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Even if coach Kyle Whittingham says his focus never strays from Utah's next opponent, he admits there are some things he can't not know.

The damned ticker won't let him.

"You're watching TV, and it comes across the bottom line," he said on Tuesday's Pac-12 media teleconference. "... So we're aware of where we're positioned in the playoff rankings, but it's not our main concern."

Utah's main concern may be Arizona, but where Utah is positioned is No. 10 — well within striking distance, given that reigning champion Ohio State was No. 14 this time last year.

The Utes are a popular dark horse pick to become "this year's Ohio State," even if few prognosticators have Utah in their top four at this juncture.

ESPN's FiveThirtyEight figures Utah's chances of winning out at 14 percent, and its chances of making the playoffs if it does so at 73 percent.

There are some factors Utah can't control. For instance, Utah might require a win over a one-loss Stanford in the Pac-12 Championship Game, and Stanford has yet to meet current CFP No. 4 Notre Dame. Would it do to beat a two-loss Cardinal?

Utah's résumé might also benefit from a strong close by USC. If Utah's only loss is to 9-3 USC, the theory holds, it would be less damning in the eyes of the committee.

But it's not playoffs-or-bust. You'll find few Utah fans saddened by a USC loss in Boulder or Eugene these next two weeks. As Whittingham will tell you: Utah's immediate goal is to hold off USC and UCLA in the South.

"Without doing that, nothing else happens," he said.

ESPN's Football Power Index predicts a Utah victory in every remaining regular-season game — with a 35 percent chance of winning all three.

Should Utah win the South, all the possibilities are relatively bright, given that Utah counted itself relieved last year just to reach the Vegas Bowl.

CBS' Jerry Palm and FOX Sports' Stewart Mandel see Stanford making the playoff and Utah meeting Iowa in the Rose Bowl. ESPN's Mark Schlabach and Brett McMurphy both foresee the Pac-12 getting shut out of the playoffs, but even with Stanford falling to the Rose Bowl, Schlabach has Utah facing Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl and McMurphy pits the Utes against TCU in the Alamo Bowl.

All assume Stanford beats Utah in Santa Clara, on Dec. 5. But all also assume Utah — not USC or UCLA — will get a shot to steal away the Rose Bowl, or beyond.

Just three Pac-12 teams have appeared in the Rose Bowl in the last decade. Oregon State hasn't for 51 years and Cal hasn't for 57.

This week's opponent, Arizona, has never been.

The Wildcats are instructive in another way. Pac-12 coaches talk each week about how no teams in the conference can be taken for granted, and how some struggling teams can win even without being taken for granted.

Even if Arizona hasn't beaten anybody to write home about — UTSA, Nevada, Northern Arizona, Oregon State and Colorado — the combined record of the teams to hand Arizona its five conference losses is 31-14.

Beating Utah would be a fine home sendoff for Arizona's seniors, a ticket to bowl eligibility and the team's biggest win of the season.

Whittingham said they're plenty dangerous without those storylines, for the sheer fact that "they've kicked our butt the last three years."

This year, Wildcats head coach Rich Rodriguez said, their margin of error has been thinner. All-everything linebacker Scooby Wright has yet to return after an early season foot sprain, and star rusher Nick Wilson is among a half-dozen other Wildcats to suffer injury. Arizona has fielded 18 first-time starters.

They may again be without Wilson and starting left guard Freddie Tagaloa, potentially diminishing a rushing attack that ranks second in the Pac-12, at 245 yards per game, and has gashed Utah since 2012.

But it's not impossible to imagine a few things going Arizona's way, for once.

Utah is fourth in the nation in turnovers gained, with 23, while Arizona is 114th, with nine. It's not as though forcing turnovers is luck, but it's a famously variable factor (the best turnover predictor, numbers bear out, is sack total, not past turnovers; Arizona has 19 sacks to Utah's 26).

Utah ranks second to last in the Pac-12 in passing offense and may not be as able as others to exploit Arizona's Achilles' heel pass defense, which concedes 276 yards per game.

And Wildcat sophomore quarterback Anu Solomon is fresh off one of his most convincing performances of the season, passing for 353 yards and three touchdowns in a more competitive effort in the Coliseum than Utah could manage.

So Utah again has something to prove if it hopes to secure a school-record sixth Pac-12 win.

Should the Utes succeed, they could all but clinch the South the following week against UCLA. If they then beat last-place Colorado, and then the Pac-12 North champion?

"If we take care of our business, I think we've got a good shot" at the playoffs, said Whittingham.

To business, then, they go. —

No. 10 Utah at Arizona

P At Arizona Stadium, Tucson, Ariz.

Kickoff • Saturday, 8 p.m.

TV • FOX Sports 1. Radio • 700 AM

Series history • Utah leads 20-18-2

Last meeting • Arizona 42, Utah 10 (Nov. 22, 2014)

About the Utes • Utah ranks among the nation's leaders in red zone offense (No. 3, 96.8 percent), interceptions (No. 6, 14) and turnovers gained (23), and leads the Pac-12 in rushing defense (114.3 yards per game). … Senior running back Devontae Booker averages a nation-leading 26 rushing attempts per game and has 1,116 yards and 10 touchdowns this season. … Senior linebacker Gionni Paul leads Utah in tackles (84), tackles for loss (12) and takeaways (three interceptions, three fumble recoveries — as well as two forced fumbles).

About the Wildcats • Arizona has beaten Utah three straight times, with 200-yard rushers in each game (Nick Wilson in 2014, Ka'Deem Carey in 2012-13). … The Wildcats have three rushers with more than 600 yards this season (Wilson, Jared Baker and changeup quarterback Jerrard Randall) and average 244.5 rushing yards per game. … The Wildcat defense has conceded 455 yards per game, including 276 yards per game through the air. … Only six FBS teams have fewer than Arizona's nine turnovers.