The Utes made it to the Holiday Bowl. What will they do with the opportunity?

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(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Utes quarterback Jason Shelley (15) runs with the ball, in football action between the Brigham Young Cougars and the Utah Utes, at Rice-Eccles Stadium, Saturday, November 24, 2018.

SAN DIEGO — Utah and Northwestern will kick off Monday afternoon in the California sunshine, playing one day earlier and 130 miles south of their preferred time and place for a bowl game.

The Rose Bowl practically was within sight of the Utes and Wildcats a month ago, playing in conference championship games that offered them the opportunity to qualify for one of college football’s most glamorous events. They both lost.

Yet as coaches Kyle Whittingham of Utah and Pat Fitzgerald of Northwestern appeared at a news conference on a spectacular Sunday morning in a hotel fronting the San Diego Marina, their programs hardly looked like losers. Yeah, San Diego will have to do.

Imagining the stories from Pasadena is irresistible, though. Whittingham would have faced former Ute coach Urban Meyer in Meyer’s final game as Ohio State’s coach, after Whittingham spent part of his childhood living about seven miles from the Rose Bowl, before his family moved to Provo.

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