The No. 21 Utah Utes (7-3, 5-3 Pac-12) and Colorado Buffaloes (5-5, 2-5 Pac-12) are playing for postseason implications on Saturday. The Buffaloes are still trying to scratch and claw to bowl eligibility after a five game losing streak and the Utes are hoping to stay in the hunt for a Pac-12 South title.
Even after a rough loss last week, the Utes are still closing in on their first ever South Division title. Utes running back Zack Moss ran for a career-high 196 yards and two touchdowns in last year’s bowl game eliminator against the Buffs. The 34-13 win marked the fourth straight year the Utes became bowl eligible in Kyle Whittingham’s tenure in Salt Lake City.
This game looked like a better matchup earlier in the season, but injuries have gotten the best of Colorado and Utah down the stretch. Utes starting quarterback Tyler Huntley (broken collarbone) and Moss (knee), along with Colorado defensive back Chris Miller, linebacker Jacob Callier (shoulder), and defensive end Jase Franke (broken collarbone) are all out for the season.
Starting Colorado defensive back Evan Worthington (concussion) and Delrick Abrams Jr. have also missed significant time. And perhaps the most significant player for the Buffs, wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr., isn’t 100-percent at the moment. Despite the setback, he returned last week to record his fifth 100-yard receiver effort after being out nearly a month with a foot injury. Shenault led the nation in receiving before being sidelined.
”I’ve never had a season where going into the 10th game of the year we had nine starters out that started the first game—nine, Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre said this week. And four other significant players out. Basically, a third of your guys that you play, that you count on to win games, aren’t out there.”
On the other hand, Whittingham sees his team controlling their own destiny, outside of Arizona State, after losing Huntley and Moss, who were replaced by freshman quarterback Jason Shelly and backup running back Armand Shyne. The duo combined for 436 of the Utes 494 yards of total offense in last week’s 32-25 win vs. Oregon. MacIntyre believes Utah’s offense is confident and knows what his team is up against in the absence of Huntley and Moss.
“It’s very similar. (Shelly) is a good runner and can make the passes that Huntley can made too. I thought he played really, really well. I thought Shyne played really well are running back. It didn’t look like they missed a beat with what they do. They’re similar running back and similar quarterback.”
MacIntyre’s oddest season to date continued this week. He’s not only facing an unprecedented losing streak, but some members of the media went on the record with a report saying CU and MacIntyte would be parting ways at the end of the season. Either way, Colorado will have to shake off the rumors and finish strong to salvage a 5-0 start to the season.
The defensive battle could be the difference between Colorado and Utah. Both teams have allowed 25 sacks each this season, and average near 30 points per game on offense (Utah- 30.5 ppg, Colorado- 29.7 ppg). It’s a close comparison considering the Utes have out gained the Buffs by 73 yards in total offense through ten games this season.
Colorado quarterback Steven Montez will be forced to find a way to break down Utah’s defense, who allows an average of 19.7 points per game behind the Pac-12’s best run defense (101.7 ypg. avg.). Shenault and CU’s deep group of receivers face a Utes secondary that is ranked 57th in the nation, allowing 222 yards per game and a total of 14 touchdowns.
News and Notes
Since both teams realigned with the Pac-12 in 2012, MacIntyre is 1-5 against Utah, and Whittingham is 5-2 against Colorado. The Buffs hold a 32-29-2 all-time series advantage over the Utes going back to 1903.
Senior Day in Boulder will recognize 18 Colorado players who will suit up for the Buffs in their final home game. Out of those seniors—six of them are team captains— Rick Gamboa, Juwann Winfree, Jay MacIntyre, Kabion Ento, Nick Fisher and Alex Kinney. Virginia Tech graduate transfer Travon McMillian has made the best of his final season, needing 90 yards to break the 1,000-yard mark for the season.
From the desk of Dave Plati:
Obscure stat of the week: “Fair Catch Machines- P Davis Price has 48 punts on the season, exactly half of which (24) have been fair caught. Who’s forcing those? WR Daniel Arias has forced 11 of those, while WR Kabion Ento has forced six (and a seventh on kickoff coverage duty). The 11 forced fair catches is a school record for a single season, topping the 10 by John Walker in 2015. (CU has tracked this statistic for its special team points category since 1987).”
Saturday also marks the 67th anniversary of CU’s first-ever televised game— a 36-14 win at Nebraska on Nov. 17, 1951. The first national telecast of a college bowl game came months later with NBC carrying the 1952 Rose Bowl.
Colorado hosts Utah on Saturday, Nov. 17 for the 500th game in Folsom Field history. A 11:30 p.m. MT kickoff for the latest edition of Rumble in the Rockies.
TV: Pac-12 Networks
Radio: 850 KOA
Odds: -7 Utah
Weather: 28° Snow