The Colorado Buffaloes are heading to Salt Lake City to take on the Utah Utes in the final game of the season. To find out more about the Utes we sat down with the Utah blog, Block U. You can see our answers to their questions here.
Obviously Devonta Booker is a huge loss for the offense. How did the team react last week and how much will the game plan change against the Buffs with him gone?
It won’t change at all. Utah is a lot like Stanford, with a big offensive line, and a talented running back corps. Backup running back Joe Williams ran for 120 yards last week against UCLA, and Travis Wilson has been a threat on the ground all season, so I’d expect to see the same running attack this week.
Travis Wilson is playing his last game after a great 15 year run. How has he played this year and will Ute fans miss him or applaud his leaving?
Depends on the fan, I for one will be sad to see him go, as he’s been a gamer, and has won some big games during his time at Utah. The fans that will be happy he’s leaving probably don’t really think of what he’s had to deal with, including the injuries and the changes in offensive staff, which has stunted his development. As for his play this year, he’s played very well overall. He’s had a couple poor games, but he’s progressed well and has turned into a much better running threat. He’s reading defenses much better, and when given the chance to be aggressive, he can beat you through the air too, it’s just up to his wide outs to get open, which they didn’t do a lot of against UCLA.
Utah always reloads up front on the defensive line, and they’ve done it again this year. Has the loss of Kilani Sitake hurt the unit and how effective has the pass rush been?
It hasn’t hurt much, if at all. Kalani was a very good defensive coordinator, and was very aggressive. John Pease has had a very good defense this season, they’ve held most opponents under their total yards and points this season, by quite a bit, and have had a knack for forcing turnovers. Even if the Utah offense has struggled, the defense has kept them in every game. As for the pass rush, this is a much more run stopping defense than last years. Also, this team has let a lot of sacks slide through their fingers the last couple of weeks, which has been a bit frustrating.
So we’re "rivals." What do you hate about Colorado and what are your honest thoughts on your state of the program?
What do I hate about Colorado… the distance between Denver and the airport? That’s about all I got for this fierce rivalry. The state of Utah’s program is very good right now. The Pac-12 recruiting is really starting to take hold, and Utah was so close to going to the title game this year in the conference. They just need a few more playmakers on the outside and they’ll be a perennial contender in the South, especially with the defensive tradition Kyle Whittingham has put together.
Who is one player to watch on offense and defense that CU fans might not know about?
On offense, I’d have to say Joe Williams, Devontae Booker’s backup. He’s the probable starter for next season, and he’s actually a faster back than Booker, but he’s yet to show the complete knack for breaking tackles and getting those extra tough yards. On defense, Gionni Paul, that dude is just always around the ball. He has a knack for making big plays and changing the momentum of the game.
How do you see this "rivalry" matchup ending?
I see the Buffs coming in and fighting, like they have all season, but at the end of the day, Utah’s the more talented team and will win in the end. I don’t see a lopsided game at all, but I think Utah just wears CU out at the end and comes away with the win.
Three Key Stats
Rushing S+P- CU Offense- 97.6, ranked 88th (and dropping). Utah Defense- 1268, ranked 4th.
Adjusted Sack Rate for Colorado- 92.5, ranked 77th. Utah Defensive Line Havoc Rate (TFL and sacks)- 8.1%, ranked 8th.
Finishing Drives- CU Offense- 4.14, ranked 104th. Utah Defense- 3.88, ranked 19th.
I can't believe it's here. The end of the 2015 season for the Buffs is one game away and it seems as if it's a merciful end, given the last few weeks. And what a strange season it has been, but what else was expected in the wacky world of college football? We as fans finally made it to rivalry week, which doesn't look pretty for the Buffs. There's no other way to put, the offense looked TERRIBLE last week and it won't get easier to move the ball against this Utah front. As the rushing S+P rankings show, running the ball hasn't come easily during conference play for CU, and stopping the run has come easily up front for the Utes. Colorado desperately needs anything up front to work, so I would say put Patrick Carr in there as much as possible and let him work. He's the most athletic back and he can do some good things to the outside, where the most push is likely to come. If CU does decide to throw it, which is a given with Brian Lindgren, they need to protect Cade or scheme it so he gets the ball out early. The Buffs have not done well with outside edge rushers, specifically blitzes from linebackers and nickel backs, and Utah usually doesn't need to blitz to get pressure, as shown by their DL havoc rate. It could be a long day for Cade and this offense.
Finally to the biggest key to the game. Colorado has to overcome the odds and finish their drives. They were horrendous in the red zone the past few games, and if they want to score at all against Utah, they cannot give up opportunities. Field goals won't cut it and Lindgren should be able to draw up a few touchdowns. It still is absolutely baffling that George Frazier isn't used more. The one time he was targeted in the red zone (USC game), it was a touchdown. I feel like with that conversion rate that he should be called on again, but what do I know? Anyways, Apsay and Lindgren need to loosed up inside the 20 and try some new things to try to get into the end zone.
CU always seems to get up for this game and play the Utes close. Hopefully the same thing happens on Saturday, but I just don't see it. Prove us wrong, Buffs, and go out strong for the season. Also, we all need to take a moment to recognize the last four years with Nelson Spruce. An absolute joy to watch and one of the most consistently successful players for the Buffs on the field, something they haven't had a lot of. He's going to make some NFL team very, very happy soon, but I'll appreciate every second of his last 60 minutes at CU, and I hope you all do, too.