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Colorado Buffaloes vs. Utah Utes: Three keys to the game

Buffaloes will be bowl eligible with a win Saturday

NCAA Football: Utah at Colorado Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Colorado Buffaloes are coming off an impressive 20-14 victory at home, defeating the Washington Huskies. With the victory, Colorado kept their bowl hopes alive as they hit the road to face the No. 6 Utah Utes. It won’t be easy, but here are three keys to how Colorado can become bowl eligible for the first time since 2016.

Stop The Run

Colorado’s defense has been much better of late, holding both the Stanford Cardinal and Washington Huskies to 13 and 14 points, respectively. Saturday will be a tougher task, however, as they have to stop Utah’s potent run game. The Utes currently lead the Pac-12 in rushing with 2,368 yards — 416 more than second best Oregon.

The Utes average 214.5 yards per game, good for 22nd best in the NCAA. It all starts with dealing with Zack Moss. He’s just as prolific as he is bruising — this season he has 14 touchdowns and 1,158 rushing yards on 6.4 yards per carry. He is going to be a handful.

It’s easier said then done but Colorado must stop the run to have a chance. Colorado held Washington to just 32 rushing yards last Saturday, forcing Jacob Eason to try and beat them through the air. Colorado is going to have to do the same thing and make Tyler Huntley beat them. The senior is having his best season yet however, completing 75% percent of his passes to go along with 14 touchdowns to just two interceptions. It’ll be Colorado’s biggest test all season.

All The Trickery

Utah’s defense is no joke — that’s why they are ranked top ten in the country. Their defense is ranked number one in the nation against the run, allowing just 56.1 yards per contest. Colorado was effective running the football last week against Washington, totaling 207 yards. Alex Fontenot was the featured back carrying the ball 24 times, collecting 105 yards and one touchdown.

Like last week, Colorado is going to need their run game to help out quarterback Steven Montez. It’s not a recipe for success if the Buffs have to rely on Montez to air it out. The Buffs are just 1-4 on the season when Montez throws 35+ passes. Colorado is going to want Montez in that 20-30 range with some help from the run game.

If Colorado can’t get the run game going, they’re going to have to pull out all the stops. And by all stops, I mean all the trickery. Don’t be surprised to see Colorado unveil some trick plays featuring either Laviska Shenault Jr or K.D. Nixon in what could be their final game of 2019.

Special Teams

If Colorado’s offense isn’t moving the ball well to start the game or throughout the course of the game for that matter, playing the field position game is going to be the bread and butter. We saw a prime example of it last week with senior punter Alex Kinney pinning the Huskies at the one yard line with a phenomenal 62 yard punt. Kinney was named Pac-12 Special Teams Player of the Week.

Utah is currently favored at -28 to beat the Buffs this Saturday in Salt Lake City. The Buffs are no stranger to these odds however. Last Saturday, the Huskies were favored at -14.5, yet Colorado ended up winning by six points. You never know what can happen if you execute.

USC is the lone team to defeat Utah all season, defeating the Utes 30-23 back on Sept. 20. Colorado gave up 14 unanswered to the Trojans at home on Oct. 25, resulting in a 35-31 defeat — a game Colorado controlled for the majority. So you’re saying there’s a chance?