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The Utah Utes are still headed to a bowl game, but they might need awhile to shake off the shock and pain of their loss to last-place Colorado in their regular-season finale at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
Not only did the loss potentially cost them attractive bowl destinations the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas, is now a real possibility but everything else they would have needed to happen for them to reach the inaugural Pac-12 Conference championship game also wound up falling into place to the extent that two coaches are going to be fired as a result.
Arizona State's Dennis Erickson and UCLA's Rick Neuheisel will be fired in the coming days, according to media reports, after both of their teams lost badly over the weekend.
The Sun Devils lost 47-38 at home to Cal to complete a 1-5 collapse to finish the season after a 5-1 start, while the Bruins lost 50-0 to rival USC on Saturday night. That combination would have sent the Utes to the title game, if they had beaten the Buffs.
But because the Utes lost and the division-leading Trojans are ineligible, the Bruins whom the Utes beat 31-6 barely two weeks ago will represent the Pac-12 South Division and play Oregon in the league title game Friday in Eugene, Ore.
Neuheisel will be fired afterward, the L.A. Daily News reported.
The Bruins (6-6) will be heavy underdogs against the No. 8 Ducks (10-2), who are expected to win their third straight league title and play in the Rose Bowl.
Meanwhile, No. 4 Stanford (11-1) is expected to land at the Fiesta Bowl after beating Notre Dame 28-14 in its regular-season finale. That would leave the Utes in a group of three Pac-12 teams that finished 7-5 and could wind up in either the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio or the Holiday Bowl in San Diego.
The Alamo Bowl is Dec. 29, and the Holiday Bowl is Dec. 28.
Losing to the Buffs might have hurt the Utes' chances at reaching one of those games, though, since Washington and Cal the other 7-5 teams now appear more attractive. Both won their regular-season finales convincingly, both have far more dynamic offenses, and both beat the Utes soundly this season.
If the Alamo and Holiday bowls scoop up the Huskies and Golden Bears, the Utes probably will be headed to the Sun Bowl on Dec. 31. That game would pit them against a team from the ACC, possibly Virginia.
At least, it's unlikely the Bruins or Sun Devils would bump the Utes any farther down the Pac-12 bowl list.
The Sun Devils have lost four straight games and will have just fired their coach, while the Bruins will be 6-7 (and also without a coach) if they lose the Pac-12 title game. In that case, they would have to petition the NCAA for a waiver to appear in a bowl game, and a league spokesman said that would be granted only if the league doesn't have enough bowl-eligible teams to fill all of its bowl spots.