The University of Colorado Buffaloes will host the Utah Utes Saturday at Folsom Field. It is the regular season finale for both teams. A Colorado win secures the Pac-12 South title for the Buffs, while a loss would grant the title to Southern California, due to a tiebreaker that USC holds over the Buffaloes. With so much on the line, the CU Independent’s Justin Guerriero reached out to Kim Brenneisen, Sports Editor at The Daily Utah Chronicle, to get some intel on the Utes.
Justin Guerriero: Utah lost to Oregon last week in a similar fashion to the way Colorado beat Oregon earlier in the year. How deflating was the loss to this Utes team?
Kim Brenneisen: When the Utes lost to Washington, the players were visibly upset — they were angry — and they seemed determined to win the remaining three games left on their schedule at that point in the season. It was a completely different feeling after that loss to Oregon.
They seemed deflated — they knew they slipped up against arguably one of the worst teams in the Pac-12 this season, and for the second year in a row, they blew their shot at making it to the Pac-12 Championship game. Quarterback Troy Williams didn’t talk to the media following the game, and tailback Joe Williams continued to cut off everyone’s questions by saying, “Colorado.” And at the press conference on Monday you could tell that the players were not as energized as they typically are.
JG: Colorado’s defense has shut down most of the offenses it has faced this year. How can the Utes’ offense deal some damage to the Buffs’ defensive 11 and move the ball downfield?
KB: They need Joe Williams to continue to produce. Williams has rushed for 100 yards in each game since he has returned from retirement, and the run game typically always works for the Utes. Troy Williams has his good days, but more often than not he does not do anything extraordinary.
Head coach Kyle Whittingham puts a little too much stock in him in my opinion, and sometimes the offense tries to get the pass game to do something positive. However, if it’s not working they tend to push the issue even more, and they need to realize that Joe Williams is the go-to guy.
JG: What worries you most about this Colorado team?
KB: What doesn’t worry me about this Colorado team? Whittingham was going off in the press conference about how he is concerned with every facet of the team, and even compared it to the likes of Washington. The defense is great at shutting down opposing offenses, and the offense can compete in a high-scoring affair if the occasion calls for it. Colorado’s cornerbacks will be a big concern for this Utah squad as well.
JG: Can you give me a few playmakers on offense and defense for the Utes this season?
KB: Defensive backs Chase Hansen and Marcus Williams definitely disrupt other teams’ offenses. While Marcus Williams sat out for a good portion of this season, he is a playmaker, and he has a knack for reading where the quarterback is going to throw the ball.
Hansen came to Utah as a quarterback and then switched to the defense when it got shorthanded last season. And like Marcus Williams, Hansen tends to come away with the ball, and CU quarterback Sefo Liufau will need to keep an eye on where these two are on the field.
And let’s not forget about Hunter Dimick. He recently set the school record for the most sacks in a career. For the offens, it’s Joe Williams. Again, since his retirement, he has been shouldering most of the workload for this Utah squad, and he is finding gaps to break through.
JG: Colorado has some of the best wide receivers and defensive backs in the country. How do Utah’s DBs match up against CU’s speedy, medium-sized wideouts, and how do you think Utah’s wideouts will fare against an experienced and disciplined Colorado secondary?
KB: Back to Hansen and Marcus Williams — I think they will give those wide receivers plenty of trouble. Marcus Williams has the speed to match up with them, and Hansen is pretty multi-faceted, so I think they will fare fine.
But Utah’s wide receivers won’t have the same luck. Troy Williams has been having a hard time finding open receivers, and it’s not necessarily his fault. The wide-receiving corps for Utah has not been as physical as they need to be, and they know that as well, but they haven’t done anything about it. Senior Tim Patrick was supposed to shine in that regard, but he too was injured earlier this season, and he hasn’t produced much since rejoining the team.
JG: What is Utah’s biggest weakness that the Buffaloes could exploit?
KB: Run defense. All Colorado needs to do is run to the outside, and Utah won’t know how to defend it. It’s a big reason why Oregon was able to take down the Utes, and it is a big reason why other teams have been able to remain competitive with the Utes when they otherwise have no business doing so.
JG: Score predictions?
KB: I think Colorado wins this game fairly easy, 34-17.
JG: With all the shaking up of the Pac-12 this year, where do you see Utah headed in the next few years? Upward trajectory or … ?
KB: Utah needs to do better — it can do better. This season was odd. Through their 11 games so far, I have never felt confident in any one of the Utes’ wins. Sure, they blew out Arizona State, but even then they got off to a slow start, and it wasn’t that complete a victory in my eyes. I think this program will continue to trend upwards. It has been so close to the Pac-12 Championship, and yet it keeps faltering late in the season. With one season under Troy Williams’ belt, I think he will perform at a higher level next season; after all, this was his full year competing at the Division I level.
I thought the offense would take precedence this year, but it seems like that may be a trend for the 2017 season.
Contact CU Independent Head Sports Editor Justin Guerriero at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @TheHungry_Hippo.
Kim Brenneisen is the Head Sports Editor of The Daily Utah Chronicle and is Sports Illustrated’s Campus Correspondent for the University of Utah. Contact her at k.brenneisen
@dailyutahchronicle.com and follow her on Twitter @kbrenneisen.