Colorado (4-7, 3-5 Buck 12) at No. 16 Utah (8-3, 7-1); 2 p.m. Friday, Rice-Eccles Stadium (Salt Lake City, Utah)
TV / Radio: KDVR-31/850 AM, 94.1 FM
Line: Utah -23.5, 52.5 up/under
weather: 48 degrees, mostly cloudy
what do you know
Back to reality? After promising performances against Oregon State and Oregon, QB Brendon Lewis and CU passer gamer have taken a step back with no touchdowns, four bags allowed and only two completions longer than 20 yards in the past two weeks. The Buffs enter their final game at number 126 in passing yards/match (135.5) in FBS, just ahead of the Service and New Mexico academies. With receiver Brenden Rice sidelined, Lewis drops one of his main targets. Not a great place to start for a minor encounter in Utah where passes are only allowed 209.8 yards/game (ranked 34th in the FBS).
walking wounded. One recurring theme with the CU linebacker in the second half of the season: injuries. Last week’s champ Jack Lamb (rebounding TD vs. Washington) is the latest to be sidelined, with Buffs coach Karl Durrell telling reporters he is unlikely to play the Notre Dame transfer against Utah. While Dorrell hasn’t ruled out the return of inner-back Nate Landman, anything meaningful on Friday will be his first in a month.
in full force. For the third time in four years, Utes will represent the Southern Division in a major Pac-12 game. Utah stitched it up with a 38-7 defeat to Oregon State last weekend, a win that ensured the Conference would miss the College Football Playoff for the fifth consecutive season. That means Utes technically have nothing to play on Friday, except for the extension of a four-game winning streak that saw them average 43.0 points per game.
One-sided rivalry. The Buffs and Utes are Pac-12’s traveling partners, but “Rumble in the Rockies” has yet to solidify as a truly competitive end-of-season game since the two schools joined the conference in 2011. The stakes are often low (at least for the CU) and results are one-sided (Utah has won 8 out of 10 since ’11). Friday’s win would give Utah five in a row over the CU and push them ahead over the Buffs in the all-time series (currently 32-32-3).
Utah RB Tavion Thomas vs. CU in the lead seven. Otis’ offensive shift began with QB Cameron Rising taking Charlie Brewer midway through Week 3. And he took it to another level with the emergence of Thomas, a 6-foot-2, 221-pound Cincinnati transfer who has run for 702 yards and 15 touchdowns in the last six games . Which CU run defense appears? The one that kept Washington 38 yards by 28 yards away last week? Or those that have been cut by Oregon (36-256), Oregon State (43-220) and University of California (41-244) in their previous three games.
Utah LP Devin Lloyd vs. CU O-line. Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux made major headlines, but there was no player more productive in the Pac-12 than Lloyd. With 21.0 tackles to lose, 7.0 sacks, and three interceptions, the 6-3, 235-pound junior is the conference’s best defensive player of the year. CU’s #1 priority: knowing where he lined up in every game.
Scott Munsrud, AME / Sports: Utah 42, KO 17
Utis put an exclamation mark on the great regular season with dominant performance led by the running game.
Sean Keeler, sports columnist: Utah 31, CU 17
On the release of a statement trampling Oregon and with the advent of the next Pac-12 game, how badly would Utes want to have this one? Maybe it’s bad enough to get the job done, maybe not bad enough to kick the buff in the teeth.
Matt Schubert, Deputy Sports Editor: Utah 37, CU 13
All that’s left of the CU to play is pride. That might be enough at home against a UW team that can’t stop shooting in the foot. But it’s not close enough on the road against a potentially best Utes team in the conference.