Utah has faced two of the Pac-12's most potent offenses in the past two weeks, in both Arizona and UCLA, and a two game losing streak is the result. This Saturday the Utah defense will catch a break when the Colorado Buffaloes come into town.
The Colorado offense is balanced, but lacks punch, ranking near the bottom of the Pac-12 in almost every measurable statistic. The Buffs are 11th in scoring offense averaging 25.5 points per game, 11th in rushing offense averaging 3.89 yards per carry and are 8th in passing offense with 239.2 yards per game. After watching the Utes put up only nine points against UCLA last week, it's hard to fathom a less productive Pac-12 offense, yet there sits Colorado, who only managed three points against Washington State on Saturday.
Adding to the issues for Colorado is the absence of team leader and starting quarterback Sefo Liufau. The junior signal caller suffered a lisfranc injury to his left foot against USC (same injury as Taysom Hill and Gionni Paul last season). With Liufau out for the season, redshirt freshman Cade Apsay has stepped in as the new starter for the Buffs. Apsay is 6-1 195 lbs. and does not overwhelm with his physical ability. He is however, an extremely accurate passer and has been efficient in coach Mike MacIntyre's offense.
The freshman played well in his first three quarters of action against USC, completing 78.3% of his passes, throwing for two touchdowns and no interceptions. Liufau was injured in the first quarter against USC with Colorado holding a 7-3 lead, so Apsay was largely responsible for guiding the Buffs to their near upset over the Trojans. Last week against Washington State, Apsay did not fare as well. He threw for 238 yards and completed 65% of his passes, but also through two interceptions and failed to get the Buffs into the end zone.
Sophomore running back Phillip Lindsay is the leading rusher for Colorado with 605 yards and six touchdowns. Lindsay is 5-8 180 lbs and is a quick back with a good ability to change directions. Despite being Colorado's leading rusher, Lindsay has only eclipsed the century mark once this season against FCS school, Nicholls State. His best day in Pac-12 play was against Arizona where he rushed for 91 yards on 23 carries.
Fifth year senior Christian Powell is the change of pace back and runs with power. At 6-0 235 lbs. Powell was recruited as a fullback to Colorado by the former coaching regime and was not expected to carry the ball much. Plans changed, and Powell has led the Buffs in rushing the past three seasons. This year he has surrendered the majority of carries to Lindsay, but still has 70 carries for 338 yards and four touchdowns.
The receivers are led by senior Nelson Spruce. The 6-1 205 lb. receiver has been around the block with Colorado, forgoing a chance to enter the NFL draft last season to return for his senior season. This year Spruce has twice as many receptions as any other player on Colorado's roster, with 84 receptions. He is closing in on a second consecutive 1,000 yard season with 942 yards receiving and three touchdown catches. If there is one player the Utah secondary needs to make sure is covered on Saturday, it's Spruce.
Behind Spruce is group of sophomores in Shay Fields, Devin Ross, Bryce Bobo and Donovan Lee. Fields leads the group of sophomores with 42 catches and four touchdowns, but Ross, Bobo and Lee all get in on the action, each having more than 20 receptions on the season. Tight end Sean Irwin also sees some targets with 12 catches for 205 yards.
After racking up 242 rushing yards against UCLA on Halloween, Colorado has struggled to move the ball on the ground, having not gone over a hundred yards in the past three games. Utah's front seven has had no trouble stopping very good rushing attacks all year and should have no problem stopping Lindsay and Powell.
In the pass game, Utah's secondary has struggled in recent weeks against the likes of Josh Rosen and Anu Solomon. Against Colorado on Saturday, the secondary should have a chance to end the season on a high note however against a backup freshman quarterback in only his second start. Apsay is an accurate thrower, so he should complete a high percentage of throws, but asisde from Spruce, the Buffs don't have the receiving talent of other Pac-12 teams. The Utah secondary should be able to defend the aerial attack of Colorado well enough to limit scoring opportunities.
If you're looking for offensive fireworks on Saturday, stay away from Rice-Eccles. Utah and Colorado combined for four field goals and no touchdowns last week. With Colorado missing the Liufau and Utah missing Booker and Covey, it could be another afternoon full of field goals and missed opportunities for both sides. Overall Utah has much better defensive talent than Colorado has offensive talent, so expect the Utah defense to stifle the Buff offense on Saturday.