Colorado vs.  Utah Preview: “T.I.P.S.” for CU’s bid for the Pac-12 South

The Buffs got the results they wanted in two out of three Pac-12 games last Saturday.

The most important game, certainly, was the Buffs against the Cougars … Colorado 38, Washington State 24.

Oregon also did the Buffs a favor, taking Utah out of the Pac-12 South race … Oregon 30, Utah 28.

But, #Pac12AfterDark didn’t hold up its end of the deal. A UCLA win over USC would have given the Buffs the Pac-12 South title … USC 36, UCLA 14.

The Buffs still control their own destiny. A win over Utah Saturday (5:30 p.m., MT, Fox), and Colorado will be the 2016 Pac-12 South champion.

“We’d love to win (the Pac-12 South) on the field,” head coach Mike MacIntyre said. “I think it even makes it better. Our guys are excited about playing”.

Colorado is listed a ten-point favorite. The Utes, meanwhile, have lost only one game by double digits in the past two seasons.

A sell-out crowd will be on hand for what could prove to be a memorable evening …

 

This week’s “T.I.P.S.” for Colorado v. Utah … Saturday, 5:30 p.m. MT, Fox

T – Talent

It took Phillip Lindsay 11 games and a whole lot of tough runs to become CU’s first 1,000-yard rusher since 2010.

It took Utah’s Joe Williams all of five games since his return from “retirement” to match Lindsay’s 1,000 yards.

Williams, who left the team after posting all of 75 yards in the first two games of the season, returned to the team in mid-October after a four-game, self-imposed hiatus. Since his return, however, Williams has been on a tear. Last weekend, against Oregon, Williams had 23 carries for 149 yards and a touchdown … and those were his lowest totals since his return.

Overall, in the past five games, Williams has rushed for 1,013 yards (just over 200 yards per game) and nine touchdowns.

In year’s past, opposing teams have had to worry about taking on Utah’s quarterback. The Buffs, meanwhile, need to focus on stopping No. 28, Joe Williams.

This is not to say that Utah is lacking a passing game. Junior quarterback Troy Williams has passed for almost 2,500 yards this season, and, in Pac-12 play, has ten touchdowns and only one interception.

The receiving corps is not as talented as in year’s past, but have two quality wideouts in Tim Patrick and Raelon Singleton. The pair have a combined 63 catches on the season, going for over 1,000 combined yards and nine touchdowns.

The Utah defense is good … but not as great as in recent seasons.

The Utes are 49th in total defense, giving up 387.3 yards per game, and 38th in scoring defense, surrendering 23.6 points per contest. The player the Buff offensive line has to corral is defensive lineman Hunter Dimick, who is third in the nation in tackles for loss, with 19.5, and is No. 1 in the nation in sacks, averaging 1.27 per game.

Where the Utes are really special is on special teams. Senior kicker Andy Phillips has missed all of one extra point attempt in his four years in Salt Lake City (162-of-163) and has made over 80% of his field goal attempts every year he’s played in Salt Lake City (14-of-17, 82% this season).

Meanwhile, sophomore Mitch Wishnowsky, a Ray Guy award semi-finalist, is leading the nation in punting, averaging 48.6 yards per punt. The Utes are also No. 1 in the nation in net punting, at 45.2 yards per punt, as Wishnowsky has all of two touchbacks (Colorado, meanwhile, is 115th in the nation in net punting).

Suffice it to say, field position will play a significant role in Saturday’s game, and Utah has weapons on special teams.

 

I – Intangibles

Last weekend, Colorado had an advantage in that the Buffs had everything on the line against Washington State … a loss would have taken them out of the race for the Pac-12 South. Washington State, meanwhile, was destined to play Washington for the Pac-12 North title this Friday … win or lose against the Buffs.

This weekend, Colorado has an advantage in that the Buffs still have everything on the line against Utah … a berth in the Pac-12 championship game, together with a modicum of hope for a College Football Playoff berth. Utah, meanwhile, will finish third in the Pac-12 South … win or lose against the Buffs.

Consider this … in the five years of the Pac-12, four different teams have won the division – USC (twice), UCLA, Arizona State, and Arizona. If Colorado wins Saturday, Utah will be the lone team in the division without at least one appearance in the Pac-12 title game.

Incentive for the Utes to knock off the Buffs?

“I want [Colorado] to feel how we felt after Oregon,” senior receiver Tim Patrick said after the Utes’ hopes of their first Pac-12 title were dashed after Utah’s 30-28 loss to Oregon.

On the other sideline, the Buffs should be sky high for this game. A sell-out crowd? On Senior Night? The final game at Folsom Field for Sefo Liufau, Chidobe Awuzie, and company?

The only real danger here is that the Buffs will be too excited to play, and not be able to focus on the task at hand after the opening kickoff.

But the Buffs have been on an even keel on season … I can’t see that changing Saturday night in the regular season finale.

 

P – Preparation / Schedule

Colorado will play in a bowl game this year.

Though that statement has been a reality for almost a month now, it’s still nice to see in print.

Where the Buffs will play, however, is a wide open question.

Colorado, in a perfect storm, could wind up in the College Football playoffs, most likely shipped off as the No. 4 seed to face Alabama in Atlanta in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl.

On the other hand, the Buffs could also fall as far as the No. 6 seed in the Pac-12 bowl pecking order.

Let’s say that Utah beats Colorado. The Utes and Buffs would both finish 9-3, with 9-3 USC (after a win over Notre Dame) off to the Pac-12 title game. If Stanford beats Rice this weekend (the Cardinal are 27-point favorites), then Stanford would also finish 9-3. In the Apple Cup, it’s 10-1 Washington against 8-3 Washington State. If the Cougars win, there would be a total of six Pac-12 teams with records of 9-3 or better.

Bowl selection is a fickle beast. There is a pecking order for bowl games, but there are allowances in terms of participant selection. For the Pac-12 (if no team is chosen for the playoffs) the order for selection is: Rose (in Pasadena v. Big Ten); Alamo (in San Antonio v. Big 12); Holiday (in San Diego v. Big Ten); Foster Farms (in San Francisco v. Big Ten); Sun (in El Paso v. ACC);  Las Vegas (Las Vegas v. MWC); and Cactus (Phoenix v. Big 12).

The Rose Bowl will take the Pac-12 champion (again, if not chosen for the playoffs). After that, it’s a beauty contest. There are some rules – for instance, the Alamo Bowl couldn’t take a 6-6 Arizona State team over a 9-3 Colorado team. By the same token, the Alamo Bowl wouldn’t be required to take Colorado over Utah, even though the Buffs were 7-2 in Pac-12 play, while the Utes were 6-3, or take Colorado over Stanford or Washington State, even though the 9-3 Buffs would have wins over the 9-3 Cardinal or the 9-3 or 8-4 Cougars.

Colorado has a reputation for not traveling well to bowls, which could factor into the selection process.

The Buffs are also one of the feel good stories of the 2016 season, which could also factor into the selection process.

Best to just beat Utah, and take some of the drama about heading to El Paso out of play …

 

S – Statistics

One piece of good news for Buff fans … Utah, unlike Washington State, is unlikely to simply try to out-score the Buffs.

Whereas Washington State came to Boulder last weekend with the nation’s 2nd-ranked passing offense, the Utes are a pedestrian 77th, at 222.1 yards per game. Washington State was 8th in the nation in scoring before facing the Buffs … Utah is 56th (30.9 ppg.).

On the defensive side of the ball, Utah is fairly comparable to what CU faced in Washington State. The Cougars were ranked 50th in total defense, while Utah is 49th (387.3 ypg.). Washington State was 43rd in scoring defense before facing the Buffs … Utah is 38th (23.6 ppg.).

So, the Buffs will face an offense which is not as potent as the Cougars’ offense, while taking on a defense which is fairly similar to that of Washington State.

Last week, Colorado held Washington State to its lowest point total of the season, while racking up a season-high 603 yards of total offense against the Cougars.

Sounds promising …

But, then again, Utah is 8-3, and has looked impressive at times in getting there. The Utes do own a victory over USC, (albeit at home and against a Trojan team still in search of a quarterback), and played Washington as close (31-24) as anyone this side of the men from Troy. The three Utah losses have all been close. The Utes were a yard away on fourth-and-goal on the final play against Cal, and a replay overturn away with two seconds remaining against Oregon. Put another way – change the final plays in the games against Cal and Oregon … and Utah is 10-1.

It’s never easy, is it?

 

Prediction … This will be a game decided in the trenches.

Washington State, even with its newly discovered rushing attack and improved defense, is still all about the passing game and trying to out-score opponents.

Utah, meanwhile, remains old school.

Like Stanford and USC – the only teams to hold the Colorado offense under 20 points this season – the Utes feature a dominant rushing attack which eats clock (Utah is sixth in the nation in time of possession), together with a strong defensive line (with the nation’s leader in sacks). The Utes are content to play the field position game (with the nation’s best punter), while waiting for its opponents to make mistakes (Utah is 12th in the country in turnover margin).

Thing is, Colorado is not a team to wilt under such pressures. The Buffs have a balanced offensive attack which has proven effective at taking what defenses give them. The Colorado defense is, by any objective measurement, one of the best in the nation. The Buffs are equally content in playing keep away from the opponent (25th in time of possession), while waiting for their opponents to make mistakes (15th in turnover margin).

If this game was being played in Salt Lake City, I would be concerned about the Buffs being able to take down a very decent Utah team with everything on the line.

In Folsom, though, I can’t see the Utes staying with the Buffs for sixty minutes. Not in front of CU’s first sell-out in years.

Not on Senior Night.

As was the case with Washington State, this game should be close throughout, with the CU senior class adding one more gold brick to their legacy.

… Colorado 31, Utah 20 … 

 

—–

 

 

17 Replies to “CU v. Utah – A Preview”

  1. This is gonna be a tough game. Utah won’t go down without a fight. I still believe in the BUFFS and expect them to win. All the PAC12 games with Utah have come down to the wire. Not this year CU gonna blow em away.

    CU 50 UTAH 21

    GO BUFFS!!!!!

  2. Another great year of T.I.P.S Stuart !!! Ohhhhhhhhhhh, What’s This !!???!!!! There are going to be at least 2 maybe 3 more !!! The Buff’s take care of their destiny on the field ! In a game that may begin to rekindle a long dormant rivalry !! Buff’s 38 – Utah U 20

  3. And another thing.

    The Rise has even effected Bakhtiari, the former CU player who plays for The Packers.

    For years when they would show his mug on tv during the game when players would identify themselves and state where they were from, he would say the high school he went too. Never mention CU.

    Now, that ol fairweather alumni is saying

    University of Colorado, Boulder.

    Yup, The Rise is rolling everywhere.

    And Yup, I heard The Rise is responsible for the election results

    Go Buffs

  4. The time for talkin’ is over….. as in ‘Squash the Utes.’ Leave no doubt as to who is the best team in the Pac-12 South.

    So happy for the seniors who have had to try to hold their chin up for the past 4 years until they really started to believe in themselves.

    FILL FOLSOM WITH NOISE. On to Santa Clara and Levi Stadium.

  5. Pac 12 blogger pics

    KyleBonagura CU 27-21
    KevinGemmell CU 17-14
    ChantelJennings Utes 35-31
    DavidLombardi CU 31-24
    TedMiller Utes 24-21

    The Rise is Real girl and boy

      1. Hey WB,

        Yup Still don’t believe.

        Last week they all picked the Utes to win

        Last week the Buff picks of these espn bloggers were

        kyle Bonagura….Cougs………28-24
        Kevin Gemmell….Buffs……….31-28
        Chantel Jennings….Buffs…. 42-41
        David Lombardi …..Buffs…….30-27
        Ted Miller…..Cougs……38-35

        Wow, No Clue. They Must not be paying attention.

        THE RISE IS REAL AND HAS BLINDED THEM

        Uh Oh Buffalo

        1. Funny.

          Also I see Stuart is now copying and pasting that info on his PAC-12 section with the logos.

          Nice. Well anything I can do while wearing my cuatthegame hat and mousing on my cuatthegame mousepad is fine with me.

          Go Buffs.

          Happy Thanksgiving

  6. Sorry, something happened & my comment posted twice, before I was even done.

    Last thought, I believe this team is on a mission and the days of worrying about losing to teams like Utah are over.

    Buffs 35, Utes 13

  7. This is another “biggest game since…” scenario for the Buffs. They’ve handled all the previous ones with focus & determination, regardless of the final results.

    I’ve never thought the Utes were a good fit in the Pac-12. They belong in the MWC, or at best they might fit in the Big Ten (or 16 or whatever it is now). As much as I hate to say it, I think BYU or even CSU would have been a better choice for the Pac-12.

  8. So the Buffs ar 7 and 1 in the pac.

    3 and 1 in the south
    4 and 0 in the north

    No matter how good Utah may be the Buffs will win this game. Buff D will do some bending, but Leavitt’s Legions will not break. Buffs offense is just warming up for the Rose Bowl game

    Buffs by 20 maybe more.

    Final ” Regular Season Gold Game” Next step in the “Mighty Buff Payback tour”

    Go Buffs.

    Note: Can you frigging believe they are gonna be practicing in December. And they got a nice new indoor facility too.

  9. Nice write up as usual. Happy Thanksgiving to all. If the Buffs can manage and channel their emotions (senior night, sellout crowd, playing for the Pac 12 South title) and don’t have turnovers, I don’t think this will be as close as expected due to some of the unit mismatches (as VK posted). But I will gladly take any win, even by one point.

    CU 38 Utah 17

    Go Buffs!!!

  10. Seems like a fair and thoughtful assessment Stuart. Utah certainly won’t lay down while CU has everything to play for. Ultimately CU wins, but it will be close early, similar to the WSU game.

    It would be great to see this turn into a true rivalry game. While we ruined their first season’s dream of a PAC 12 South representation in the conference title game, it just hasn’t seemed like there was enough there to make us rivals. Maybe if we as fans referred to them as “BYU Lite”, they would get all worked up. I don’t want to hate them like the Corn from Bugaha, but I do want there to be some true trash talk, and the inability to walk past their fans in the airport without thinking about tripping them.

    GO BUFFS!! CU-35, BYU Lite-24

  11. SO EXCITED!

    My son put it best “After the last couple of years of close games Utah deserves a beatin’, and CU is going to deliver it!”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.