Since their first matchup as PAC-12 “rivals” in 2011, Utah and Colorado have a history of duking it out on the field. This year, much like their first meeting, comes with the chance to win the PAC-12 South but unlike 2011, this time it’s Colorado’s opportunity. Here are three keys to beating Colorado.
1. Handle Colorado’s defense
The Utes will have their work cut out for them this week as they take on the Colorado Buffs, especially on defense. The Buffs currently sit at the top of PAC-12 in total defense, scoring defense, pass defense and red zone defense. However, for all that they do right, there is a slight difference in Colorado’s ability to handle the passing game versus the running game. On the ground, the Buffs have given up 1,452 yards and opposing offenses have averaged 132 yards per game. This fact alone may open up Utah’s ability to score if the Utes are able to utilize the run against Colorado and get running back Joe Williams more touches.
2. Defensive spark
Looking at the numbers alone would lead you to believe the opposite but overall Utah’s defense has looked somewhat flat this season and it was no different last week in the battle against Oregon. The Utah defense currently leads the PAC-12 in sacks and interceptions, while also sitting in the top half for nearly every defensive statistic but nonetheless the Utes haven’t look themselves. The greatest challenge for the Utes on defense this week will not necessarily be a standout talent like in weeks past with teams they have faced Washington and USC, but more so the total package that Colorado exhibits on offense. Colorado averages 478 yards per game and there are several key players to watch on offense for the Buffs including quarterback Sefo Liufau, a senior out of Washington who has thrown for 1,880 yards and 10 touchdowns this season. Other keys players include running back Phillip Lindsay who has surpasses 1000 yards and accounts for over 15 touchdowns as well as wide receiver Shay Fields who has 741 yards and eight touchdowns. If the Utes are going to stop the Buff’s offense they will have to be balanced and focus on precision at each position on the defensive side of the ball.
3. Embrace the underdog
After their heartbreaking loss to the Oregon Ducks last week, it is to be expected that the Utah football team is emotionally drained and defeated. Suddenly, the tables have taken a turn for the worst as last week Utah focused on beating the team with nothing to lose in Oregon to being that team after the loss knocked them out of contention for the PAC-12 South. Utah is now considered the team with nothing to lose and is expected to fall to the Colorado Buffs by least ten points. Fortunately, from what we have witnessed in the past in major games Utah is more than capable of embracing the underdog role and what better way to prove your worth than shaking up the PAC-12 South just a little more.
To beat the Buffs would mean the Utes finished the regular season with a win over a top ten team and still have a shot at the Rose Bowl if everything else falls into place. Expect to see the Utes come out in full force to show that they are unwilling to finish the regular season with another painful loss.