If all goes well this season, Utah should enter this game already secured in a bowl bid. After the last two seasons, when the Utes blew the division in 2011 and nearly lost last year, I don't necessarily feel comfortable having a winning season come down to a contest against Colorado.
So, hopefully, it's a moot point and the win is only there to pad Utah's overall record.
But let's be honest, of all the conference games, this is probably the one the Utes should win. It doesn't mean they will win, of course, and, after '11, only a fool would ever call this a sure-victory for Utah, but in the overall scheme of the season, it doesn't get much easier than Colorado - a team that has won only four games the last two years.
Sure, they might be improved under Mike MacIntyre, and in fact, I think they will be. But it's going to take a drastic improvement, on both the defensive and offensive ends, to make up the distance that should separate these two programs. Granted, they beat us two years ago, and that loss still stings, but I think most their fans would agree Colorado is probably not at the talent level yet to make the jump to competitive Pac-12 team. Because of this, if Utah loses, especially at home, I think it'll say more about our program than theirs.
Yeah, I know, it sounds like a slight and it probably is. Still, this is a team that hasn't really been good for a while now and it's going to take time to turn things around. I suspect MacIntyre will do just that, and prove every bit the coach he was at San Jose State, but it's also a work in progress. Even the greats sometimes have to start from scratch.
And yet, as much as I hate on Colorado, they're still 1-1 against the Utes - and came dangerously close to 2-0. That is proof positive that no matter how depleted or suspect the Buffaloes are, they're still a threat and Utah shouldn't take them as lightly as maybe this post does ... because if they do, I guarantee you Colorado won't have any problem walking into Salt Lake and handing us our butts again.
Look, I've said it a million times over the last couple years and it still holds - if Utah is going to be taken seriously in the PAC, they need to win these games. There just isn't enough 'should-wins' out there to make up for a staggering loss to Colorado. Especially with how difficult the schedule looks this season.
But I also think it's important to not get too caught up in the last two seasons. 2011 was tough, and embarrassing, but 2012 wasn't necessarily indicative of the gap between these two programs. The Utes entered the game with pretty much nothing to play for, as Arizona had ended their season a week prior. It showed on the field, as they looked lethargic for most the game. Had they defeated the Wildcats, and the game actually had meaning, who knows, maybe it plays out far differently and less ugly.
Maybe it doesn't. I don't know. We already established two years ago the Buffaloes, even fielding bad teams, are capable of knocking off the Utes.
So, we'll see. But I think we all agree that if Utah is going to have any chance of a winning season in 2013, they probably need to win this one.