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SALT LAKE CITY — Well, Utah fans, this is second consecutive year the Utes will not be headed to a bowl game.
Despite a solid performance from quarterback Adam Schulz, the Utes fell, 49-37, at Washington State last week. Giving up 21 points in a first quarter that ultimately doomed Utah.
Now, Utah football coach Kyle Whittingham and company could find themselves with an identical record as last season, but they have to win the final game against Colorado to finish at 5-7. The game kicks off at noon Saturday at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
The Utes have an edge in quality of football over the past five seasons compared and have more high-profile wins over the past five seasons than the Buffaloes. However, Utah lost to Colorado in 2011, but won a close matchup in Boulder last season.
Colorado, under new head coach Mike MacIntyre, has improved this season and has four wins. The Buffaloes also have improved a few different facets of their overall team play, including their offense.
However, oddsmakers still have Utah as a multi-touchdown favorite in the matchup, despite the fact Utah is playing Schulz instead of Travis Wilson. And, as Utah tries to end what has been a disappointing season on a high note, the key matchup of this year’s “Rumble in the Rockies” will be between the Utah secondary against the Colorado passing attack.
WHY THIS MATCHUP?
Despite an improvement, it is still important to note that two of Colorado’s four victories have come against FCS teams. And, the Buffaloes’ rushing attack is ranked 101st in the country at 127.5 yards a game. For the Buffaloes to win games, they have to win the battle outside the hash marks.
Colorado’s passing attack is averaging 246.9 yards a game and it has played a large part in the Buffaloes’ 41-24 win over Cal — Colorado’s only Pac-12 win this year.
Utah’s secondary improved through the mid-part of the season, but has struggled over the past few weeks. Against Wazzou last week, the Utes surrendered 488 passing yards, and Cougar quarterback Connor Halliday threw four touchdown passes. The previous week, Utah allowed 288 passing yards to Oregon.
Colorado quarterback Sefo Liufau has thrown for 1,538 yards and 10 touchdowns. He is nowhere near the caliber of some quarterbacks the Utes have seen, but he is still a capable passer.
The Buffaloes can’t run the football and can’t stop other teams from scoring in allowing 39.5 points a game. So, if Utah can bracket Colorado’s receivers with some effectiveness, the Utes will simply have to force Colorado to match their scoring pace.
WHO WINS THIS MATCHUP?
Even though Utah’s season will end with a similar record to last season, it is evident that the Utes are a better football team as referenced by how competitive they were against teams like Stanford and Arizona State.
If anything, a lack of depth and injuries decimated the Utes’ chances to make a serious run at legitimacy. However, Colorado is one of the few teams in the Pac-12 Utah can claim to be ahead of, and the Buffaloes will show that once again this week as Utah fights its way to another 5-7 record.