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CU at No. 16: “T.I.P.S.” for Buffs’ Attempt To Derail the Utes’ Magical Season

… Related … If you prefer your predictions verbally, “CU at the Game Podcast: “T.I.P.S.” for CU at No. 16 Utah / Buffs Find A Way: Colorado 20, Washington 17, can be found at Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or pretty much wherever you download your favorites. Or, if you would prefer, you can find the podcast here or here.

So you’re tellin’ me that there’s a chance … 

Colorado is given a 6.5% chance by ESPN of taking down No. 16 Utah on the road this weekend, putting CU’s chances somewhere between slim and none. Still, the same ESPN Power Index which made Utah a 93.5% favorite also gave Oregon State a 66.6% chance of beating the Buffs, and Washington a 68.1% chance at a victory last weekend.

So … do the Buffs have a puncher’s chance against the heavily favored Utes?

Well, no.

Okay, there is almost no chance that Colorado will defeat Utah. The Utes just got finished emasculating No. 3 Oregon, 38-7, and CU’s talent on offense is dwarfed by that on the Oregon roster. The Buffs managed less than 200 yards of total offense against a Washington defense which was one of the ten worst rushing defenses in the nation. This just in: the Utah defense is much better than Washington’s.

Still, the scoreboard at Rice-Ecceles Stadium in Salt Lake City will read 0-0 on Friday afternoon until one of the teams gives the scoreboard operator reason to change it. Upsets happen every weekend in college football.

Will this be one of those weekends?

Let’s find out …

 

This Week’s “T.I.P.S” for CU at No. 16 Utah – Friday, 2:00 p.m., MT, Fox

T – Talent

Utah seemed to have hit the jackpot this past off-season when Baylor quarterback Charlie Brewer signed on to play his final season with the Utes. After all, Brewer brought to Salt Lake City almost 10,000 passing yards and over 1,000 rushing yards from his four years in Waco.

Three games into the 2021 season, though, Utah was 1-2 and Brewer was gone.

Since then, sophomore Cameron Rising has been at the helm, and the Utes have won seven of their last eight games, including the aforementioned 38-7 rout of Oregon to win the Pac-12 South title. Starting with a season-defining rout of USC in early October (42-26 final; 35-10 to start the fourth quarter), the Utes have scored at least 34 points in every game over the past two months.

Rising, who has thrown for almost 2,000 yards, with 14 touchdowns and only two interceptions, has a myriad of weapons to throw to. However, his two leading receivers are both tight ends, Brant Kuithe and Dalton Kincaid. The pair have combined for over 800 yards receiving, and both have five touchdowns. (And, if you have watched CU football over say, the past decade or so, you know the Buff defense continuously struggles against quality tight ends … sigh).

Two more receivers – that makes four total, if you are counting at home – have more receiving yards than any CU receiver (Brenden Rice has 299 receiving yards; Brady Russell has 295). Devaughn Vele has 346 yards receiving, while the ageless Brittain Covey (who essentially ended the Oregon game with a punt return for a touchdown on the final play of the first half) has 336 receiving yards (in case you were wondering, Covey had 519 yards receiving … in 2015. Yes, he has been around that long, and is technically still only a junior).

The Utah rushing attack is led by Tavion Thomas, who has 836 yards rushing – with 17 touchdowns (the CU offense – that would be every Buff – has a total of 22 touchdowns this season). Utah’s two backup running backs, TJ Pledger and Micah Bernard, have over 1,000 yards rushing and seven more touchdowns.

So, the only way to defeat Utah is to try and stay with the Utes’ high powered offense. In Utah’s three losses (to BYU, San Diego State, and Oregon State), the Utes gave up an average of over 33 points per game.

Overall, however, the Utah defense, led by linebacker – and potential first round NFL pick – Devin Lloyd, are giving up only 22.3 points per game, including only seven points to Stanford and Oregon in two of Utah’s last three games.

 

I – Intangibles

If there is one chance the Buffs have to pull off an upset against Utah, it comes in this category.

If you look just at the talent described above, and/or the stats described below, you could only come to the conclusion that this is going to be a Utah rout.

Still, the games have to be played. Just two weeks ago, Utah was an overwhelming favorite to defeat an out-manned Arizona team. And yet, at the end of the first quarter, it was 14-10, Arizona. At halftime, it was 21-17, Utah (and only that due to a Ute 17-yard touchdown pass with two seconds before the break). With ten minutes to play, Utah was still clinging to a 31-29 lead (after a failed two-point conversion by the Wildcats). It was a 38-29 final, but it was a contested game all afternoon.

Now, with the Utes coming off of the high of embarrassing mighty Oregon, and having a potential rematch to play next weekend, it would only be natural for the Utes to be looking past the Buffs, and looking forward to a trip to Las Vegas to play for the Pac-12 title.

Meanwhile, back in Boulder … 

What do the Buffs have to play for? No bowl game opportunities.

For most of the team, this is audition for next season.  “We’re playing for next season,” linebacker Quinn Perry said. “We want to show people why Colorado football is Colorado football. We’ve got a lot to ramp up for next year.”

For some of the seniors, like defensive tackle Mustafa Johnson, there are more personal goals. While the returning Buffs are playing for next year, Johnson is playing for his draft status. Compare Perry’s quote to that of Johnson’s: “The preparation will be the same as always,” Johnson said. “Make sure our team is ready and make sure I’m ready and do the same thing I do every week … It’s bittersweet, but I’m going to do everything I normally do each week.”

Whether it’s for next season or their last game ever, the Buffs simply don’t have as much on the line as do the Utes. How many Buffs will be playing for pride? How many are ready of the season to be over?

We should know by halftime.

 

P – Preparation/Schedule

While everyone assumes that Utah will have to face Oregon in a rematch next weekend in Las Vegas, that’s far from a given. In fact, half of the North division is still alive for a title with only one weekend of play remaining.

Now, if Oregon defeats Oregon State, the Ducks will win the North, and the rematch is set. Clean and simple.

If the Beavers win the game formerly known as the Civil War (don’t get me started), however, things get a little more complicated.

If Oregon State defeats Oregon, and Washington State defeats Washington in the Apple Cup, the Cougars win the North. If Oregon State wins, and Washington defeats Washington State for the eighth straight season, however, Oregon State becomes the champ of the North.

The fact that Utah doesn’t know who its opponent will be next week can only work to CU’s advantage this weekend.

The Utes have nothing to play for against the Buffs, but will have a program-defining opportunity next weekend.

If you were the Utah coaching staff, which game would you be more interested in winning?

The CU coaching staff, meanwhile, have no game next weekend to prepare for. If ever the Buffs were to pull out all of the stops, and use trick plays they have been practicing – but not using – this season, now is the time. CU literally has nothing to lose, but a good bit of pride and momentum to gain.

Advantage, Colorado.

 

S – Statistics 

Otherwise known as the car accident section. You know you should look away, but you just can’t …

Stats to make you smile … Every team at this time of year has warts, but Utah is pretty much the exception to the rule. While the Utes’ record is 8-3, there stats show the to be even better: Lousy stats for this team are hard to find:

  • On offense … Nothing in the 100s except fourth down conversions (107th nationally at 40%). The worst offensive stat is passing offense (77th), but that’s largely because the rushing offense is 18th in the country;
  • On defense … While most of CU’s opponents in the last month have been in the 100s in some defensive categories, Utah is a cut above. The worst major defensive ranking is scoring defense, and even that is 40th nationally (22.3 ppg.);
  • Other … Not much to find here, either. The Utes are 117th in net punting (probably from not having to put all that often … Meanwhile, CU is 10th in punt returns, which is one of the only area in which the Buffs have a distinct advantage).

Stats to make you cringe … You can feel free to skip this one, if you are squeamish … Categories wherein the Buffs are ranked 100th in the nation or lower include:

  • On offense … 128th (not last! … by two spots) in total offense (267.4 yards/game) … 126th in passing offense (135.5 yards/game) … 119th in scoring offense (19.3 points/game) … 125th in third down conversions (.310) … 128th in first downs (165) …
  • On defense … No categories in the 100s … but … CU is in the 90s in rushing defense (93rd), passing defense (95th), and, not surprisingly, total defense (95th) …
  • Other … 117th in time of possession (27:19) …

Stats to watch (i.e, stats which will decide the game)Third down stops on defense … No need to state the incredibly obvious when the merely obvious will do. The Buffs were atrocious on third downs against Washington, giving up huge chunks of yardage. Eight times the Huskies needed six yards or more and still got the first down and they hit for plays of 16, 21, 14, 21, 17, 11, 20, 28, 32 and 14 yards on third downs. Pretty clear that can’t happen against Utah’s potent offense … Play keep away … Staying on the field, and keeping the Utah offense off of it, will be vital. It’s also against character. As noted above, CU is 117th in the nation in time of possession and 125th in third down conversions. The Buffs will have to have a completely unforeseeably strong game on offense in order to keep the game close …

Prediction … 

Colorado is a 24-point underdog to Utah.

Even Arizona – that would be the one-win-in-the-past-two-years Arizona; the we-lost-70-3-at-home-to-ASU-last-year Arizona – is only a 21-point road underdog to Arizona State this weekend.

I am slightly encouraged that two weeks ago, Arizona hung with Utah for the entire game. That means it’s possible for a team like Colorado to do the same.

Not likely, but at least possible.

But that game was before the Oregon game. The Ducks had every reason to be up for their game against the Utes. Oregon just had to win out, including two wins against Utah, and they would be in the College Football Playoff.

And how did a Top 20-ranked rushing offense in the country fare against the Utes? … 63 yards.

How did the Ducks, who had scored at least 24 points in every game this season (including 35 against Ohio State and 59, count ’em, 59, against CU) fare against the Utes? … 7 points.

Utah hasn’t scored less than 34 points in a game since September; CU hasn’t scored 34 points in regulation since the opener against Northern Colorado … and that was only 35 points.

There is just no math that works here for Colorado. I’ll give the Buffs a token victory in scoring more than the Ducks did, but …

Prediction … No. 16 Utah 41, Colorado 10

Previous predictions … (Straight up: 8-3; Against the Spread: 7-4) … 

  • Colorado 38, Northern Colorado 17 … Actual: Colorado 35, Northern Colorado 7
  • No. 5 Texas A&M 38, Colorado 17 … Actual: No. 5 Texas A&M 10, Colorado 7
  • Colorado 21, Minnesota 20 … Actual: Minnesota 30, Colorado 0
  • Arizona State 27, Colorado 13 … Actual: Arizona State 35, Colorado 13
  • USC 27, Colorado 17 … Actual: USC 37, Colorado 14
  • Colorado 24, Arizona 17 … Actual: Colorado 34, Arizona 0
  • Colorado 24, California 17 .. Actual: California 26, Colorado 3
  • No. 7 Oregon 48, Colorado 3 … Actual: No. 7 Oregon 52, Colorado 29
  • Oregon State 27, Colorado 20 … Actual: Colorado 37, Oregon State 34, 2OT
  • UCLA 34, Colorado 24 … Actual: UCLA 44, Colorado 20
  • Colorado 24, Washington 20 … Actual: Colorado 20, Washington 17

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6 Replies to ““T.I.P.S” for CU at No. 16 Utah”

  1. I don’t at all feel good about this team and this game.
    Utah-55 CU 7, changing my score
    And hopefully some firing after this soon to be raping!!!

  2. Go Buffs
    Win one for all the Ralphies

    Buffalo Up

    Note: There are some good games on this weekend.

    Note 2: And Yeah, the game is on Friday………….only two more days and it’s over……………on to next year

    Note 3: Buffs MBB struggling, learning and winning

    Note 4: Buffs WBB winning and rolling

  3. Stuart, Thank You so much for ALL you do in creating an informative and entertaining home for Buff fans !! I think this one is not close, much to my consternation the Buff offense is truly offensive, so 1 more TD for our D and 2 field goals leaves it CU 13 – Utah 41

  4. 38-3 Utah. Could be much worse but perhaps Utes will be resting some players and also looking ahead to PAC 12 championship and beyond.

  5. This Utah game could be the ugliest game this year. I don’t see anything that tells me we have a chance to beat the Utes aside from the old saying “That’s why they play the game”.

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