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Ranking Utah’s 2017 Football Schedule: No. 7 Colorado

NCAA Football: Utah at Colorado Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Colorado at Utah

Saturday, Nov. 25

Salt Lake City, Utah

Colorado’s 2016 Pac-12 South Championship was one of the more surprising results in the 2016 season. Colorado had previously been the Pac-12 doormat since joining the conference in 2011. However, in 2016 behind “The Rise” Colorado moved from worst to first and played for a Pac-12 title. Will 2017 bear similar results for the Buffs? Given that we have them in the bottom half of our difficult game rankings here at BlockU, we think that the answer is no.

So, why are we not buying Colorado in 2017? Well, they were a senior-laden team in 2016, a team determined to climb out of the basement once for the departing seniors. The primary reason for Colorado’s remarkable turnaround was the improvement of the defense. In the previous five years, Colorado never finished in the top five in the conference in total defense or scoring defense; however last year they finished second and third in the Pac-12 respectively. They were led by players like safety Tedric Thompson and cornerbacks Chidobe Awuzie and Ahkello Witherspoon in the secondary, Kenneth Olugbode and Jimmie Gilbert at linebacker, and Jordan Carrell, Samson Kafovalu, and Josh Tupou on the defensive line, all of whom are now gone. Of Colorado’s top 11 tacklers from last season, eight are gone either to graduation or leaving football. Only linebacker Rick Gamboa, defensive back Afolabi Laguda, and defensive back Ryan Moeller are back. CU also lost defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt to the Oregon Ducks.

The offensive is the opposite of the defense for the Buffaloes however, almost everyone is back. They did lose quarterback Sefo Liufau to graduation, so they will have to break in a new quarterback, but he will be throwing to arguably the best group of wide receivers in the Pac-12. Shay Fields, Devin Ross, and Bryce Bobo are all back at wide receiver. In fact, every Colorado player who caught more than one pass last season is back. This includes running back Phillip Lindsay, who led the team in rushing with 1,252 yards and was fourth in receiving yards. Colorado also features a veteran offensive line with three seniors. This is a talented and experienced offense for Colorado, similar to how their defense was last year. Colorado should be able to score some points in 2017, but it is important to remember that it was their defense primarily that helped lead them to the Pac-12 South title. Remember, defense wins championships, and Colorado will be breaking in a new unit with a new coordinator.

One thing that makes this game hard to project is that it is the final game of the season, meaning injuries could pile up for one or both teams (though hopefully both teams make it through the season healthy). Colorado will be coming off a bye for this game, while Utah has to play at Washington the week before, one of their toughest games. The fact that the game is in Salt Lake City is a plus for the Utes. With all of the uncertainty surrounding the Colorado defense and the fact that it is a home game for Utah, we felt that it was not in the top half of toughest games. We have it as the third toughest Pac-12 South game for Utah, which echoes Colorado’s fourth place position in the Pac-12 media poll (since Utah cannot play themselves and they were picked second).

Toughest Games in 2017 Countdown

No. 12 North Dakota

No. 11 San Jose State

No. 10 Arizona

No. 9 Arizona State

No. 8 BYU