Image courtesy of College Football News
Colorado Buffaloes (5-6 Overall, 3-5 in Pac-12 South)
#6 Utah Utes (10-1 Overall, 7-1 in Pac-12 South)
Saturday, November 30, 2019 @ 7:30 PM EST
Rice-Eccles Stadium (Salt Lake City, UT)
Moneyline: CU (+1550), UT (-4000)
Spread: CU +28 (-110), UT -28 (-110)
Total: Over/Under 49 (-110)
Odds courtesy of MyBookie
After Oregon’s shocking loss to Arizona State last weekend, the Pac-12 is left with Utah as their only hope of getting a team into the College Football Playoff. A much-improved Colorado team would love nothing more than to spoil Utah’s season and notch their sixth win of the season, securing their spot in a bowl game, despite a five-game losing streak in the middle of the season.
I hate to burst your bubble like this Colorado, but, you’re definitely not pulling off this upset. There’s just no way that Tyler Huntely, Zack Moss and that stellar Utes defense will have a letdown in the final week of the regular season that knocks them out of the College Football Playoff. The Utes have one of the best defenses and one of the most efficient offenses in all of college football, and despite Colorado’s very impressive two-game win streak, in which they’ve held Stanford and Washington to a combined 610 yards and 27 points, there’s just no way the Buffaloes will go into Salt Lake City and pull off a monumental upset.
Since their Week 4 loss to USC, Utah has been about as dominant as any team in the country. The Utes have outscored their opponents by almost 30 points per game (37.6 PPG-8.7 PPG) and have out-gained their opponents by almost 250 yards per game (471 YPG-227 YPG). Utah’s QB, Tyler Huntley, is on the outside-looking-in as far as the Heisman race goes, but the senior has been nothing short of outstanding this year. Huntley has been the fifth-most efficient passer in the country, completing 75% of his passes (2nd in FBS) for 2,608 yards, 14 touchdowns and just two interceptions. Huntley has thrown for just 43 less yards and one less touchdown than Colorado QB, Steven Montez, despite Montez having nearly 150 more pass attempts on the year.
Like I mentioned before, Colorado has looked much more impressive in the last two weeks. In back-to-back wins over Stanford and Washington, the Buffaloes defense has been at its best, holding the Cardinal to 372 total yards and 13 points, and holding the Huskies to 238 total yards and 14 points. Stanford has had one of the worst offenses in the Pac-12 this season, but I’ll give credit where credit is due.
One of the keys in the last two games has been Colorado’s commitment to their run game. But, against the best rushing defense in the country, the Buffaloes will need to be efficient on the ground and use their passing game to open up some room on the ground. The Buffaloes have run the ball 41 times in both of their last two games, for 172 and 207 yards, respectively, and one touchdown in each. In four of their five wins, the Buffaloes have run the ball 40+ times, and they are just 2-6 in games where they’ve thrown the ball more than 30 times.
Players to Watch
Colorado RB, Alex Fontenot – Utah’s run defense is the best in the country, allowing just 55.9 YPG and four total touchdowns on the ground this season. So, it may seem like a stretch to put him in the ‘Players to Watch’ category for this daunting of a matchup, especially since WR Laviska Shenault Jr. has been the Buffaloes’ biggest piece on offense this year. But, the Buffaloes are 4-2 this season when Fontenot runs for 80+ yards, including a win @ Arizona State, and back-to-back wins against Washington and Stanford the last two weeks. If Fontenot can get anything going on the ground, that’ll open up the Buffs’ offense for QB Steven Montez and their leading receivers, Laviska Shenault Jr. and Tony Brown. Montez has connected with Shenault Jr. and Brown 107 times for a total of 1,419 yards and nine touchdowns this season, making them one of the most productive receiving duos in the Pac-12.
Utah RB, Zach Moss – The Utes’ dynamic senior running back, who was named a semi-finalist for the Doak Walker Award last Wednesday, has been one of the most productive runners in the country this year. He has also made his presence known when catching passes out of the backfield in the last five games, as he has hauled in 19 catches for 313 yards and one touchdown in that span. Moss ranks eighth in the country in all-purpose yards per game at 147.8, despite catching just two passes for seven yards in Utah’s first game and not recording another catch until starting his current five-game streak of three-plus catches per game. Moss should be able to have himself a day against a Buffaloes defense that ranks 106th in the country in total defense.
Regular old black-white-black for Colorado vs. 1966-67 throwbacks for Utah? Utah by a billion in the jersey department.
With temperatures expected to be in the 20s in Salt Lake City, the run game will most likely be the dominant factor in this game. Utah has the clear advantage in that case, with the No. 1 rushing defense in the country and red-hot Zack Moss in the backfield. However, that could keep the score down, as Utah will more than likely control the ball for a large portion of the game and go on long scoring drives. Utah will be looking for a dominant win this weekend to propel them into the Pac-12 Championship game, and possibly, the College Football Playoff. The Buffaloes’ lack of offensive production in their last two weeks is a little concerning, so I’m going with Utah to win big and cover this weekend. Ideally, if you can tease it down to 27.5, then I would jump all over that, as I can definitely see this game looking like Utah’s 35-7 win over Arizona last week, where the Utes built up a 35-0 lead in the second quarter and ran the ball 50 times.