CU Buffs focus on Utah, not hypotheticals in Pac-12 race – The Denver Post

CU Buffs focus on Utah, not hypotheticals in Pac-12 race – The Denver Post

The Colorado football team might do something no other team in the country has ever done – and that’s unfortunate for the Buffaloes.

On Friday night, the 21st-ranked Buffs (4-0, 3-0 Pac-12) will host Utah (1-2, 1-2) at Folsom Field (7:30 p.m., TV: FS-1). Beat the Utes and the Buffs would be undefeated going into the Dec. 18 Pac-12 championship game – yet may not get a chance to play in the game.

The last time an undefeated, eligible team from the Football Bowl Subdivision didn’t play in its conference title game? Never.

Despite its great season to this point, CU has to hope No. 16 Southern California (4-0, 4-0) loses to its rival, UCLA (3-2, 3-2) on Saturday. If CU and USC both win, USC would win the Pac-12 South and go to the title game because of its 4-0 record against the division; CU would be 3-0 against the South.

Meanwhile, every team in the North has at least one loss and it’s possible that Oregon, with two losses, wins the North and plays USC for the conference title, while undefeated CU is left out.

On Monday, Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News reported that the Pac-12 won’t change its policy to allow CU and USC to battle for the title if they’re both undefeated.

CU athletic director Rick George pushed for the conference to make the change, but to no avail.

“We are excited to play Utah and I strongly disagree with the conference’s decision,” George told BuffZone.

Since 1992, when the SEC became the first conference to hold a championship game, there have been 131 title games played in the FBS. Only twice has an undefeated team been left out, and in both cases it was because of NCAA sanctions making them ineligible to play: Auburn in 1993 and Ohio State in 2012.

Colorado could become the first FBS team to go undefeated, be eligible for a conference title game and not get in.

“I’ll worry about those emotions when they get there,” CU head coach Karl Dorrell said Monday of that possibility. “I’d be disappointed, for sure, just because it probably didn’t lay out the way that it probably could have been planned out, but I have to go by what have we done with the opportunities that we’ve had.”

So far, the Buffs have won every one of their opportunities, and so has USC. But, it’s the missed opportunities that could haunt the Buffs.

CU had a Nov. 21 date against Arizona State canceled because of COVID-19 issues at ASU. Then, they had a Nov. 28 game against USC canceled because of COVID-19 cases with the Trojans.

USC and ASU were projected as the top two teams in the South this year and it’s impossible to know how the Buffs would have fared in those games. A CU vs. USC matchup would have ended all debate, but that won’t happen.

Going into this week, however, the Buffs know that a Pac-12 title is still on the table. If the Buffs beat Utah and USC loses, CU will not only win the South, but host the Pac-12 title game.

Regardless of the scenarios ahead, Dorrell and the Buffs know their main concern has to be Utah.

“We have to control this thing this week, and not really think about what’s going on a week from now,” Dorrell said. “All that will be for naught if we don’t play well this week. If we win our game, that’s really the best thing that we can do for ourselves.

“I can’t really go with the what-ifs.”

That’s a message Dorrell is preaching to his team this week, because taking care of their own business won’t be easy. Utah is 1-2, but the Utes have won the South the past two years and have battled through a tough season. They lost several players to graduation, had their first two games canceled and then faced USC and North-leading Washington in the first two games they played.

Last week, the Utes got their first win, knocking off Oregon State, and they’ve dominated CU the past three years.

“They’re not the same team that you saw in week one, or week two,” Dorrell said. “What you’re seeing is characteristic of the Utah style. … That team is going to be probably one of the best teams, if not the best team, we’ll face so far this season. We’ve got to be ready to play.”

CU has been ready to play every week and junior linebacker Carson Wells said that will continue to be the Buffs’ focus.

“Our goal this season was to win a Pac 12 championship, but we’ve got to control what we can control and that’s go 1-0 this week,” he said. “We’ve done that so far and we’re going to do that this week.”

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