The inaugural College Football Playoff rankings were unveiled Tuesday night, and Utah – which was sandwiched at No. 17 between Ohio State and Oklahoma – had to be happy about its position.
But the Utes are keeping it in perspective.
“Well, I think it’s nice for our players to be recognized for their body of work so far this season, but we don’t put a whole lot of stock in that,” Utes head coach Kyle Whittingham said on The Doug Gottlieb Show. “There’s so much football left that it’s really pointless to get either excited or disappointed about it either way. There’s so many challenges ahead. But like I said, it’s good to see our players get some recognition for what they’ve been able to do to this point in the season.”
Utah (6-1, 3-1) has won three straight games since its 28-27 home loss to Washington State, including two against ranked teams: 30-28 over then-No. 8 UCLA and 24-21 over then-No. 20 USC.
“They’re playing with confidence,” Whittingham said of his players. “They’ve got a great mentality as far as work ethic. Monday through Friday, they put in the work; they put in the time. This team brings a lot of passion and energy to the game on Saturday. That really has been our strategy from an emotional and work ethic standpoint.”
Utah has won six of seven by playing good defense, solid special teams and running the ball effectively. Still, it’ll be tough to replace receiver Dres Anderson, who will miss the rest of the season with a knee injury. The fifth-year senior leads Utah in yards (355) and touchdowns (four).
“That’s obviously a big loss,” Whittingham said. “I really felt bad for Dres. He had worked so hard. He had put so much into this program, and to see it cut short like (this) is very disappointing for him. As far as our team mentality, it’s next man up. You got to move forward. You can’t feel sorry for yourself. You got to just have other guys step up and pick up the slack and keep working.”
The Utes have an extremely tough schedule upcoming: at No. 14 Arizona State this Saturday, against No. 5 Oregon on Nov. 8, at Stanford on Nov. 15 and against No. 12 Arizona on Nov. 22.
That’s a tough month, but if the Utes keep winning, they could find themselves in the playoffs.
“Well see,” Whittingham. said “There’s so many challenges ahead that we don’t look past (the next game). Every Saturday is the Super Bowl for us. It’s all about Arizona State. If we’re able to find some wins throughout the second half of the year and keep playing well, then I think our guys will be rewarded appropriately – whatever that may be. But to be honest with you, we don’t ever even talk about bowl games or postseason or any of that stuff. What we got in front of us is enough to get our full attention (on a weekly basis).”