SALT LAKE CITY — It's a great time to be a sports fan in Utah with four amazing stories going on around the state.
Let's start with college football where two teams will play for a conference championship. Utah will play Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship on Friday in Las Vegas, and Utah State will play San Diego State on Saturday in Carson, California.
The Utes could have thrown in the towel back in September after losing two straight non-conference games to BYU and San Diego State, followed by the tragic shooting death of teammate Aaron Lowe. But that's not in the DNA of head coach Kyle Whittingham as the 14th ranked Utes rallied to win eight of their last nine games to win the Pac-12 South title.
"I think that we've taken probably the hardest thing that can happen, and we've turned that into something beautiful," said Utah captain Britain Covey. "We've taken a tragedy and we've turned it into something beautiful."
No one could have predicted the success Utah State has had this season as the Aggies were in a terrible spot last year after head coach Gary Andersen left the team midway through the season, and the Aggies won just one game. But they are 9-3 this season and playing for a conference championship under first year head coach Blake Anderson, who deserves a lot of credit, but said the credit goes to the seniors who decided to stay at Utah State and not enter the transfer portal.
BYUs season has also been remarkable, with the Cougars proving that last year's 11-win season was no fluke when a lot of people said they beat up on a bunch of bad teams. This year, after losing a strong number of players to the NFL, the Cougars are 10-2 and ranked 12th in the country, with a 5-0 record against Pac-12 teams. Head coach Kalani Sitake has BYU on the right track heading toward playing in the Big 12 Conference.
Let's not forget at Real Salt Lake. The club still does not have a new owner more than a year after Major League Soccer forced Dell Loy Hansen to sell the team.
After head coach Freddy Juarez suddenly left the team in August to take an assistant coaching job in Seattle, a playoff run was unthinkable. But RSL scored a stoppage-time goal in the final game of the regular season to clinch the final playoff spot in the western conference on their way to pulling off an upset against Seattle in the first round of the playoffs.
Over the weekend, RSL scored two second half goals in the conference semifinal to beat Sporting Kansas City, leaving RSL two wins away from winning the MLS Cup, and interim head coach Pablo Mastroeni said he would not bet against this team.
All four teams have cashed in this season. Whether you are a fan of Utah, Utah State, BYU or RSL, it's been a fantastic fall for sports fans in the state.