CU v. No. 14 Utah: “T.I.P.S.” for a Potential Massacre in the Making (Part IV)

… Related … If you prefer your predictions verbally, “CU at the Game Podcast: “T.I.P.S.” for CU v. No. 14 Utah / Plus: ESPN GameDay Report; Transfer Policy “Discussions” can be found at Apple Podcasts, Spotify, iHeart Radio, or pretty much wherever you download your favorites. Or, if you would prefer, you can listen to the podcast here at the CU at the Game website.

It was supposed to be the new season-ending bitter rivalry in the Pac-12.

Colorado and Utah joined the conference in 2011, and the other ten teams already had their rivalries neatly in place. Washington State/Washington; Oregon State/Oregon; Cal/Stanford; USC/UCLA; and Arizona State/Arizona all made geographic and historical sense. The year-end rivalry games were well ensconced, leaving Colorado and Utah to form their own year-end “mountain rivalry”.

It started off okay, with an out-manned Buff team coached by Jon Embree surprising the Utes in Salt Lake City, 17-14, in November, 2011.

Since then, it hasn’t gone so well for the black-and-gold. Utah has won nine of the last ten games in the series, with CU’s only breakthrough coming in 2016, when the Buffs won a 27-22 decision to clinch the Pac-12 South. Otherwise, it’s been all Utah … and of late it hasn’t been close. The last five games have been won by the Utes by an average score of 35-14, with the Buffs scoring as many as 21 points only once since 2016.

With Utah’s Pac-12 success over Colorado since the two teams became Power Five peers, the Utes have taken the lead in the series, 33-32-3. Last year’s win, gave Utah the advantage in the rivalry for the first time since the Depression.

Speaking of Depression … CU is a 29.5-point home underdog to Utah this weekend … and that’s the best line, hard as it is to believe, that the Buffs have faced this November.

Will it be more of the same for the Utes and Buffs this Saturday?

Let’s find out …


This Week’s “T.I.P.S” for CU v. No. 14 Utah – Saturday, 2:00 p.m., MT, Pac-12 Networks

T – Talent

You could say that this weekend the Buffs will finally get a break from having to play transfer quarterbacks, having faced Oregon’s Bo Nix (transferred in from Auburn), USC’s Caleb Williams (Oklahoma) and Washington’s Michael Penix, Jr. (Indiana).

After all, Utah’s Cam Rising has been with the Utes for some time.

But he too was a transfer, coming to Salt Lake City by way of the Texas Longhorns.

Still just a junior despite being a member of the Texas Recruiting Class of 2018, Rising has been a consistent star for Utah the past two seasons. His numbers are almost identical to that of 2021, when Rising led the Utes to a Pac-12 title and a Rose Bowl berth. He has thrown for 2,395 yards this fall (compared to 2,493 last year), with 19 touchdowns (20 last season). Unfortunately for the porous Colorado defense, Rising is also a threat to run the ball, with 378 rushing yards and six touchdowns (compare: Deion Smith leads the CU rushing attack, with 390 yards and two touchdowns).

Utah suffered a blow when All-American candidate, tight end Brant Kuithe, was lost for the season. The slack has been picked up, however, by his replacement, Dalton Kincaid, who leads the team in receiving (61 catches for 748 yards and seven touchdowns). On the outside, the deep balls go to Devaughn Vele, who has 49 catches for 588 yards and five touchdowns (compare: CU’s leading active receiver – with Jordyn Tyson lost for the season) is Montana Lemonious-Craig, with 21 catches for 333 yards and three touchdowns).

The Utah defense, as fans have come to expect, is stout, with the Utes 24th nationally, giving up less than 325 yards/game. The name which stands out on the defensive side of the ball is sophomore cornerback Clark Phillips III, who has six interceptions, with two of those picks returned for touchdowns.

The entire Colorado defense this fall has found its way to a total of … five interceptions.

Just sayin’ …


I – Intangibles 

Who will play USC in the Pac-12 title game? Three teams are still in the running. The scenarios:

— Oregon gets in with a victory over Oregon State or a loss by Washington

— Washington gets in with a victory over WSU and losses by Oregon and UCLA

— Utah gets in with a victory over Colorado and victories by Washington, Oregon State and UCLA

While the math can be a little dizzying at times, the fact of the matter is that 8-3 Utah is not likely going to get a chance to defend its Pac-12 conference title. It’s certainly conceivable that the Huskies could fall to Washington State in the Apple Cup, that Oregon State could upset Oregon at home, and that UCLA takes care of business against Cal. Still, the Utes had every chance late Saturday night to defeat Oregon on the road, but failed to make plays late against the Ducks, a team which they dominated twice last season.

For a team which had every intention back in August of not only playing for a second Pac-12 title, but competing for a College Football Playoff berth, “settling” for a lesser bowl has to be a let down.

Enough of a let down for Colorado to be competitive in Boulder this weekend? Of course not … but it could help to keep the score closer.

Meanwhile, in Boulder …

Will the Buffs have any fight left in them on Saturday?

It’s the end of a long road, the end of a miserable season, and likely another mind-numbing defeat.

They are in Boulder, away from their families on Thanksgiving, away from their friends who all skipped town for the holiday break.

A quiet campus; a disinterested fan base. Another four-touchdown favorite coming to town.

Sounds pretty reasonable that the Buffs would have checked out for the season finale … but the players are still saying the right things:

“For me personally, I would say it’s not too hard to stay focused, because at the end it, I’m here to play football and go to school,” Montana Lemonious-Craig said. “(The off-the-field issues are) above what I have to worry about. I believe we have the right people in higher positions to be able to maintain that situation. But for me, it’s not too hard to stay focused on playing at all. I love this game and it’s something that I enjoy doing. Week in and week out, I’m always going to go out and give it my all.”

Mike Sanford also believes the Buffs will come to play: “I will say that what I saw in the second half (of the Washington game) is I saw a team that that did not check out,” Sanford said when asked about the meltdown the Buffs endured at the end of the first half of last weekend’s game. The CU offense was on the field, with a first-and-ten, with less than two minutes to play before halftime …. but still managed to give up 12 points in those two minutes (three quick incompletions; a failed punt attempt which resulted in a touchdown; a quick Washington touchdown drive after the free kick; a fumbled kickoff return; and a UW field goal as time expired).

Will the Buffs meltdown when the game gets out of hand Saturday?

Don’t be surprised if they do …


P – Preparation/Schedule

Senior Day at Rice-Eccles stadium was two weeks ago. As fate – and the Pac-12 schedulers – would have it, Utah is on the road for the final two games of the 2022 season. The Utes played Stanford at home on November 12th, then played at Oregon last weekend, before getting on a plane to play at CU this Saturday.

So … the Utes have gone through the emotion of their own Senior Day, and had to wait impatiently for the game to start during Oregon’s Senior Night. Now they get to do the same Saturday afternoon.

After getting through the glorified scrimmage which will be the CU game, the Utes will either be on their way to Las Vegas for the Pac-12 title game next Friday – They could know they are out as early as Saturday afternoon (if UCLA loses to Cal), or not until late Saturday night (depending on how the UW/WSU and OU/OSU games play out. More than likely, the Utes will be taking some time off before getting in their 15 extra practices for their bowl game.

Even if Utah doesn’t get to the Pac-12 title game, there is a chance they could still make a return trip to the Rose Bowl. USC is still very much alive for a College Football playoff berth. If the Trojans get in by beating Notre Dame and their Pac-12 title game opponent, every Pac-12 bowl eligible team will move up a spot, which could mean that the Utes, even if they are not the runner up in the Pac-12 championship game, could be selected to return to Pasadena.

Meanwhile, in Boulder …

While the Utes are guaranteed a bowl appearance, and still have a chance at a Pac-12 title repeat, the Buffs know they will be done late Saturday afternoon. For the seniors and graduate students, it will be their last time suiting up as a Buff.

For the underclassmen, it could also be the last time they run out behind Ralphie. Some will leave Boulder for (literally) greener pastures, while some others might be nudged out by the new coaching staff.

Regardless, this will be the last time the 2022 Buff team – one of the worst teams in school history – will share a locker room.

How the players react to that reality is anyone’s guess …


S – Statistics 

For the last time this season … Let’s run the numbers …

With one game to go, we are getting into all-time ugly numbers now, numbers which are likely not going to be correctible.

The major stats …

  • Offense … Rushing (111th nationally) … Passing (116th) … Total yards (125th) … Scoring (127th);
  • Defense … Rushing (131st – dead last in the country) … Passing (111th) … Total yards (130th) … Scoring (131st … also dead last in the country).

Stats to watch … 

  • Turnovers … Colorado is 124th in the nation in turnovers gained. with only ten turnovers generated in eleven games. The Buffs would need six or more against Utah to have a chance at winning the game, which isn’t going to happen. I’ll just be curious to see if the Buffs can get two against the Utes … just to get to an average of one per game;
  • Completion Percentage  … Some 104 FBS quarterbacks have thrown enough passes this season to be ranked in the NCAA “completion percentage” statistic. Dead last – No. 104 – is CU’s J.T. Shrout … and it’s not even really close. Shrout is completing only 44.3% of his passes, five full percentage points below the No. 103 passer in the nation. It will be very unlikely that Shrout will do well enough to climb out of the basement … but can he finish the season with a game completing at least 50% of his passes?;
  • First Downs … In the 54-7 blowout loss to Washington, the Buffs generated only 10 total first downs, while the Huskies had 29. Heading into the final game of the season, the CU defense has given up 276 first downs, or over 25 first downs per game. The Buffs are currently ranked 128th nationally, and could slip into the basement with another poor performance. On the other side of the ball, the CU offense is 122nd nationally in first downs generated. The Buffs are probably safe from finishing dead last in the nation in this category … but you never know.


Prediction … 

The Buffs broke the string, but barely.

Dating back to 1976, which is as far back as anyone can find odds for games, the past three games marked the first time CU has been an underdog of 30-plus points in three consecutive games.

Colorado is a 29.5-point underdogs to No. 14 Utah. Depending on when you look at the lines, the bettors could push the line past 30 points, making it four games in a row (and don’t forget CU opens on the road against TCU next fall … it could be five games in a row with CU being a 30-point underdog).

There has been nothing in the past month, or this year really, to give you pause when picking CU’s games. There was brief hope in August, when we thought that a bowl game was a possibility. That hope went out the window during the second half of the opener against TCU … or at least by the end of the first half of the Air Force game.

It’s been easy money betting against the Buffs and giving the points this fall.

No real reason to believe the 2022 finale will be any different.

Prediction … No. 14 Utah 52, Colorado 20

2022 Predictions … (Straight up: 9-2; Against the Spread: 8-3) … 

  • Prediction: Colorado 27, TCU 24 … Actual: TCU 38, Colorado 13
  • Prediction: Air Force 42, Colorado 17 … Actual: Air Force 41, Colorado 10
  • Prediction: Minnesota 49, Colorado 10 … Actual: Minnesota 49, Colorado 7
  • Prediction: UCLA 38, Colorado 13 … Actual: UCLA 45, Colorado 17
  • Prediction: Arizona 33, Colorado 14 … Actual: Arizona 43, Colorado 20
  • Prediction: California 33, Colorado 21 … Actual: Colorado 20, California 13, OT
  • Prediction: Oregon State 30, Colorado 13 … Actual: Oregon State 42, Colorado 9
  • Prediction: Arizona State 27, Colorado 17 … Actual: Arizona State 42, Colorado 34
  • Prediction: No. 8 Oregon 51, Colorado 17 … Actual: No. 8 Oregon 49, Colorado 10
  • Prediction: No. 8 USC 52, Colorado 20 … Actual: No. 8 USC 55, Colorado 17
  • Prediction: No. 15 Washington 52, Colorado 20 … Actual: No. 15 Washington 54, Colorado 7


4 Replies to ““T.I.P.S” for CU v. No. 14 Utah”

  1. This one will also be over before the end of the 1st quarter, as Utah will be up 21-0 after at least 1 Shrout turnover (int or fumble). Final score – Utah 52, Colorado 7. Thank god this season will be over. Unfortunately I was right after game 1, when I said this team was as bad as Embree’s team, both will end at 1-11.
    So, the drama left is who the new coach will be (sorry CBS, don’t think it will be Walters), I think CU has to go with an experienced head coach, likely one who is out of coaching now, or a smaller school successful coach moving up. We’ll see!
    The other drama is if there are any underclassmen at CU that will draw interest from other schools and how many committed recruits actually sign. CU right now is ranked 42 by Rivals and 45 by 24×7 sports. Hopefully after the dust clears we will have a top 50 class and 8-10 transfers (including a new QB) if we want to be successful next year!

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