GAME NOTES: With both teams eliminated from postseason consideration the Utah Utes and Colorado Buffaloes will just try to end the season on a high note when the two squads square off in Pac-12 action at Folsom Field.
There was still an outside chance for Utah to earn a bowl bid this season but not after the Utes fell for the second straight week against Arizona (34-24) last weekend. The loss was the seventh in 11 chances for the Utes who have had a school-record nine-season bowl streak put to an end. Going on the road may not be the answer for a strong end to the season as the Utes are winless in five road games this season.
If there is one team Utah has a good chance of getting a road win against it is Colorado. The Buffaloes have had a miserable season and are just 1-10 after losing its seventh straight game this past Saturday against Washington (38-3). During that losing streak the Buffaloes have been outscored 355-85 with an average losing margin of 38.5 points. Playing at home hasn't even been a safe haven, as the Buffaloes have yet to pull off a win at Folsom Field.
Both newcomers to the Pac-12 last season, Colorado pulled out a 17-14 decision in Salt Lake City to extend its all-time series lead to 31-24-3. However last season's matchup was the first between the schools since 1962.
It really wasn't the offense that stopped Utah against Arizona. However on the season there has been little consistency or production coming from the unit. Needing to shift quarterbacks on a regular basis hasn't exactly helped. Last weekend Travis Wilson got the start and played well throwing for 311 yards and two touchdowns on 28-of-40 passing. Wilson should get the start again on Friday as he has played in 11 games and leads the team in passing yards (1,183) and completion percentage (64.2).
If there has been one player the Utes can rely on it is running back John White. He has clearly shaken off the early season struggles he endured and is now within striking distance of a second straight 1,000-yard rushing season. White has piled up 873 yards on 198 carries this season to go along with seven touchdowns and has had 100 yards rushing in four straight games.
The receiving corps has no real standout with the passing production spread out among a group of receivers. Dres Anderson (35 receptions, 349 yards, 2 TDs) is the leader in receptions, while Jake Murphy (32 receptions, 351 yards, 4 TDs) leads the way in yards.
All in all, Utah has been a pretty weak offensive team ranking second to last in the Pac-12 in total offense (323.4 ypg) and passing yards (196.4 ypg).
What had kept Utah competitive this season is its defense although it was gashed for 480 yards of total offense against Arizona. That effort hurt Utah's standing in the league rankings as the UTes are now just fifth in total defense (358.5 ypg) and sixth in scoring defense (24.2 ppg). Creating negative plays has been a struggle with Utah, managing only 61 tackles for loss as a team, the third lowest total in the conference.
That hasn't stopped Trevor Reilly from having a solid season though. The linebacker has recorded a team-high 64 tackles, 6.5 TFLs and 4.5 sacks. Also getting in on the action in the pass rush are Joe Kruger (6.0 sacks), Reggie Topps (4.0 sacks) and Star Lotulelei (9.0 TFLs, 4.0 sacks).
The only team looking up to Utah in terms of offensive production is the very Colorado team the Utes face this weekend. On its way to one of its worst seasons in recent memory, Colorado has ranked dead last in both scoring (16.3 ppg) and total offense (291.7 ypg). In fact Colorado is one of just four teams in the nation to be putting up less than 300 yards of total offense per game.
One lone bright spot for the Buffaloes is freshman running back Christian Powell. Powell has rushed for 691 yards this season, the second most by a freshman running back in Colorado history. Powell has also found the end zone seven times this season, which is the second most on the squad.
Quarterback issues have also plagued Colorado. Jordan Webb, Nick Hirschman and Connor Wood have all played in at least six games this season. Hirschman is listed as questionable for Friday's game with concussion symptoms. That means Webb will likely get the start. Webb threw for a team-high 33 yards on 6-of-16 passing against Washington and leads the squad with 1,401 passing yards this season. Wood could also see time as he got into the game against Washington as well but had a rough day (3-for-6, 11 yards, 2 INTs).
Like Utah there is no go-to receiver for Colorado, although that is largely a symptom of poor quarterback play. Tight end Nick Kasa (20 receptions, 340 yards) has been a scoring machine, with eight touchdown receptions to go with his yardage total which is second on the squad. Nelson Spruce (34 receptions, 348 yards) and Tyler McCulloch (26 receptions, 334 yards, 5 TDs) have also tallied more than 300 yards this season.
Colorado does not have the privilege of falling back on a solid defense. Just as on offense, Colorado ranks dead last in the conference in a bulk of defensive categories, including points allowed (46.4 ppg) and total yardage (502.4 ypg). Colorado's defense has also not made a ton of plays on the ball with just 14 forced turnovers for a massive -15 turnover margin.
Defensive end Chidera Uzo-Diribe serves as the single best defensive force on the squad with 7.0 sacks on the season after he recorded a quarterback takedown against WAshington, his first in four weeks. Derrick Webb (62 tackles) and Terrel Smith (61) are the leading tacklers on the team.
The season will come to its merciful end for Colorado on Friday with the Buffaloes having a shot at earning their first win in front of the home crowd. Utah may not be the cream of the Pac-12 crop, but its defense is strong enough to ruin Colorado's season-finale.