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Colorado State (4-5) @ Utah (5-4)

AT

Date & Time: November 11th, 2006

TV: Vs.

Radio: AM 700 The Zone

Location: Rice-Eccles Stadium

All-time series: Utah leads 50-22-2

Last meeting: 2005 (CSU 21, Utah 17)

The Utes will look for their 4th conference win as they take on long time conference foe Colorado State at Rice-Eccles Stadium this Saturday afternoon. The Utes, who lost to the Rams 17-21 in Fort Collins last season, will look for bowl eligibility with a win over a downward spiraling Colorado State team. The Rams, losers of 4 straight, are in desperate need of a victory to right their sinking ship.

Both Utah and Colorado State have greatly underperformed this season, but it's been the Rams horrendous play as of late that's been the biggest surprise of this conference season. After starting the season 4-1 with wins over Colorado and Fresno State, the Rams have been less than stellar since. If things aren't fixed soon, Sonny Lubick very well may find himself forced into retirement, as the Rams are quickly losing their tradition as being one of the Mountain West's top teams.

This is a big game for both teams as a loss will certainly mean the end of both team's seasons. Utah hasn't faired well against the Rams in the past, but they're definitely not their intimidating selves of old. And that's what this game really is, a battle between two once dominate teams now scraping to save their seasons. Utah should have the talent advantage and the home field advantage, but that doesn't necessarily translate into a win.

The Rams have a stingy defense that did well at keeping BYU's offense grounded and with the Utes' fickle offensive play as of late, that might not bode well for Utah. On the flip side, Colorado State's offense is rather poor, which means this could be a very sloppy, low scoring game.

If Utah is going to win this game, they will need to play mistake free football, since Colorado State's only hope on offense is producing points off a short field. If the Utes can't penetrate the Rams' defense, it could be a long day and that will play right into Colorado State's strength. If Utah has an offensive showing like they did against UNLV and in the first half of the New Mexico game, Utah should put up enough points to win. I'm expecting a game much like the one last year, where points are scarce and defensive play dominates.

This is the time where Ratliff needs to step up and lead Utah to victory. If he can build off his game against UNLV and the Utes get a solid win against the Rams, a nice victory on the road against Air Force could set up for a possible strong finish. But Ratliff has shown a lot of inconsistently over the season and I'm not taking anything for granted, especially against a team that has won 6 of the last 8 meetings against Utah, including 5 straight from 1995 to 2002.

I expect Utah to win this game, but probably in very disappointing fashion. Though any victory at this point should be cherished, however it won't make me confident heading into the final two games of the season if Utah doesn't dominate. And that's what I'll be looking for, because if the Utes can go out and perform in a way where they completely roll Colorado State, I may feel a bit better about where this season is going. I am hoping for a performance that mirrors the first half of Utah's loss to New Mexico, but obviously I hope this time around the Utes hold onto the victory.

I'm going to predict a win, but don't know what to expect. I would not be shocked if Utah won by 30, or lost by 30. In fact, at this stage of the season nothing would surprise me anymore. It's an important game because a loss pretty much does them in for the season, as I don't expect them to defeat Air Force on the road. If Whittingham and crew are going to finish strong, it starts Saturday and I hope the bye week provided Utah with exactly what they needed.