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Pick Six Previews: Power 5's worst team to put up little resistance against Utah

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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah fell short in its rematch of last season's Pac-12 championship game in a 20-17 loss to Oregon on Saturday night. The loss damaged Utah's chance to return to Las Vegas to defend their title, though not completely.

It simply wasn't quarterback Cam Rising's night. He has proven himself as one of the program's best quarterbacks of all-time and was the key spark last September when he helped turn a 1-2 start into the school's first Power Five conference title. Rising led Utah to a shootout win over USC — still the Trojans' only loss of 2022 — and positioned the Utes for another league title run late into November.

But two deflected passes were intercepted by Oregon defenders and a third pick sealed the loss late in the fourth quarter. Aside from the interceptions, Rising also missed on a pivotal fourth-down pass to an open receiver.

Some of Utah's recurring offensive problems resurfaced: short yardage and red zone conversions.

The Utes now enter the final weekend of the regular season (2 p.m. MST, Pac-12 Networks) with an 8-3 overall record and a double-digit season is still possible. The Utes travel to Boulder Saturday to face a struggling Colorado Buffaloes team who fired head coach Karl Dorrell in early October. The Utes will be heavy favorites and look to make it six-straight — and 10-of-11 — in the series.

Game Grader

(Opponent-adjusted statistical dominance via Pick Six Previews)

3-year average 2019-21: Utah 68.9 (7th) | Colorado 37.2 (55th of 66 Power Five)
2021 season: Utah 69.5 (7th) | Colorado 24.8 (61st of 66 Power Five)
2022 season: Utah 69.5 (13th) | Colorado 11.5 (66th of 66 Power Five)

Utah dropped five spots in 2022 Game Grader from No. 9 to No. 13 after its 3-point loss to Oregon. Utah's current 69.5 season grade is actually identical to the 2021 Utah team's grade. Both entered the regular season finale with an 8-3 record, but last year's team had just one conference loss and was still in the old North-South division structure.

Colorado enters the game with a 1-10 overall record, but their performance is even worse than what their record shows at face value. They are ranked dead last — 66th of 66 Power Five teams — in 2022 Game Grader. Further, this is the worst rating in all of Power 5 since the winless Kansas team in 2015.

The Buffaloes lost to Arizona State by just 8 points, but all nine other losses were by double-digits, and by an average margin of 34 points per game. On the season, Colorado has been outgained by 210 yards per game and has failed to win the turnover margin in any game. This is a historically bad Power Five football team.

Colorado with the ball

(Opponent-adjusted, per-play rankings via Pick Six Previews)

Colorado offense: 66th of 66 Power Five
Utah defense: 31st of 66 Power Five

Colorado's struggles start on offense, where they are also ranked dead last in all of Power Five football in Pick Six Previews' opponent-adjusted, per-play percentiles. The passing offense has thrown more interceptions (10) than touchdowns (9) and has the worst QB rating in Power Five this season.

Even worse, in terms of the all-encompassing QB rating, this is the worst-passing offense the Pac-12 has seen since 2015 (Oregon State). JT Shrout is the lowest-rated Pac-12 starter by far with his 44% completion rate and negative TD-INT ratio (eight picks to just seven touchdowns).

The ground game hasn't helped at all, either. Colorado is dead last in the Pac-12 with a 3.4 yards per carry average. Simply put, nothing has worked for this offense all season; they were a thin roster heading into the 2022 offseason to begin with, but then several starters and star players transferred out to other Power Five rosters.

Utah's front seven has rounded into form over the past month and defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley earned another nomination for the Broyles Award. The Utes pass rush now ranks second in the Pac-12 with 30 sacks this season.

Utah with the ball

(Opponent-adjusted, per-play rankings via Pick Six Previews)

Utah offense: 31st of 66 Power Five
Colorado defense: 63rd of 66 Power Five

On the season, it's 27 passing touchdowns (just five picks), a 66% completion rate, 2,900 yards, 8.5 yards per attempt, and a QB rating of 160.

No, that isn't the stat line of Heisman contenders C.J. Stroud, Caleb Williams or Drake Maye; that is "Colorado opponent QB" and he would certainly be worthy of a New York City invite.

Like their offense, Colorado rates among the worst defenses in all of Power Five, and teams have thrown all over the Buffaloes pass defense. I expect Rising to bounce back from his Oregon performance and light up the stat sheet — and scoreboard.

Colorado is also second-worst in the Pac-12 against the run, so Utah's offensive line and backfield should have no trouble getting a run push and controlling the line of scrimmage. Offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig will be able to accomplish whatever he wants schematically.

Game prediction

Game Grader has this as 26-point win for the Utes, but I am envisioning a wider margin of victory here. Look for Utah to win its sixth-straight in the Colorado series — this time, in total blowout fashion.

No. 14 Utah 45 | Colorado 13

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Brett Ciancia is the owner of Pick Six Previews, a college football preview magazine graded as the "Most Accurate Season Preview" since 2012 (via Stassen). Ciancia was named a Heisman Trophy voter in 2019 and was invited to the FWAA's All-America Team selection committee in 2020.


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