This play-in game for the postseason features the Colorado Buffaloes (5-6, 2-6 Pac-12) traveling to Rice-Eccles Stadium for a season-finale meeting with the Utah Utes (5-6, 2-6 Pac-12). There are similar records for both teams with a much different ‘tale of the tape’ separating them.
Utah has faced tougher opponents with near upsets of Stanford, USC, Washington State and Washington. It’s fair to say that’s been a common theme of the Utes this season— “close, but no cigar.” No. 18 Washington’s 33-30 win over Utah last week came with Tristan Vizcaino nailing a 38-yard field goal as time expired. No. 11 USC handed Colorado a 38-24 loss, giving the Trojans their second division title in the past three season.
A year later, the Utes and Buffaloes are playing for bowl eligibility, rather than a spot in the conference championship. As of late, the contests between both schools have been close, being decided by seven points or less in the past five years. This also marks the seventh straight season the two teams end the regular season against each other. Colorado slid past Utah in last season’s finale at Folsom Field in a 27-22 victory for the Buffs that wasn’t as close as the box score would indicate. Sefo Liufau’s 329 yards of total offense and two touchdowns secured CU’s first division title as members of the Pac-12.
The Buffs can have back-to-back bowl seasons for the first time since 2004-05 with a win. Montez has eclipsed the 300-yard passing mark in the past three games, which is a school record for consecutive games. He’s had a multitude of contributors including the receiving trio of Shay Fields, Bryce Bobo and Devin Ross, along with Doak Walker semifinalist Phillip Lindsay out of the backfield. The Buffaloes rank 36th in the nation for total offense, averaging 427 yards per game.
According to CU’s Dave Plati, this is “the second straight year, and the only two times in school history, three different players have at least 500 yards receiving: Bobo (640), Fields (623) and Ross (508); the same trio did it last year (Fields 845, Ross 765, Bobo 523). Bobo and Fields are just the eighth pair to record 600 or more yards in a single-season. In addition, Bobo (58), Fields (46) and Ross (43) all have 40-plus receptions, just the second time in school annals three players reached the 40 plateau, joining four who did it last year: Ross (66), Fields (52), Lindsay (47) and Bobo (41).”
The Utes boast the third-best defense the Buffs will face so far this season. As a whole, they’re ranked in the top half in every statistical category in the nation; 33rd in total defense (357.0 ypg.), 37th in pass defense efficiency (117.5 ypg.), 38th against the run (141.3 ypg.) and 56th against the pass (215.7 ypg.). The 4-3 scheme for Utah relies heavily on four down lineman including All-Pac-12 seniors Lowell Lotulelei and Filipo Mokofisi. It’s a duo that helps a stout corps of linebackers like Kavika Luafatasaga and Sunia Tauteoli.
A key matchup will be how Utah plans to contain Phillip Lindsay. He’ll be the second-best running back to face the Utes this season after Stanford’s Bryce Love ripped-off 20 carries for 152 yards and a touchdown in Salt Lake City on Oct. 7. Lindsay can put an exclamation point on a solid career at CU on the road and against a team traditionally known as a run-stopping unit.
Both teams have dropped two in a row, CU has lost six of its last eight, the Utes six of their last seven. CU’s Mike MacIntyre and Darian Hagan celebrate their 100th career game as a coaches, respectively. MacIntyre has a 25-37 record in 62 games at Colorado (16-21 at SJSU).
Colorado goes west to meet Utah for ‘Pac-12 after dark’ on Saturday, Nov. 25 at 8 pm MT on Fox Sports 1. The Buffaloes lead the all-time series with a 32-28-3 record. CU is 26-21 following a bye week dating back to 1947, and 1-4 since joining the Pac-12. According to most Vegas sports books, Utah is favored by 10.5 points.