Let me use this space, then, for a plea to you, the humble consumer of CU Athletics: take this rivalry seriously. We are never, I repeat never, going to get entwined with the Trojans or any of the other original Pac-10 schools. They're always going to consume their traditional rivalries far more intently than any game against Colorado, nothing will ever change that. Yep, the Utes are what we got, but it ain't exactly chopped liver; these guys are actually a perfectly fine foil for our purposes. More importantly, they've made a far easier transition to the new era of western football than CU has, and can still serve as a standard of improvement for our beleaguered program -- far more than any mid-major, instate competition ever could. We Buffaloes need a rival, we have to pick a fight. There's no better option than Utah, so stop whining, and start flipping some Utes the bird.
Hype Music for the Week: "Hello!" from the Book of Mormon Original Soundtrack
Yep, going with the Mormon pun. I make no apologies. Enjoy!
Kickoff from Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City, UT is set for 12:30pm MT tomorrow afternoon. Coverage for those not making the roadie to the Beehive State can be found on Pac-12 Networks, with the radio call on 850 KOA.
Click below for the teaser...
If the vast majority of the fans on each side of the continental divide take a blasé view of the 'Rumble in the Rockies,' the players from Colorado and Utah have at least done us all the favor of keeping the action feisty on the field. Through four meetings since reviving a series that once defined football in the mountain states, the teams have combined for just as many close games, with an average winning margin of just over five points. The play has been taught, dramatic, and appropriate to the setting of a season finale.
|The Buffs and Utes have been keeping it close in the modern series. From: The Ralphie Report.|
Is that not what you're looking for, then, when searching for a rival? Close games with climactic, gut-wrenching finishes on a yearly basis? ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED? Yes, I too wish the tilts meant more, with the results having at least some bearing on the race for the Pac-12 crown (although Colorado's win in 2011 did cost the Utes an appearance in the inaugural Pac-12 Championship Game), but you really can't ask for much more.
|The Utes have held their own against the nation's best this fall. From: the Salt Lake Trib.|
The trick with them is that they beat you in the margins. They're only average offensively (381 yards per game, 79th nationally), especially in the high-flying Pac-12, and only slightly better defensively (370/48th). Where they shine, though, is in fringe areas like turnover margin (20th in the country), redzone offensive conversion rate (92%), fewest penalties per (about five per game), and punting (43 yards per attempt, #1 in America). This is a team that rarely beats itself, plays solid, field-position oriented football, and looks to find the little cracks that can turn a game.
|It's not too often that you have to worry about the opponent's punter, but Hackett is a beast. From: the Salt Lake Trib|
More conventionally, Utah is spurred on offense by senior starting QB Travis Wilson. Standing at a towering 6-7, 233, Wilson is more than prone to a fit of zaniness (nine picks on the year to only 12 touchdown tosses), but is a strong scrambler and improviser when the play breaks down. While Travis can hurt you with his arm, his best play on almost every down had usually been to just hand it off to senior running back Devontae Booker. The JuCo transfer from Sacramento developed into one of the most consistent backs in the league over the last two years, and had accounted for essentially two-thirds of the Utes' offense through the first nine weeks of this season. Unfortunately for the Utes, Booker came up lame against the Arizona Wildcats a few games back, and is out for the Rumble tomorrow. It's a huge absence for the team. Without Devontae, the Utah offense was a disaster in the Rose Bowl last week, only gaining 4.1 yards per snap and putting up just three field goals in the 17-9 loss to UCLA. Still, even without Booker, don't expect this group to suddenly become a passing team. They will still run the ball a lot, primarily with backup RB Joe Williams in power sets and Wilson on the draw and read-option.
|Without Booker, the Utes' attack comes down to Wilson. From: DailyBruin.com|
That just leaves one final thing before putting a bow on my football coverage for the year -- a final prediction for tomorrow's game. The tale of the tape is as follows:
My 2015 record: 11-1. Against the spread: 6-5. Optimistic/pessimistic: CU -1.27 pts/gm
Line as of Thursday @ 7pm - CU +16.5, O/U 49
Neither team has much to play for. The Utes are eliminated from title game contention, as they lose the tiebreaker with whoever emerges from the USC/UCLA game, and the Buffs... well, any thought of that miracle bowl berth died last week in Pullman. That just leaves pride, which gives me hope that this will be just another in the line of close games between Colorado and Utah. Oh, the Buffs will still lose, there is no doubt there, but I think they should cover with enough of a fight that there's still meaningful possessions in the fourth quarter.
UU 23 - CU 14
GO BUFFS! PROVE ME WRONG, AND BEAT THE UTES