Scouting the Opposition

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Game Twelve – Utah – November 25th

Last game … November 26, 2016 – No. 9 Colorado 27, No. 21 Utah 22 … Colorado relied upon its defense to bring home the school’s first ten win season since 2001, downing No. 21 Utah, 27-22. With the victory, the “worst-to-first” dream season was completed, with the Buffs going from 1-8 in Pac-12 play in 2015 to 8-1 in 2016, claiming CU’s first Pac-12 South title, and first division title since winning the Big 12 North in 2005.

The Buffs were held to 378 yards of total offense, but the CU defense held the Utes to 339 yards of total offense, forcing four turnovers along the way. A forced fumble from Utah running back Joe Williams was returned by Buff linebacker Kenneth Olugbode ten yards for a game-clinching score early in the fourth quarter. Olugbode’s score made it 27-16, and the Buff defense made it hold up.

Special teams almost cost the Buffs the game, with Utah scoring on a punt return for a touchdown early in the game, and almost scoring on a kickoff return early in the fourth quarter.

“I’m very excited to grind one out,” said Colorado quarterback Sefo Liufau, who had 270 yards passing and a team-leading 59 yards rushing, but fumbled twice. “The defense got my back.”

… The 2016 CU/Utah game story, “No Conflict, No Story“, can be found here …

2016 Utah results – 9-4 (5-4 in Pac-12 play)

– Returning starters, Offense: 3 … Returning starters, Defense: 4

– 2016 National Rankings (Offense)

— Scoring – 60th … 29.8 points per game  (Colorado – 51st … 31.1 points per game)

— Rushing – 32nd … 214.0 yards per game  (Colorado – 56th … 182.6 yards per game)

— Passing – 78th … 216.7 yards per game  (Colorado – 47th … 254.5 yards per game)

— Total – 51st … 430.7 yards per game  (Colorado – 47th … 437.1 yards per game)

– 2016 National Rankings (Defense)

— Scoring – 33rd … 23.9 points per game  (Colorado – 20th … 21.7 points per game)

— Rushing – 22nd … 128.7 yards per game  (Colorado – 44th … 148.9 yards per game)

— Passing – 101st … 254.3 yards per game  (Colorado – 20th … 193.6 yards per game)

— Total – 48th … 383.0 yards per game  (Colorado – 19th … 342.5 yards per game)

How the Buffs fit into the Utes’ 2017 schedule

Colorado and Utah joined the Pac-12 conference in 2011. They have played six times since becoming “rivals” in their new league.

Each of the six games between the two has been decided by a touchdown or less … and there’s no reason to believe that the 2017 game won’t be close as well.

The Utes won nine games in 2016, and are ranked 25th in the preseason USA Today coaches’ poll, just ahead of Washington State at 26th and Colorado at 27th.

In some respects, the ranking is a bit of a surprise. Colorado lost eight starters from its defense; Utah lost seven. Meanwhile, while the Buffs welcome back nine starters on offense, the Utes have only three starters returning.

In other respects, the ranking of Utah over Colorado is not a surprise. While Colorado is trying to overcome the negative perceptions which come with a decade of poor play, Utah has been consistent, going 9-4, 10-3, and 9-4 over the past three seasons.

Guessing where Colorado and Utah will be come the end of November is pure speculation. The only factor we can point to this far in advance is that the Buffs have a bye week before playing the Utes (yes, CU has the weekend of November 18th off). That same weekend, while the Buffs are recovering from 11 straight weekends of play, the Utes will be heading to Seattle to play perhaps their toughest game of the year, taking on the Huskies.

We’ll see how the season plays out …


Street and Smith’s has Utah as the No. 2 team in the Pac-12 South, ranked No. 25 nationally.

Because of all of the noise in Los Angeles, it’s easy to overlook what’s going on at Utah. The Utes are the Pac-12 South Division’s most consistent teams, annually filling both lines with formidable size and talent while using a punishing rush attack to finish in the Top 25 in each of the past three seasons.

This year appears to be no exception. The Utes may be even better than usual, and more diversified. New offensive coordinator Troy Taylor is expected to infuse more passing into the Utes’ offense, have run an FCS offense that averaged 401 passing yards and 42.4 points per game at Eastern Washington last season. That track record might indicate Taylor can get even more from talented but inconsistent returning starter Troy Williams.

… The defense should ensure that the Utes don’t fall below .500 mark in conference play, but how seriously they can challenge USC for the South Division title may depend on how the Utes produce offensively under the direction of Taylor. That’s a pretty big gap for any offense to overcome. After all, that buzz around USC comes for a reason.


Lindy’s has Utah as the No. 2 team in the Pac-12 South (4th in the Pac-12), the No. 25 team in the nation

Primary Strengths … Kyle Whittingham is the longest-tenured head coach in the Pac-12, providing much-needed stability. Utah’s defense has been an area of strength since Whittingham joined the staff as an assistant in 1994. It will be again this season. Punting is another game-changing aspect.

Potential Problems … Can the offense approach that made Eastern Washington so successful work at Utah? Much of the new offense was installed in spring ball, but that work continues this fall. A revamped offensive line won’t make things any easier.

Overview … Colorado’s rise to prominence last season left Utah as the only team in the Pac-12 South to win an outright division championship since the conference was expanded in 2011. The Utes have had success, however. They’re 4-0 in bowl games during that span, and have more overall wins (28) than any team in the division over the past three seasons. Although Utah is once again projected to contend, major holes to fill on the offensive line and in the secondary are a concern. So, too, is facing USC in Los Angeles.


Athlon has Utah as the No. 4 team in the Pac-12 South, the No. 38 team in the nation (CU is 3rd in the Pac-12 South; No. 34 overall) … Projected Utah record: 7-5; 4-5

They try to take away what you do best, and they’re very, very mentally tough. I think Coach Whittingham does an unbelievable job” – An opposing Pac-12 assistant coach

Final Analysis … Utah has established itself as one of the Pac-12’s most consistent programs, but there’s more to do. Whittingham is driven to make his team the South’s sixth winner in seven seasons. “We’re not going to apologize for winning nine-plus games the last three years, but we want to win a championship,” Whittingham says. “We’ve got to find a way to break through.” The Utes’ October 14th visit to USC will be pivotal. Utah has beaten the Trojans two of the past three seasons.


One Reply to “Scouting the Opposition”

  1. As usual the “expert predictors”???????? are making judgements based on the past years. They give more credit to Utah then CU mainly due to past performances. I think where they miss on the coming year is that while CU does have to replace a very good defense, they are doing that with much better players then in the past.

    Utah also has some big holes to re-fill. CU’s offense should carry the day and hopefully by the end of the season the D will also have matured and play up to their talent level.

    The one big factor that could decide this game though is Special Teams. Utah has been superb in the past. If in fact CU really is emphasizing ST’s this year maybe that aspect can be neutralized somewhat and the Buffs Roll.

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