Utah Utes football could be Las Vegas Bowl-bound

Published: Monday, Nov. 29 2010 8:00 p.m. MST

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah's bowl destination is becoming a little more clear.

Although nothing's official and may not be until bowl selections are revealed on Dec. 5., Utah athletics director Chris Hill picked up some insight Sunday while speaking with MAACO Bowl Las Vegas officials.

"We have every indication that we'll be going to the Las Vegas Bowl," Hill said.

Tina Kunzer-Murphy, executive director of MAACO Bowl Las Vegas, acknowledged the Utes are in the driver's seat. However, no decision has been made.

"I'd love to tell you who we are going to take," Kunzer-Murphy said. "I just don't know."

The bowl committee has a conference call scheduled for Wednesday, but it's unlikely any announcements will be made until Saturday or Sunday.

The Dec. 22 game at Sam Boyd Stadium was originally scheduled to pit the champion or No. 1 choice from the Mountain West Conference against a No. 4 or No. 5 selection from the Pac-10.

However, with TCU headed to the Bowl Championship Series and the Pac-10 coming up short on bowl eligible teams this year, Kunzer-Murphy acknowledged an "at-large" team will likely be pitted against the MWC representative.

And that, she explained, is what's currently holding things up.

Las Vegas officials want a team that has won its way to the game, travels well and would provide a great matchup for sponsors, fans and TV land.

While the search is under way, the MWC invitation is also being withheld.

"With all those things in place, it would be irresponsible of us to select a team right now and not know who they are going to play," Kunzer-Murphy said. "And that's kind of the position we're in."

With San Diego State (8-4) ticketed for its hometown Poinsettia Bowl, MAACO Bowl Las Vegas is still considering Utah (10-2), Air Force (8-4) and BYU (6-6).

"At this time we just have to wait until we find out who's going to be on the other side," Kunzer-Murphy said. "We want to have the best matchup we possibly can."

Rumors concerning Boise State sound interesting, she noted, but a lot of things would have to take place for that to happen because of contractual arrangements.

Meanwhile, Utah coach Kyle Whittingham isn't spending much time worrying about where the Utes end up. Practices start Wednesday.

"We're excited about the opportunity to play together one more time," Whittingham said. "And wherever that may be, we'll find out in the next few days hopefully."

ALL-MWC NOMINEES: The 2010 All-Mountain West Conference football team will be unveiled Tuesday at 1 p.m., on The Mtn. Utah's nominees include Shaky Smithson (Special Teams Player of the Year) and Brian Blechen (Freshman of the Year), who are also up for position spots at return specialist and safety. Other Utes on the ballot: Quarterback Jordan Wynn, wide receivers Jereme Brooks and DeVonte Christopher, offensive linemen Tony Bergstrom, Caleb Schlauderaff and Zane Taylor, kicker Joe Phillips, defensive linemen Christian Cox and Sealver Siliga, linebackers Matt Martinez and Chaz Walker, as well as defensive backs Brandon Burton and Lamar Chapman.

MWC PLAYERS OF THE WEEK: Blechen and Burton have been named MWC Defensive and Special Teams Players of the Week for their performances in Utah's 17-16 win over BYU.

Blechen was credited with seven tackles, an interception, a pass breakup and a sack. Burton, Ute fans may recall, had a game-saving block of a BYU field goal attempt as time expired.

"Well deserved by both players," Whittingham said. "Brian played, probably, his best game as a Ute and Brandon Burton, he's been making plays like that for us for the last couple of years."

e-mail: dirk@desnews.com

Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company