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Colorado vs. Utah Football Prediction and Preview

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Colorado vs. Utah Football Prediction and Preview

Colorado vs. Utah Prediction and Preview

Utah remains the last hope for the Pac-12to send a team to the College Football Playoff. To get there, the Utes must conquer a Colorado team looking to spring an upset in order to secure bowl eligibility.

The No. 6 Utes (10-1, 7-1 Pac-12) earned their seventh straight win by crushing Arizona 35-7. Utah racked up 517 yards on offense, including a season-high 297 yards on the ground. The Utes averaged 7.0 yards per play. Meanwhile, they allowed Arizona to cross midfield only four times and held the Wildcats to 196 total yards.

The Buffaloes (5-6, 3-5) positioned themselves to reach a bowl for the first time since 2016 by knocking off Washington 20-14. Colorado earned its second straight victory by holding the Huskies to 32 rushing yards and forcing seven punts on 10 total drives. The Buffaloes held Washington scoreless in the first half and snapped a nine-game losing streak in the series.

Colorado holds a 32-30-3 lead over Utah in the Rumble in the Rockies. The Utes have had the upper hand against their Rocky Mountain rivals since both teams joined the Pac-12 in 2011. Utah has won two straight and six of eight during that time. The Buffaloes last won in Salt Lake City in 2011.

Colorado at Utah

Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 30 at 7:30 p.m. ET

TV: ABC

Spread: Utah -28.5

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When Colorado Has the Ball

Improved defense has been doing the legwork for the Buffaloes during their two-game winning streak. Offensively, The Buffaloes are taking care of the ball. They have had only a single turnover over the last two games. Finishing drives with touchdowns has continued to be a problem in Pac-12 play, though. Colorado is averaging just 19.8 points per game against league opponents and has scored only 17 touchdowns in those games.

Success for the Buffaloes may come down to what Steven Montez can do in the passing game. Montez doesn't have a great history against Utah's defense. He threw for just 84 yards against the Utes last season. Almost all of it went to Laviska Shenault Jr. who tallied 64 yards on nine catches. Shenault leads Colorado with 721 yards and four touchdowns on 52 catches. Tony Brown (698 yards, 5 TDs) and K.D. Nixon (453 yards, 3 TDs) will need to step up and take some pressure off of Shenault for the Buffaloes to be able to sustain drives.

Colorado isn't likely to get much done in the backfield against the nation's best run defense. Utah is allowing 55.9 rushing yards per game, and opponents are averaging 2.3 yards per rush against the Utes. The Buffaloes are averaging 163.4 rushing yards per game against Pac-12 opponents. If tailback Alex Fontenot can somehow run for 80 or more yards, Colorado's upset chances will improve. The Buffaloes are 4-2 this season when that happens.

When Utah Has the Ball

The Utes are just as fearsome at running the ball as stopping the run this season. Utah has a knack for putting together long scoring drives that demoralize opponents who then endure a series of quick punts or turnovers against the Ute defense.

Zack Moss continues to key a ground attack that leads the Pac-12 with 215.3 yards per game. Moss generated a season-high 203 yards on 26 carries against Arizona, putting him over 1,000 rushing yards for the season. The senior is the first Utah player to rush for at least 1,000 yards in three consecutive seasons. Moss has already tallied a Pac-12-best 1,158 rushing yards in 10 games and is averaging 6.4 yards per carry.

Slowing down Moss won't be Colorado's only concern. The Buffaloes will also have to deal with Tyler Huntley's deadly accuracy in the passing game. Huntley completed a season-high 82.6 percent of his passes against the Wildcats, going 19-of-23 for 211 yards and a touchdown. Brant Kuithe has emerged as the biggest playmaking threat among the receivers late in the season and could be a huge thorn in Colorado's side. Kuithe has 213 yards and a touchdown on nine catches over his last two games. The sophomore tight end is now Utah's leading receiver heading into the regular-season finale with 487 yards and four touchdowns on 26 catches.

Final Analysis

Colorado has made positive strides in November. The problem is that the Buffaloes' offense remains a work in progress. That isn't good news going up against Utah. The Utes have a rugged defense and an efficient offense that continues to demoralize one opponent after another. Colorado spoiled Utah's quest to win a divisional title once upon a time. There's practically zero chance that bit of history will repeat itself in 2019.

NCAAF Top 25 Rankings: Utah

Prediction: Utah 38, Colorado 10

— Written by John Coon, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Coon has more than a decade of experience covering sports for different publications and outlets, including The Associated Press, Salt Lake Tribune, ESPN, Deseret News, MaxPreps, Yahoo! Sports and many others. Follow him on Twitter @johncoonsports.