Adams: The Utes “very well could be” best team in Pac-12 South


— Chris Samuels

This is what the Utes imagined would happen when they entered the Pac-12 — playing in meaningful games that will have an impact on how the conference will finish.

Four years into the Conference of Champions and, finally, Utah is taking part in a game that has some major implications on the rest of the season. After the Utes host No. 20 USC on Saturday night, the Pac-12 South picture will become a little clearer and one of these teams will have an easier road to the divisional crown.

Some may argue that Utah has played in meaningful games before, i.e. Stanford in 2013 or UCLA just earlier this season. And they would be right. Those games were meaningful in their own right, but this matchup with the Utes and the Trojans is on a whole different level.

Since joining the Pac-12, Utah has never been ranked. The team has been labeled as dark-horse contenders before, but the Utes never really lived up to the billing. On top of that, Utah is welcoming in a Trojan squad that is ranked just behind it, making this the first matchup between ranked teams at Rice-Eccles Stadium in quite some time.

This season, however, sitting at 5-1 at the halfway mark, Utah finally has a chance to not just show it can beat a squad it hasn’t beaten since joining the conference, but also shake up the standings and prove it belongs.

With four teams in the South with just one conference loss and UCLA not far behind, the race for the South title is wide open. There isn’t a dominant team and quite frankly, there’s no team in the division that Utah should fear. These Utes are good enough to compete, but they are also good enough to win the division, if they can play like they’ve played to this point.

One obstacle that Utah needs to get around, and it’s been the same story all year long, is the quarterback play. Although I do think Whittingham made the right decision in announcing who will play quarterback at the beginning of the week, was it the right choice of QB? This may be the question Utah fans ask themselves for the remainder of the season, and if that’s the case, it may come back to haunt them.

That said, how can you argue with the results? We all know the Utes have not been winning in a pleasing fashion, but they’ve been winning. The coaches go with one quarterback, it doesn’t work. So they switch the signal callers and Utah wins the game. It isn’t pretty, but the only thing the team, and the fans, care about is getting the W.

So whether it’s T-Willy or Kendal Thompson out there, if the Utes can just keep finding ways to win, no one will care who is starting at quarterback.

The Pac-12 South is wide open for the taking, it’s just a matter of which team wants it the most. So — I’m going to pull a play out of Derrick Rose’s playbook here — “Why not the Utes? Why can’t they be the best team in the South?”

At this point, they very well could be.

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