Utah (7-4) at Colorado (2-9) (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Folsom Field (53,613) -- Boulder, Colorado. Television: Pac-12 Network. Home Record: Utah 3-3, Colorado 1-4. Away Record: Utah 4-1, Colorado 1-4. Neutral Record: Utah 0-0, Colorado 0-1. Conference Record: Utah 3-3, Colorado 0-8. Series Record: Colorado leads, 31-26-3.
GAME NOTES: The Utah Utes will try to end the season on a high note when they visit the Colorado Buffaloes in a Pac-12 Conference clash at Folsom Field on Saturday.
Utah is in desperate need of a victory. After starting the season 6-1, the Utes crashed into the national rankings, rising as high as No. 18. However, they were finally kicked out of the polls after taking a 42-10 drubbing at home from Arizona this past weekend. The loss was the third in the last four games for the Utes, who are 7-4 overall, including an even split of their eight games against conference rivals.
While Utah has fallen on hard times recently, the Buffaloes have endured such hardships all season. They were routed, 44-10, by Oregon last Saturday, marking their seventh straight loss and eighth in as many tries against conference foes. They are just 2-9 overall, so this will be the last time they take the field until next fall.
In 60 previous meetings, Colorado has earned 31 victories against Utah, as well as 26 losses and three ties. The Utes were the victorious party on the final day of last season, as they escaped with a 24-17 victory to end a five- game losing streak.
It was tough to imagine that Utah could maintain a lofty spot in the polls when it has been so miserable on offense. The Utes rank last in the Pac-12 in total offense (368.9 ypg), while scoring a shade under 30 points per game. They were right in that ballpark against Arizona in terms of yardage (384), but managed only 10 points.
Devontae Booker has been the most consistent performer for the Utes on offense, as the running back has amassed 1,255 yards and eight touchdowns. He is second in the conference in rushing yards, but no one in the league has carried the ball more than him (261 carries). He was the lone bright spot for the unit against Arizona, rushing for 142 yards on 23 attempts. Booker does more than run the ball, as he has been a nice security blanket in the passing game, ranking second on team in receptions (34), although he has only 260 yards receiving.
The aerial attack has not been able to match Booker's constant ability to pick up yards. Travis Wilson was intercepted twice, while tallying only 143 yards and a touchdown on 16-of-29 passing against the Wildcats. He still has only four interceptions this season, but that comes with a mere 1,701 yards and 14 touchdowns. His average of 154.6 yards per game ranks 11th in the conference.
Of course, without Dres Anderson (22 receptions, 355 yards, four TDs), who was lost for the season at the end of October with a knee injury, Wilson is missing his best weapon. Kenneth Scott (37 receptions, 391 yards, four TDs) and Kaelin Clay (20 receptions, 372 yards, two TDs) have had to step up and be the primary targets.
On defense, Utah is a force to be reckoned with, or least it is most weeks. Although the Utes gave up 520 yards against Arizona, they are still fourth in the conference in total defense (400.4 ypg). The Utes' greatest strength is getting pressure on the quarterback, as they lead the country in sacks (49), in large part because of the efforts of Nate Orchard, who is tied for the national lead in quarterback takedowns (17.5).
Colorado may be a team that can handle the pressure, as it has allowed the fewest sacks in the Pac-12 (20). However, the Buffaloes are in the bottom half of the league in terms of overall offensive success, registering 439.7 yards per game. They were nowhere near that level of production against Oregon, managing a paltry 226 total yards on 62 plays.
Sefo Liufau has been the primary starter at quarterback for the Buffs this season, but Jordan Gehrke started against Oregon. He completed only 9-of-18 attempts for 64 yards before Liufau got in and managed 41 yards and a score on 7-of-14 passing. Liufau has tallied 2,883 yards and 27 touchdowns, compared to 14 interceptions in total, while Gehrke has 170 yards on 45.5 percent passing in four games.
No matter who is under center for the Buffaloes, it is a certainty that Nelson Spruce (101 receptions, 1,107 yards, 11 TDs) will be targeted more often than not. Spruce is tied for the national lead in receptions, while ranking second in the Pac-12 in receiving yards and third in touchdown receptions. Shay Fields (46 receptions, 417 yards, four TDs) and D.D. Goodson (37 receptions, 374 yards, two TDs) are alternative targets.
Michael Adkins II has been the most productive running back for the team, with 398 yards and three touchdowns on 81 carries. However, Phillip Lindsay (387 yards), Christian Powell (373) and Tony Jones (361) have all gotten work as well.
Colorado is not nearly the defensive team that Utah is, ranking ahead of only California among Pac-12 teams in terms of total defense (463 ypg).
Their recent struggles have dampened an otherwise strong season for the Utes, who have wins over UCLA and USC on their resume'. They should have a much easier time this weekend, even on the road, against a Colorado team just looking to end a miserable campaign.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Utah 28, Colorado 10Game Date and Time
Saturday, November 29, 1 p.m. (ET)