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Opponent Preview: Colorado’s Defense

NCAA Football: Washington State at Colorado Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Utes face their final PAC-12 opponent of the season Saturday morning when the face off against the Colorado Buffaloes. Snowy conditions are likely to turn the Rocky Mountain Rumble into a defensive slug fest, a daunting prospect for Utah’s depleted offense.

With a 45% chance of snow at kickoff, the ground game will be key, which may not bode well for the Buffaloes, who have allowed an average of 3.88 yards per rush in 2018. In Armand Shyne’s first start of 2018, Utah’s junior running back was able to average an incredible 6.7 yards per rush against an Oregon defense that allows a similar 3.92 yards per rush.

Sophomore linebacker Nate Landman currently leads the Buffaloes with 13 tackles for loss and will likely be one of the two most imposing forces to stopping Utah’s run game along with defensive end Mustafa Johnson who has a dozen TFL’s to his name. The Utes offensive line will need to play one of their best games of the season to keep these two off of Shyne and Shelley.

If the Utes are able to establish a passing game, junior corner Delrick Abrams has established himself as the leader of a ho-hum secondary with a team high five defended passes. Despite this, Abrams has recorded zero of Colorado’s eight interceptions in 2018. In fact, as a whole, Colorado’s defense hasn’t been able to force many turnovers. Their eight interceptions are tied with eleven other teams for 60th in the nation and while the Buffaloes have successfully recovered seven fumbles on the season, their defense has only managed to force four of those fumbles.

Utah fans know what’s on the line. A PAC-12 South championship and possible Rose Bowl berth hangs in the balance, and all of that is likely impossible with another upset loss in Boulder. But the Buffaloes are in a do or die situation with bowl eligibility slipping further away after a five-game losing streak and rumors of Mike MacIntyre’s job potentially on the line after a disastrous second half of the season. Needless to say, neither team can afford many mistakes this week.