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Utah Utes football: Utes can crown turnaround with win vs. Buffaloes

Published: Thursday, July 2 2015 3:44 p.m. MDT

Utah Utes wide receiver Reggie Dunn (14) celebrates with the fans as the University of Utah defeats UCLA 31-6 in PAC 12 football Saturday, Nov. 12, 2011 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Tom Smart, Deseret News) Utah Utes wide receiver Reggie Dunn (14) celebrates with the fans as the University of Utah defeats UCLA 31-6 in PAC 12 football Saturday, Nov. 12, 2011 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Tom Smart, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Perhaps it's only fitting that Friday's game between Utah and Colorado at Rice-Eccles Stadium has been dubbed "Rumble in the Rockies." There's a whole lot of things shaking up on the hill.

For starters, the Utes need a victory to keep their hopes of playing in the inaugural Pac-12 championship game alive. They'll also need some help from California and USC to make it happen.

Offensive lineman John Cullen acknowledged the team knows exactly what's at stake.

"We've talked about it. It's something that is on everyone's mind," Cullen said. "We know what we have to take care of first of all. We've got to beat Colorado. That's the end of story. Nothing else matters."

After that, he added, the Utes plan to watch the Arizona State-California game on television later in the evening. If the visiting Bears prevail, then all eyes will be on Saturday night's USC-UCLA game.

If everything falls into place, Utah will advance to next week's Pac-12 championship game (most likely at Oregon) to play for the conference's automatic BCS bid and a trip to the Rose Bowl.

"Our main focus is just beating Colorado and then we'll see what happens after that," defensive lineman Joe Kruger said while noting Utah's rally from an 0-4 start in Pac-12 play.

"It's crazy just to think that we've made a comeback like this. There's actually a chance for us to go to the Rose Bowl. So I'm really excited and I can't wait to see what happens. Hopefully that does happen. So we'll just have to wait and see."

The stakes, Cullen noted, are huge.

Should even one of the three necessary things not work out, however, the Utes are determined not to dwell on what could have been.

"We can't harp on things we can't do," said running back John White IV. "We've just got to move on from that and go to the next thing and that's to a bigger and better bowl game."

A trip to the Alamo or Holiday bowl could serve as a consolation prize if the Utes are able to complete the regular season with an 8-4 record and five-game winning streak.

Capping things off on a successful note tops Utah coach Kyle Whittingham's list of things to do.

"Our seniors will be making their last appearance in Rice-Eccles Stadium and sending them out the right way is our top priority," Whittingham said.

The Utes will honor their 18 departing seniors prior to kickoff. The class includes Cullen, defensive tackle James Aiono, fullback Shawn Asiata, offensive lineman Tony Bergstrom, defensive back Greg Bird, defensive back Conroy Black, defensive lineman Tevita Finau, defensive end Nai Fotu, kicker Kenny Golladay, linebacker Matt Martinez, wide receiver Dexter Ransom, running back Mychal Robinson, defensive end Derrick Shelby, defensive back Ben Soliven, running back Tauni Vakapuna, linebacker Chaz Walker, defensive back Tyler Whittingham and linebacker J.J. Williams.

The 2011 senior class has a 40-10 record and is just win away from equaling the 2010 seniors for the most victories in school history.

Another school record is also within reach. Carl Monroe's 1982 single-season mark of 1,507 yards is in peril. White is just 131 yards away from breaking the record. He needs just 20 yards to move past Dameon Hunter for second on the list.

Utah's road to the Pac-12 championship game

Three things must happen for the Utes to represent the South Division in next week's title game — Friday, Dec. 2., most likely at Oregon.

No. 1: Utah must defeat Colorado (Friday, 1:30 p.m., ROOT).

No. 2: California must defeat Arizona State in Tempe (Friday, 8:15 p.m., ESPN).

Nov. 3: USC must defeat UCLA at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum (Saturday. 8 p.m., ROOT).

Utes on the air

Colorado (2-10) at Utah (7-4)

Rice-Eccles Stadium

Friday, 1:30 p.m.

TV: ROOT sports

Radio: 700 AM

Email: dirk@desnews.com, Twitter: @DirkFacer

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