The College Football Playoff and the bowl matchups are set.
With the exception of the Big 12 Championship, this past weekend largely lacked drama. Still, 10 teams emerged as conference champions.
The final Fifth Quarter/CFBHome Team of the Week for 2022 is now a repeat Pac-12 champion. That honor goes to Utah. The Utes claimed the conference crown on Friday night with a 47-24 win over USC in the Pac-12 Championship.
Utah Rolls to the Pac-12 Title
Needing just a win to make the College Football Playoff, things couldn’t have started much better for No. 4 USC. The Trojans scored on each of their first three possessions and led 17-3 early. From there, it was all Utah.
The Utes stormed back with 24 straight points. After finding Jaylen Dixon for the tying touchdown late in the first half, Utah’s Cameron Rising connected with Money Parks for a 57-yard touchdown early in the third quarter to put the Utes ahead for good.
USC momentarily stopped the bleeding with a touchdown drive early in the fourth quarter, but a 60-yard touchdown pass from Rising to Thomas Yassmin and a 53-yard touchdown rush from Ja’Quinden Jackson — his second of the contest — ultimately put the game away. Micah Bernard put the exclamation point on the win with a 23-yard touchdown run.
Lincoln Riley and USC are known for their prolific offense, but on Friday night in Las Vegas, Utah racked up 533 yards. Rising passed for 310 yards and three touchdowns. Jackson and Bernard combined for 193 yards rushing and three touchdowns on just 24 combined carries.
While the Utah offense was spectacular, the defense finished with seven sacks and 11 tackles for loss. Cole Bishop led the Utes with nine total tackles while Mohamoud Diabate and Gabe Reid each had two sacks and three tackles for loss. R.J. Hubert recorded the game’s only interception.
Get Utes to It
Since the inception of the Pac-12 Championship in 2011, Utah becomes the third team in the conference to repeat as champions. The Utes have also played in four of the past five Pac-12 title games.
With the slate of conference championship games in the books, Utah and Michigan are the only teams to repeat as champions this year. As for USC, both of its losses this season came at the hand of Utah. Dating back to his time at Oklahoma, Riley had been 4-0 in conference championship games as a head coach prior to Friday night.
The conference championship is the third for Utah under head coach Kyle Whittingham. Prior to the last two seasons, the Utes last claimed a conference title in 2008 as a member of the Mountain West. This marks the first time that Utah has won consecutive conference titles since 2003 and 2004 when it repeated as Mountain West champions under Urban Meyer.
USC may be out of the playoff, but both schools will move on to New Year’s Six bowls. At 11-2, the now No. 10 Trojans will take on Tulane in the Cotton Bowl.
No. 8 Utah is headed back to the Rose Bowl after dropping a 48-45 heartbreaker to Ohio State last season. This year, it will face Penn State. Both contests take place on Jan. 2.
Featured image courtesy of Utah athletics
Mike Ferguson is the managing editor for Fifth Quarter. Be sure to follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeWFerguson. Follow all of Mike’s work by liking his Facebook page.