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2018 Game Eleven – CU v. Utah – November 17, 2018

Last game between the two schools … November 25, 2017 … Utah 34, Colorado 13

In a battle between two teams with 5-6 records, Utah became bowl-eligible with a dominating 34-13 victory over Colorado. The Utes sprinted out to a 28-0 halftime lead, never looking back to post a three-touchdown win, the first game between the teams as members of the Pac-12 decided by more than a touchdown.

Zach Moss ran for a career-high 196 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Utes, while Phillip Lindsay closed out his Colorado career with 18 carries for 72 yards and a touchdown.

“(A bowl game is) a big positive. … It beats the alternative”, said Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham. “If we’re sitting here at 5-7 and not going, we’re feeling pretty lousy.”

Of course, the loss left Colorado at 5-7 and “feeling pretty lousy”, completing a worst-to-first-to-worst campaign, finishing the 2017 season as the only team in the Pac-12 South not eligible to compete in a bowl game.

The essay for the game, “Lasting Impressions“, can be found here


2017 Utah results – 7-6 (3-5 in Pac-12 play – defeated 30-14 to West Virginia in the Heart of Dallas Bowl … the only Pac-12 team to win its bowl game)

– Returning starters, Offense: 7 … Returning starters, Defense: 4


– 2017 Utah National Rankings (Offense)

— Scoring – 52nd … 29.5 points per game  (Colorado scoring defense – 74th … 28.2 points per game)

— Rushing – 65th … 164.0 yards per game   (Colorado rushing defense – 108th … 208.0 yards per game)

— Passing – 49th … 294.4 yards per game   (Colorado passing defense – 94th … 242.6 yards per game)

— Total – 52nd … 413.4 yards per game  (Colorado total defense – 110th … 450.6 yards per game)

– 2017 Utah National Rankings (Defense)

— Scoring – 39th … 23.2 points per game  (Colorado scoring offense – 81st … 26.4 points per game)

— Rushing – 27th … 131.3 yards per game (Colorado rushing offense – 74th … 157.2 yards per game)

— Passing – 43rd … 207.1 yards per game (Colorado passing offense – 39th … 260.4 yards per game)

— Total – 25th … 338.4 yards per game  (Colorado total offense – 48th … 417.6 yards per game)


Utah storylines … 

– Will this be the year that Utah finally wins the Pac-12 South? …

While Colorado has finished last in the Pac-12 South in six of the seven years the Buffs and Utes have been in their new league, they do have one claim to fame Utah hasn’t got … a Pac-12 South title.

The Utes have been very consistent in their new league, going 5-7 twice, but otherwise enjoying a bowl bid every other season … but no division titles.

Only two FBS coaches have enjoyed tenures longer than that of Utah coach Kyle Whittingham: Iowa’s Kirk Frentz and TCU’s Gary Patterson.

In a year when half of the division has new coaches, will this be the year that Utah breaks through? “We are getting closer and closer to where we want to be, but no one cares about being close,” said Whittingham. “We have to get over that hump”.

It wasn’t all that long ago – midway through the 2015 season, in fact – that Utah was undefeated and ranked No. 3 in the nation. The Utes went on to finish 10-3 in 2015, before going 9-4 in 2016 and 7-6 last season. Some might see the past few seasons as a slow decline, but, when you have gone bowling every season since 2013, you get the benefits of several doubts.

It’s no different for Utah in 2018.


Players make plays

Junior quarterback Tyler Huntley passed for 2,411 yards and rushed for 537 more last season, good numbers when you consider that Huntley missed three games last fall with injuries. If Huntley can stay healthy, Utah fans like their team’s chances. “I feel like I progressed a little bit more, and I feel like the team progressed tremendously,” said Huntley this spring. “It’s going to be a good year.”

It doesn’t hurt that Huntley will have four returning starters on the offensive line to go with star running back Zach Moss. In 2017, Moss led the Utes with 1,173 yards rushing. Moss hit his stride late in the season, going for 196 yards in the rout of Colorado, then for 150 more against West Virginia in the Heart of Dallas Bowl.

While the Utah rushing attack appears to be set, there are questions in the receiving corps. Gone is former Oregon star turned Utah star Darren Carrington II. The projected starters for 2018 – all four of them – went for a combined 83 catches in 2017, with none of them a standout. The Utes, however, do welcome back Britain Covey to the fold. In 2015, earned Freshman All-American honors with 41 receptions, then left for two years on an LDS mission.

A strong defensive line is a Utah staple, but the Ute defensive front is a question mark in 2018 with only one returning starter. Junior defensive end Bradlee Anae, though, has “set himself up to have a big year”, according to Whittingham. The unit will benefit from the addition of Utah’s new 10th assistant coach … former Oregon State head coach Gary Andersen, who will be working primarily with the interior defensive line.

The linebacker corps is also an area of concern for the Utah. The Utes normally only play two linebackers, and both starters from last season are gone. The projected starters have talent, with senior Chase Hansen perhaps the best athlete on the team (Hansen was recruited as a quarterback, but has played mostly at safety). The other projected starter will be Cody Barton, who has been a part-time starter over the past two seasons.

The strength of the defense will be the secondary. Two senior starters return at safety, while Whittingham has noted that the Utes may be as deep at cornerback as they ever have during his 14-year tenure in Salt Lake City.


How the Buffs fit into the Utes’ 2018 schedule

The Utes are generally considered to be the second-best team in the Pac-12 South, coming in only behind defending conference champion USC.

Ahtlon has Utah as the No. 28 team in the nation, predicting an 8-4 overall record. Lindy’s, meanwhile, has Utah as the No. 32 team in the country. Phil Steele puts Utah inside his top 25, ranking the Utes No. 22 in the country.

What might be holding the Utes back, however, is the schedule. The non-conference slate is reasonable, with an opener against Weber State from nearby Ogden before Utah heads to Dekalb, Illinois, to take on the Northern Illinois Huskies.

The Utes open Pac-12 play early, taking on playoff hopeful Washington on September 15th … a game which will tell us a great deal about both teams. After taking on a team of Huskies for the second straight week, Utah takes to the road to take on Washington State and Stanford before returning home to face the two teams the Utes must beat to earn a Pac-12 title – Arizona and USC.

Utah misses Cal and Oregon State in cross-over play, taking on Stanford and Oregon instead … which could be the Utes downfall.

By the time Utah and Colorado square off in Boulder, the Utes will be playing their third game on the road in four weeks, traveling to play UCLA and Arizona State, before returning home to face Oregon.

Also working to the Buffs’ advantage in the schedule is that, after Utah and Colorado face off on November 17th, both teams have one more regular season game to play. Whereas CU will face California on Thanksgiving weekend, Utah will have a rivalry game against BYU to face.


Bottom Line

It’s hard not to think about Utah without thinking about last year’s game in Salt Lake City. The Buffs were a 5-4 team in early November last year, with an opportunity to return to a bowl and maintain the momentum gained from the 2016 season.

Instead, the Buffs blew a ten-point fourth quarter lead against Arizona State, and then were out-classed in the home finale against USC.

This left the Buffs with a 5-6 record, taking on the Utes, who also had a 5-6 record. One team would go on to a bowl game; the other would stay home for the holidays.

While the records of the two teams were identical, the motivations were not. Utah raced out to a 28-0 halftime lead, and coasted to a 34-13 victory. It was one of the most difficult games for CU fans to watch in years (and we have had to endure some pretty difficult games).

And … at least until August 31st in Denver … that game against Utah last November 25th stands as the last impression the Buffs have left on the field.

Much has been said and written about the Buffs’ improvement this off-season. The attitude appears to be good; the swagger has returned just a bit. There have been few negative off-season stories (in stark contrast to last off-season), which can’t help but raise expectations heading into the 2018 campaign.

Too much will happen between this summer and November 17th to accurately project how Colorado will do against Utah in Game Eleven.

What we do know for certain is that last November 24th, the two teams were both 5-6. Utah went on to beat Colorado in the regular season finale, post the Pac-12’s lone bowl victory against West Virginia … and are now the consensus No. 2 team in the Pac-12 South.

Colorado, meanwhile, laid an egg against Utah, sat out the post-season, and now are projected to be the No. 5 or No. 6 team in the Pac-12 South.

Time for the Buffs to allow their actions to speak louder than their words …


3 Replies to “Scouting the Opposition – Utah”

    1. Up the Buffalo? That does sound sorta graphically nasty doesn’t it? Anyway, anyone who’s colors are Red & White I dislike, even though those phonies from the Corn Country have tried to incorporate Black in their colors. Shows the imagination that the corn guys have as CU has had Black as part of their identity since the Sonny G. days in the early 60’s.

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