Colorado Buffaloes (4-0) vs. Utah Utes (1-2) Saturday, Dec. 12 10:05 a.m. MST, Folsom Field - Boulder, Colorado TV: FOX Line: Colorado -2.0 Colorado leads the all-time series 32-31-3 Utah has won the last three matchups dating back to 2017
In what has been a turbulent first year for head football coach Karl Dorrell, his CU Buffs have far exceeded all expectations all across the board. Meanwhile, the Utah Utes are in a transition year under the steady hand of long-tenured head coach Kyle Wittingham and finding their way through their own inexperience. With that, let’s take a closer look into the matchup that will be featured in FOX’s marquee time slot known as “Big Noon Saturday” (Noon Eastern Time, of course).
From the success of Philip Lindsay, Rahaan Salaam, Eric Bieniemy and others, the Buffs’ offensive spark plug has often come in the form of a tailback. Jarek Broussard, the slippery sophomore out of Dallas, has seemingly left a fire trail behind him every time he’s gotten the rock. With 301 yards on the ground last week in Tucson against Arizona, Broussard has racked up a staggering 733 through four games. While the RB position keeps impressing on the offensive front, CU’s fifth-year senior and first-year starting quarterback Sam Noyer is looking to regain his footing after a rough couple of games. Noyer has seen a decrease in production over the last two weeks, with a back-breaking pick-six against San Diego State that kept the Aztecs in the game and two more interceptions against Arizona.
Likewise, the Utes have had struggles at the quarterback position recently as well. After starting QB Cam Rising went out for the rest of the year with a season-ending shoulder injury in week one, South Carolina transfer Jake Bentley took the reins. Under Bentley’s guidance, the Utes’ offense has struggled to play full games and put up respectable numbers. Productive first halves against USC and Washington were flushed down the drain with dismal endings in two unnerving losses. Through three games, they are outside the top-100 nationally in both passing yards (107th) and points scored (108th) per game. At the same time, a bright spot has seemed to have emerged through the muck with freshman RB Ty Jordan. In Utah’s victory over Oregon State, Jordan had a breakout performance with 167 rushing yards and a touchdown. Although prior to that game he had not gotten as many carries, he still has averaged an impressive 6.7 yards per carry through three games.
A tough spot for the Buffs in its opening victories over UCLA and Stanford was the defensive struggles in the second half. These breakdowns allowed both the Bruins and Cardinal to climb back into the game. Luckily for CU, this issue did not extend against San Diego State and Arizona with the tune of allowing one touchdown and three field goals during the last 30 minutes of both games. Junior Carson Wells has impressed along with senior Nate Landman, who leads the Buffs with 54 tackles and four sacks.
The Utah defense has been near the top of the Pac-12 so far this year, ranking second in total offense allowed in the conference and first in run defense. However, it has been a serious transition with a bevy of inexperienced talent having to step up, but progress has been made. The secondary alone started off the year with no experienced starters but played a key role in the Oregon State win with blue freshman cornerback Clark Phillips III totaling seven tackles.
Keys to the Game
Can Sam Noyer rebound from his recent downturn in production?
After a tough couple of games where he came back down to Earth after his incredible start to the season, a big question on Saturday will be if Noyer can regain some of his early-season magic. The Utah secondary is inexperienced, but still very talented and is certainly not a pushover. If Noyer can command the offense the way he did against Stanford and UCLA, it could go a long way in coming out with a win.
Will Utah’s offense find signs of life with Ty Jordan as the top tailback?
The Utes’ poor offensive performance with Jake Bentley under center so far this season would appear like a serious mismatch with a rejuvenated CU defense if not for Jordan’s ascent. Colorado’s run defense struggled early against Arizona and a productive Utah rushing attack could cause the Buffs fits.
Jarek Broussard & the Buffs offensive line vs Utah’s run defense
Broussard has been outstanding this season, but a large part of that must be attributed to some very good offensive line play opening up holes for him. Last week, the Buffs’ OL sustained a serious loss with left guard Chance Lytle going down for the remainder of the season. Meanwhile, the Utes’ run defense has been the best in the conference and the 11th best in all FBS, allowing a paltry average of 104.7 yards per game. Will Broussard stay hot and the CU offensive line stay cohesive? Or will both see issues facing a stingy ground defense?
The bright lights of primetime
This game is reminiscent of Colorado’s 2016 matchup against Utah, with a Pac-12 South title still up for grabs. The stakes are high enough that FOX will be featuring the game in the spot originally reserved for Ohio State and Michigan. FOX’s broadcast team will include Gus Johnson and former CU QB Joel Klatt in the booth with Jenny Taft on the sidelines. With all of the hype, can the upstart Buffaloes stay focused on the Utes, or will they find themselves caught in the noise?
The Buffs and Utes have historically been rivals with the "Rumble in the Rockies" dating back to their first ever meeting in 1903. CU won 22-0 at Gamble Field in Boulder, which stood where the University Memorial Center sits today
The series took a hiatus with after 1962 until Colorado joined the Pac-12 in 2011
Utah head coach Kyle Wittingham has led the Utes since 2005, tying him as the third-longest tenured head coach in FBS
Wittingham and Dorrell have faced off twice as head coaches, both from Dorrell's five-year stint with the UCLA Bruins. They split their meetings, with Dorrell winning 31-10 in 2006 and Wittingham coming out victorious in 2007
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Thomas Gahan at firstname.lastname@example.org.