It is Friday morning. People are still recovering from the Thanksgiving food coma induced the day before. It is a crisp late fall afternoon and that team in red has come from one state over to crash Folsom field. It is a story well known to Colorado fans, but with a twist. Instead of our post thanksgiving foe traveling across the plains to make kickoff they come from the other side of the Rockies. The Utah Utes have replaced that other team in red as our final game foe.
You have to assume that Utah will be coming into Boulder this year with a pretty foul taste in their mouths. Last season did not present Buffaloes fans with too many triumphs but the game against the Utes put a brick in Embree's wall. Going into the 2011 season the Utes had some pretty huge illusions of grandeur. They were coming off of three consecutive 10+ win seasons, but they were playing in the Mountain West Conference. Those expectations were inflated when they played a USC team, who hadn't yet hit their stride, tough. They slid through their Pac-12 conference introduction losing their first 4 conference games. After about the midway point in the season the Utes started to get a feel for this Pac-12 thing and started rattling off wins. They were looking so good that as they came into the last week of the season, the Utes were poised to win the first ever Pac-12 South Division championship (USC was ineligible).
Then what happened? THE BUFFS HAPPENED. The only thing standing between Utah and that crown was a team who had limped through their first season as a member of the Pac-12, a team who could hardly remember their last road win, a team plagued by injuries, a team that had nothing to play for but pride. Sometimes that is all you need. Colorado went into Salt Lake City and ruined the Utes hopes for a division title.
I have heard it argued that we, as Buffs fans, may well look back to this very game as the turning point in this programs history. I don't know if I would go that far, as this team has many more hurdles to clear, but I will say this win felt great. We broke our road winless streak, we beat the other new guy, and we did it when they had everything to lose.
Oh wait this is a preview, sorry, reminiscing. Where was I? Oh, right, bitter taste in their mouth. Expect Utah to come to Folsom with revenge on their mind. It is realistic to think that, at this point in the season, the Buffs could be playing for a shot at a bowl. It is easy (grimace) to, on paper; pick out 5 wins on this schedule. If we go into the last week needing a win to get a bowl berth Utah will have some great bulletin board material. If this scenario comes to life Folsom field will be ROCKING on Nov. 23rd.
The defense was the Utes strength last year. In a conference that puts up video game-like offensive numbers the Utes only allowed 20 points per game. Seriously. I read that stat and had to run the numbers myself because it just didn't sound real. Now the grain of salt here is that the Utes didn't have Oregon or Stanford on their schedule (still makes me furious that neither of these teams showed up on the Utes 1st OR 2nd season in the Pac). Anyway, that is dang good. I've said it before and I'll say it again if we want to win this game we HAVE to score more point than them (thanks again, Madden). They return many key pieces of that defense and where they lost guys (linebacker especially) they have guys waiting to pick up the reins.
Offense is a bit of a different story. Last season they were not great. Their passing game was abysmal, finishing last in the conference in that category. However, the Utes return quarterback Jordan Wynn behind center. He is good when he is healthy. However he is not often healthy. If he can get on track with even a decent passing game the Utes look to be pretty dang good in 2012 (my fingers started burning a little from typing that). It stands to reason though that the passing game will be used just to make it easier for running back John White, who had 1,519 yards and 15 touchdowns last season. He can be a nightmare for defenses, and the Buffs need to keep him contained.
If things go well for both teams this season, there could be a ton riding on this game. If Utah fans are to be believed (IF), this team has a real chance to play for the South division title again. The Utes play USC at home this year and a win over the Trojans would have Utah staring the title right in the eye. This is a huge "if" though, as the Trojans are one of the best teams in the country. Let's say that happens and the Buffs win five going into this game... whoa, talk about a high stakes game.