Like the rest of you, I’m disappointed in the Utes failing again to take advantage of a huge opportunity to win the South. Utah has simply collapsed on the doorstep of a conference championship too many times to feel OK about it at this point. That said, I’m looking for a reason to believe that Utah can compete against Colorado following the impotence of Utah’s offense against Oregon. More importantly, I’m looking for a carrot that could motivate Utah against a Colorado team that still has everything to play for.
On the first point (whether Utah can compete), I believe Utah can absolutely beat Colorado. It is clear to me that Utah is a team that plays to the level of its competition. When Utah is favored, it often falters due to Coach Whit’s general belief that his team needs to score only one more point than the opposing team to win. While theoretically true, that does not hold up in a league of powerful offenses and where the margin of victory is often one extraordinary play (i.e., Herbert to Carrington). Other PAC coaches understand this, which is why USC and Stanford opened up their offenses and hung 45 and 52 points on Oregon the past couple of weeks, knowing that you can’t keep it close when playing a relatively bad team that is loaded on offense and can explode at any moment. On the flip side, Utah rarely beats itself when it is an underdog. Its reputation in the conference is to “never be an easy out.” Teams know that they have to bring it to win. This is the flipside of Kyle’s uber-conservative defense-first philosophy, which seeks to minimize mistakes and win at the end with defense and special teams.
Which brings us to Colorado. Although I believe CU is a slightly better football team than Utah at this point, the margin is not as great as popular opinion this week implies. Utah was in a classic “look ahead” spot against Oregon. That same Oregon team, with less-talented Dakota Prukop at QB and without RB Royce Freeman, nearly beat Colorado in week 4. Colorado escaped with a win by having controversial instant replay reviews fall in its favor and by intercepting a potential game winning pass from Prukop in the endzone. My point being that both Utah and CU’s results against Oregon, a common opponent, could just as easily have gone the other way. The margin of error is thin and these are college kids. As a team that is slightly better than Utah, Colorado should be very wary of Whittingham’s ability to keep games interesting into the fourth quarter.
On the second point (motivation), I believe that the coaches must sell Utah’s ability to backdoor its way into the Rose Bowl as a real possibility. And sell it hard. Although we know it’s a longshot to actually happen, at least some pundits have said it’s possible and this season it seems anything can happen. Utah can overcome the Oregon debacle and match Colorado’s intensity ONLY by believing that something very important is on the line. If it finds that motivation, this could be a great game. If it does not, relative equality of the teams won’t matter and Utah will likely get embarrased, a result that it seems many people expect.
The coaches have their work cut out for them this week, and I look forward to seeing what they can do in a difficult spot.
I wouldn’t bet the farm on that. Colorado has beaten all comers in the PAC, except for a near miss against USC on the road. They will beat a soulless Utah team playing for not much on the road.
I sure hope the Utes can pull off the upset in Boulder this weekend. Can’t let those Buffs get a South division title before we do. Also, the streak of being ranked in every Football Playoff poll is on the line. We are only one of a handful of schools to be ranked in every one. I’d love to stay in that small group. Oh, and the bowl options would be much nicer with a top 10 win under the belt. Colorado spoiled Utah’s South division title in 2011, time to return the favor and spice up this rivalry.
If the defense continues to tackle as poorly as they have of late, I don’t think we have a snowballs chance in hell of beating CU.
I hope the team isn’t looking past Colorado to the Conference Championship Game.
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