Colorado at Utah – A Preview … Your “T.I.P.S.” for the Buffs’ final game of the year

I don’t bet on sports (or anything else, for that matter).

I say this not in judgment of those who do, but as a disclaimer for the betting advice I am about to offer.

Every week, I look forward to the publication of the betting line for the upcoming Colorado game. I post the number on the website, primarily for “educational purposes only”, but also for comparison’s sake.

The fact that Utah is listed as a 16.5-point favorite tells you a great deal about how Las Vegas views the respective teams. Utah may have lost three of its last five games, but Colorado has lost seven of eight.

Last weekend, Colorado was a 15.5-point underdog to Washington State, and we know how that turned out.

While I think the Buffs will cover this weekend, it has as much to do with the lack of production I expect from both offenses.

The “over/under” number for this weekend is 49.5-points. As we shall see, the under seems like a good bet …

Here are this week’s “T.I.P.S.” for the Colorado at Utah game (12:30 p.m., MT, Pac-12 Networks)


T – Talent

Last weekend, Utah played at home against UCLA without their leading rusher, Devontae Booker. During the game, the Utes leading receiver, Britain Covey, also went down.

The result? The Utes were held without a touchdown in a 17-9 loss.

The UCLA defense, which gave up 554 yards of total offense and 31 points to Colorado, held Utah to 307 yards and three field goals.

That is not to say that the Utes will be without weapons against Colorado this weekend.

As long as quarterback Travis Wilson – all 6’7″, 233-pounds of him – remains standing, the Utes can score. Wilson has thrown for 1,916 yards, 12 touchdowns and nine interceptions this season. Not great, but good enough for Utah to rise to No. 3 in the national polls at the midway point of the season. Wilson, with Booker out, is also the Utes’ leading rusher, with 434 yards and six touchdowns.

Booker’s replacement in the backfield last weekend was junior Joe Williams, who had 26 carries for 121 yards. With a weather forecast of cloudy skies and temperatures in the 30’s, look for the Utes to give the Buff defense a heavy dose of Williams and Wilson carrying the football.

With Britain Covey, the Utes’ leading receiver (as well as dynamic kick returner) out, Kenneth Scott becomes the main target (35 catches for 417 yards and three touchdowns). Scott, though, was held to two catches for 14 yards by UCLA.

Doesn’t sound all that bad for the Buffs, does it?

Except for the fact that the Colorado offense, also held out of the end zone last weekend, will be going up against a very good Utah defense.

The Utes are third in the Pac-12 (and 38th in the nation) in scoring defense, giving up an average of 22.5 points per game. Utah is No. 1 in the Pac-12 (and 14th in the nation) in rushing defense, surrendering only 117.5 yards per game.

As a result, for the Buffs to be successful, they must be able to pass the ball. Cade Apsay played well at times in his starting debut, but was unable to get the Colorado offense into the end zone against Washington State, a defense which is ranked much lower than the one found in Salt Lake City.

So … a few turnovers to flip the field would be helpful.

Except for the fact that Utah is second in the Pac-12 (and 20th in the nation), in turnover ratio.


I – Intangibles

The Tuesday press conference brought out the clichés often associated with a team which does not have a post-season future:

– “You definitely want to win every game,” CU coach Mike MacIntyre said, “but the about being the last game – it’s kind of final, it stays with you longer. You want to win it for your seniors.”

– “Our mindset is to get the seniors a win,” echoed Buffs redshirt freshman quarterback Cade Apsay.

– “It’s rough knowing we don’t get a bowl game,” said defensive lineman Jordan Carrell. “Now it’s all about doing it for the seniors, their last time in Buffs uniform.”

Okay, so the buffs are playing for pride, the senior class which never got to go to a bowl game, and to start the 2015-16 off-season with a little better taste in their mouths.

The Utes, meanwhile, are also playing for pride.

Six weeks removed from being undefeated and ranked No. 3 in the nation, Utah players woke up Sunday morning to the reality of being an unranked team.

Utah, after its loss to UCLA, was officially removed from the chance at the Pac-12 championship game. At 8-3, 5-3, the Utes are tied with UCLA and USC with 5-3 Pac-12 records. The problem for the Ute Nation is that the Bruins and Trojans play this weekend. One of those teams will win and finish 6-3 … and both teams beat Utah, claiming the tie-breaker and the berth in the title game.

By the same token, Utah, with a win over Colorado, will also finish with a 6-3 conference record.

Granted, there will be no Pac-12 title game bid – but the Utes will still finish in a tie for first in the Pac-12 South.

And that’s something to play for.


P – Preparation / Schedule

The 13-game gauntlet for Colorado players finally comes to an end Saturday afternoon.

Injuries have played a role for the Buffs this season, with far more games lost to injury than in prior years (Dave Plati reports that the Buffs have lost 82 full games from players in the two-deep).

And the schedule makers have been no help.

Colorado once again played a late night game, getting home early Sunday morning. Once again, the Buffs did not have a Sunday practice, and this week is a travel week … and Thanksgiving week.

Meanwhile, Utah played at home last weekend (in the afternoon, no less), allowing the Utes to sit home and watch the CU/Washington State game on television, already in prep mode for the Buffs.

Utah got to practice Sunday for the Buffs, and will get to practice again on Friday, while the Buffs were catching up on sleep on Sunday, and are traveling to Salt Lake City on Friday.

To add insult to CU’s injuries … CU is finishing the season with back-to-back road games, while Utah has back-to-back home games.

Advantage, Utah.


S – Statistics

Colorado spent much of the 2015 season with fair-to-middling statistical numbers. Not great, mind you, but better than last season (and the season before, and the season before … ).

Heading into the finale, Colorado is ranked 100th or worse nationally in only a handful of categories.

Unfortunately, they are categories which help define CU’s 4-8 record:

– 100th in rushing defense, giving up 197.3 yards per game;

– 113th in quarterback sacks allowed, giving up 2.92 per game;

– 119th in red zone scoring percentage (offense), scoring only 72.5% of the time inside the opponent’s 20-yard line.

Utah, meanwhile is a study in contrasts. The Utes are 51st in rushing offense, but only 98th in passing offense. Similarly, Utah is ranked 14th in the nation in rushing defense, but 97th in passing defense.

The Utes hang onto the ball, both literally (20th in turnover margin) and figuratively (19th in time of possession).

So, for Colorado to defeat Utah, the Buffs must pass the ball effectively (Cade Apsay and the offensive line have to have a good game), stop the Utes from running the ball effectively (not CU’s strong suit), win the field position battle (against the team with the No. 1 punter and field goal kicker in the nation, Andy Phillips), and win the turnover battle (Utah is +7 on the season; CU is +2).

Nothing to it …


Prediction … In 2011, in the first season of the newly formed Pac-12, the Buffs traveled to Salt Lake City to face the Utes. Colorado came into the game with a 2-10, 1-7 record, while Utah sported a 7-4, 4-4 record. The Buffs had just been embarrassed the week before, 45-6, by UCLA, and had little to play for except pride. The Utes were on a four-game winning streak, and happy to show their Pac-12 brethren that they were more than worthy of their invitation to step up from the Mountain West Conference to the Pac-12.

The Utes were heading for a bowl game; the Buffs were heading home for the holidays.

The result: Colorado 17, Utah 14.

It’s going to have to be just that sort of game if Colorado is going to pull off an upset Saturday. It will have to be low scoring, with the Buffs making just enough plays, and getting just enough breaks, to win the game.

Thing is … this game is setting up just that way. Neither Utah nor Colorado scored touchdowns in the last game – and were not going up against stout defenses. Utah, without its leading rusher and leading receiver, struggled against UCLA, while Colorado, with a first-time starter at quarterback, struggled against Washington State.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Colorado actually won this game.

I also wouldn’t be surprised if the Buffs were shut out.

I would be surprised if the winner of the game scores over 30 points.

... Utah 20, Colorado 13 …



4 Replies to “CU at Utah – A Preview”

  1. Stuart –

    Thanks, as always, for the year long effort to chronicle our Buffs.

    The Buffs need this one after last weeks debacle in Pullman, just to say that we are NOT the kind of squad that tanks it!

    So we take this CU 20 – UU 17 and that includes a missed CU extra Point. Just to show how my mind has been warped by this past decade of Buff football.

  2. Stuart,

    its been confirmed (Fox Sports Radio my Source) that Les Miles will NOT be the coach for LSU next year…..Thoughts??? Should CU go after him???

    1. I can’t foresee a scenario under which former CU assistant coach Les Miles would return to Boulder.
      Miles, with some $15M in buyout money, can pick and choose from any number of jobs. Why take CU when he could go with USC, Miami, Virginia Tech, South Carolina … with more to come as the coaching carousel to continue?
      If Miles thinks he has all the money he needs, and wants to take on a project, I’d love to have him.
      Dare to dream …

  3. Spot on analysis. With the way this season has gone, anything is possible, but a Buffs loss is probable. Hate to say it, but 10 years of futility does that to a person.

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