SALT LAKE CITY — So, what does it take to win the Pac-12 South? There’s been a variety of ways to reach the conference championship game over the first six years of the division’s existence.
In 2011, USC finished on top with a 7-2 record in Pac-12 play. The Trojans, though, weren’t eligible for postseason play that year. Thus, second-place UCLA (5-4) was the team to advance.
Outright champions prevailed the next three years. UCLA was first at 6-3 in 2012, while Arizona State (8-1) and Arizona (7-2) prevailed in 2013 and 2014, respectively.
In 2015, USC and Utah shared first place with 6-3 marks. The Trojans were awarded the crown, though, by virtue of a head-to-win over the Utes in the regular season.
Last year, Colorado pulled away from the pack by going 8-1.
Overall, the Pac-12 South champion averages seven conference victories. As such, teams like Utah (1-2) still have hope.
”It is not out of the question,” said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham, who noted it’s happened before.
“I don't think there will be an outright champion with two losses and everyone else with three or more,” he said. “But with tie-breaking there could be a co-champion.”
USC (4-1), Arizona (2-1), Arizona State (2-1) and UCLA (1-2) are still in the mix with the Utes to get seven Pac-12 wins. Colorado (1-3) is not.
RED-ZONE WOES: Utah isn’t putting a lot of touchdowns on the board in the red zone. After six games, the Utes are crossing the goal line only 47 percent of the time — cashing in on just 16 of 34 opportunities.
Senior quarterback Troy Williams identified the problem as a lack of execution.
“That’s all I can really say. It’s a lack of execution,” said Williams, who feels like the game plan and everything in the red zone is good.
The offense, he continued, really has to lock in once it gets in the red zone.
NOT HIMSELF: Senior receiver Darren Carrington II had a season-low two catches for nine yards against USC.
“Darren was hurting this week. He has some ailments going on and he wasn't himself,” Whittingham said. “But he was tough enough to be out there and contribute to the extent that he could.
Carrington is second in the Pac-12 with 593 receiving yards. His 39 receptions top the Utes.
OUT OF ACTION: On Monday, Whittingham confirmed that senior Christian Drews is out for the remainder of the season with an undisclosed injury.
“I should have mentioned that last week,” he said. “That is a big loss special teams-wise and he was a team captain.”
As for this week, Whittingham said there were no apparent season-ending injuries suffered in the USC game.
EXTRA POINTS: Kicker Matt Gay, who leads the nation in field goals made, is on the ESPN and Sporting News midseason All-America teams ... Tyler Huntley is 4-0 as Utah’s starting quarterback. Williams is 9-6 ... The Utes have used the same starting offensive line this season — left tackle Jackson Barton, left guard Salesi Uhatafe, center Lo Fakemala, right guard Jordan Agasiva and right tackle Darrin Paulo ... Former Oregon coach Mark Helfrich will be part of the FS1 broadcast team broadcasting the game.
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