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SCOUTING THE OPPOSITION – WASHINGTON

Note … Previews for all of CU’s 2019 opponents have now been published … Previously posted: Colorado StateNebraskaAir ForceArizona StateArizonaOregonWashington StateUSCUCLAStanfordWashington

2019 Game Twelve – Colorado at Utah, November 30th

Related … “Utah Utes come into season with Pac-12 title aspirations” … from the Daily Camera

From the Daily Camera … For years, the Utah football team carried the distinction of being the only team in the Pac-12 South to never win the division.

That’s no longer the case, but the defending South champs come into this season looking to take another step forward and win the conference.

“You always want more. You’re never satisfied,” head coach Kyle Whittingham said after the Utes fell short of the Pac-12 title with a 10-3 loss to Washington in the championship game last year. “No matter what you do, you want more. That’s one of the tough things about this business is as soon as you get something, you want more, so that’s what keeps you going, I guess.”

UCLA, in 2011 and 2012, is the only South team to play in the conference title game in back-to-back years, but the Utes have the tools to get there again. They’ve got arguably the best defense in the division, a returning starter at quarterback and a two-time 1,000-yard rusher coming back.

Continue reading story here

Last game between Colorado and Utah – November 17, 2018

… No. 21 Utah 30, Colorado 7 … 

Game Story … In the first game played during a snowstorm at Folsom Field since 2000, the No. 21 Utah Utes dominated the second half, turning a 7-7 halftime tie into a 30-7 rout. Utah gained 390 yards, holding the Buffs to 196 total yards.

Utah quarterback Jason Shelley completed 11-of-23 passes for 221 yards and two touchdowns. The second scoring pass, a 47-yarder to Jaysen Dixon, being the back-breaker for the Buffs, making it a 17-7 game late in the third quarter.

The anemic Colorado offense was held to 34 yards rushing, 4-of-15 on third downs, and turned the ball over three times. Quarterback Steven Montez went 13-for-22 for all of 84 yards, with a costly interception in the second quarter when the score was tied and the Buffs were actually driving. The Buffs were held to one touchdown for the second week in a row, having fallen to Washington State, 31-7, the week before.

“We are just inept on offense right now,” said Mike MacIntyre. “We have to find a way to move the ball better. Defense played okay at times, they just got worn down. We’re really poor on offense.”

Continue reading story here

… Essay for the game … “Snowed Under”can be found here

2018 Utah results – 9-5 (6-3 in Pac-12 play)

– 2018 Utah National Rankings (Offense)

— Scoring – 75th … 28.1 points per game  (Colorado scoring defense – 70th … 27.3 points per game)

— Rushing – 53rd … 180.0 yards per game (Colorado rushing defense – 44th … 145.6 yards per game)

— Passing – 79th (11th in the Pac-12) … 215.8 yards per game   (Colorado passing defense – 74th … 234.7 yards per game)

— Total – 72nd … 395.8 yards per game  (Colorado total defense – 52nd … 380.3 yards per game)

– 2018 Utah National Rankings (Defense) …

— Scoring – 16th (2nd in the Pac-12) … 19.4 points per game  (Colorado scoring offense – 79th … 27.1 points per game)

— Rushing – 5th (1st in the Pac-12) … 100.3 yards per game (Colorado rushing offense – 99th (9th in the Pac-12) … 143.0 yards per game)

— Passing – 53rd … 215.3 yards per game (Colorado passing offense – 45th … 249.6 yards per game)

— Total – 14th (2nd in the Pac-12) … 315.6 yards per game  (Colorado total offense – 74th … 392.6 yards per game)

Utah storylines … 

– Defending Pac-12 South champions … with a chip on their shoulder

Utah has played the disrespect card since joining the Pac-12. While consistently posting winning records, the Utes were the last team in the division to win a title.

And now?

Utah was not only picked by the Pac-12 media to repeat as South Division champions, but were the pick to win the conference title as well.

“It’s nice to be recognized as a team that’s doing some good things, but I don’t think there’s a chance of this team becoming overconfident or losing that underdog mentality”, said head coach Kyle Whittingham.

“We started these discussions with our players two or three months ago because we felt like we were going to have some preseason hype and that type of things, and so we wanted to make sure that we got out ahead of it and talked to our players about just ignoring the noise and just staying focused.”

When the USA Today/Coaches preseason poll was released, there were five teams from the Pac-12 on the list. The only one from the Pac-12 South was Utah, coming in at No. 15 (the others: No. 12 Washington; No. 13 Oregon; No. 21 Washington State; No. 23 Stanford).

We’ll see how the Utes fare as the team everyone in the Pac-12 South is gunning for … whether they like it or not.

Players make plays

Utah won the South last year … and bring back eight starters on offense and seven on defense.

Quarterback Tyler Huntley was on his way to All-Pac-12 status before breaking his collarbone in October, with Jason Shelley filling in admirably the rest of the season (including the Utes’ rout of CU in Boulder). Both are back, with Huntley winning the job back this spring.

“I have not coached a quarterback with that skill set, that athleticism, in my career,” said new offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig of Huntley, back for his second stint in Salt Lake City under Kyle Whittingham.

And it’s not like Huntley won’t have any weapons. Virtually every player who touched the ball last fall returns, as the top four rushers and top four receivers return. Zach Moss ran for 1,096 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2018 … in nine games before hurting his knee. Britain Covey, who caught 60 passes (for 637 yards) last year as a sophomore, is already over halfway to Utah’s career receptions record.

The defensive line could have been a liability for the Utes, but instead will be one of the best in the country. Star linemen Leki Fotu and Bradlee Anae could have opted to go pro, but instead opted to return for their senior season. The pair, along with fellow senior John Penisini, anchor a Ute defense which was already ranked No. 1 in the Pac-12 against the run, and No. 2 overall.

There are issues at linebacker. Perhaps the best tandem in school history – Cody Barton and Chase Hansen – have departed. Penn State graduate Manny Bowen was supposed to fill the void, but Bowen unexpectedly ditched the Utes on the eve of Fall Camp for “a business opportunity he felt was too good to pass up”.

Surprisingly, the Utes are also struggling on special teams. Last season, Utah became the first school in college football history to have both a Lou Groza and Ray Guy Award winners on their roster, but now Matt Gay and Mitch Wishnowsky have moved on. Utah may actually have to resort to a freshman walk-on at kicker this fall.

How the Buffs fit into the Utes’ 2019 schedule

Utah enters the 2019 season on a two-game losing streak, having fallen, 10-3, to Washington in the Pac-12 title game before losing, 31-20, to Northwestern, in the Holiday Bowl.

Not that anyone is too worried about a Ute hangover heading into the 2019 campaign.

Like Colorado, Utah opens the season against an in-state rival, traveling to Provo to face BYU. The Utes have won eight straight in the series, and the Cougars are still mumbling about blowing a 20-0 lead in last year’s 35-27 loss.

The remainder of Utah’s non-conference slate includes a decent Northern Illinois team (8-6 last season, including a tight 17-6 affair at home against the Utes last fall) and a mediocre Big Sky opponent in Idaho State.

In Pac-12 play, the Utes get the North division swap of opponents that has pundits pegging Utah as the division favorite (and which works against the Buffs for the next two years). Utah drops Oregon and Stanford from the schedule, while picking up Oregon State and Cal (the Buffs are the reverse, picking up the Ducks and Cardinal, while losing games against the Beavers and Bears).

If Utah, projected to be a top 15 team when the preseason AP poll comes out, can get a road win against USC to open Pac-12 play (in the Coliseum on Friday, September 20th), the assumption will be that the Utes will have a clear path to repeating as Pac-12 South champions. The only other conference road games for the Utes will be against Oregon State, Arizona and Washington – and if the Utes can otherwise take care of business at home, they can probably afford a road loss to the Huskies and still emerge as division winners.

The CU game is the regular season finale for both teams. The Buffs will travel to Salt Lake City having faced Washington in the home finale, while Utah will be returning home after facing Arizona on the road.

Bottom Line

You can almost see the writing on the wall.

The Buffs will be much improved over 2018, but the record may not reflect the improvement. A tougher non-conference schedule, followed by a tougher Pac-12 slate, could lead Colorado into November with a familiar scenario …

… five wins, with another victory required to become bowl-eligible.

If CU comes into the final two games – at home against Washington and on the road against Utah – it could be another disappointing finish to the season for the Buff Nation.

The ESPN Football Power Index gives the Huskies a 76.9%-23.1% advantage over Colorado, while the Utes at home are an even heavier favorite – 84.7%-15.3%.

Dating back to the end of the 2017 season, the Buffs have lost ten straight games while sitting on five wins, looking for win No. 6 and a bowl bid.

Based upon the way the 2019 schedule lays out, finishing the season against the two teams projected to win their divisions does not bode well for the Buffs’ chances at a late season push.

Let’s hope the Buffs can pick up win No. 6 well before Thanksgiving rolls around, because a win in Salt Lake City in the regular season finale – at least for now – does not look promising …

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One Reply to “Scouting the Opposition – Utah”

  1. Woe are the Buffs….groan ….sigh. All the underpaid overblown pin heads who make these predictions have the Buffs beating CSU, AF, maybe one AZ school and if they are lucky one more game.
    According to them the Mel Tucker culture change, a more experienced O line, and most important of all….a new Offensive scheme, plays and game plans arent going to make a couscous kernel of difference.
    I have had some pisspoor coaches in the past but the one thing one of them said that holds true is that the single most important factor in winning a football game is that you have to want it more than the other guy. I have to hope that is exactly what Mel’s “relentless” theme is going to bring. It has to be better than “bright Smiles” and garden hats of the past.
    I was a little leery that some of the assistants came here as “analyzers” but the more I think about it maybe that will be a lot better for play selection, defensive calls and over all game planning. Hard to believe that sot of thing wont be a lot better than the past (Leavitt excepted of course) when it seemed that analyzing was something exclusive to a proctologist .
    Will the O line be improved? Will the starting CBs remain healthy? I was thinking seriously about plunking down a thousand or 2 on “over 4 wins” but if I know if I do that I will jinx the team. Better to bet 50 bucks then kick myself in he arse for not betting more.

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