.
Despite being ranked No. 2 in the AP poll, USA Today poll and the Harris Interactive poll, the latter which factors into the BCS standings, the Ducks have fallen to fourth in the BCS standings, behind Kansas State and Notre Dame.
The Ducks are behind in the BCS standings because of the superior schedules of the Wildcats and Irish to date. The Wildcats have beaten three ranked teams this year, including West Virginia and Texas Tech the past two weeks, while Notre Dame has defeated four ranked teams, including No. 8 Oklahoma Saturday.
Oregon plays three ranked teams in its last four games, but the fact that two opponents — USC and Oregon State — lost Saturday and dropped out of the Top 10, will hurt the Ducks, because if the Ducks do win those games, it won’t be as impressive, according to the computers.
Notre Dame should be highly favored to win its next three games against Pitt, Wake Forest and Boston College, none of which has a winning record. Then it would come down to the season finale at USC on Nov. 24, when the Trojans could do their fellow league-mate a favor by knocking off the Irish.
Kansas State’s toughest remaining game is against Texas, which just dropped out of the AP Top 25 after barely getting by Kansas Saturday, so the Wildcats’ computer points may go down in the coming weeks.
ANDERSEN WATCH: After Cal got beat up by a 2-5 Utah team and basically fell out of bowl consideration with its 3-6 mark (the Bears face Washington, Oregon and Oregon State to finish up), we can officially crank up the Gary Andersen to Cal talk.
Jeff Tedford still has three years remaining on his contract at Cal, which pays him $2.3 million per year. But with a new multimillion-dollar football complex to pay for, Cal may be more concerned about getting a winning coach in place. And there is plenty of talk in the Bay Area questioning Tedford's future.
I know Andersen says he is very happy in Logan and recently signed a long-term deal. However, most coaches aspire to bigger jobs with better contracts and usually don’t turn down chances to work in bigger conferences and quadruple their salaries.
Andersen could be a candidate for a lot of jobs, especially after a 9-3 or 10-2 season, but if he goes anywhere it would likely be in the West, where he has a familiarity with recruiting, and Cal could be the best job open.