Kyle Whittingham's Utes host the Buffaloes with bowl eligibility on the line for both teams
The Utes (5-6, 2-6 Pac-12) let a golden chance at becoming bowl eligible slip through their fingers in a 33-30 loss to Washington on Saturday. Utah held a seven-point lead late, but the Huskies rattled off 10 points in the final minute to avoid an upset loss to the Utes. It marked the second time this season that Utah suffered a last-second road loss to a Top 25 opponent.
The Buffaloes (5-6, 2-6) are trying to avoid another last-place finish in the Pac-12 South a year after winning the division. Colorado is coming off a bye week following a 38-24 loss to first-place USC where it fell behind 20-0 at halftime and never could get back into the game.
Colorado leads the series 32-28-3, but Utah has won four of six games between the two teams since they both joined the Pac-12 in 2011. The Buffaloes won 27-22 last season to snap a four-game losing streak to the Utes.
Colorado at Utah
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 25 at 10 p.m. ET
TV Channel: FS1
Spread: Utah –11
Three Things to Watch
1. Can Tyler Huntley finish strong?
Since returning from his shoulder injury, Huntley has progressed enough to where he is becoming more dangerous in the Utah offense each week. With the sophomore at the controls, the Utes are showing flashes of being dynamic and electric on that side of the ball.
Huntley has thrown for 1,125 yards while completing 61 percent of his passes over his last four starts. One of his best efforts yet came against Washington. The sophomore completed 70.4 percent of his passes against the Huskies and finished with a season-best 178.6 quarterback rating.
Huntley has thrown for 200 yards or better in seven of the nine games he's played in this season for the Utes. He ranks second in the Pac-12 and 15th in the FBS in total offense per game (302.9 ypg). Huntley’s 65.4 percent completion rate is third in the Pac-12 and 13th nationally.
If Huntley can total at least 20 rushing yards against Colorado, he will be the first Utah quarterback to rush for 500 yards in a single season. Another 200-yard passing game against the Buffaloes would also give him the most such games for a quarterback since Brian Johnson had eight in 2008.
2. Phillip Lindsay closing in on another record
One bright spot stands out in a rebuilding season for Colorado. Lindsay (above, right) continues to rewrite the school record books in his final year in Boulder. Lindsay has a chance to become the first player to tally 1,000 rushing yards and 1,000 receiving yards in the same season for the Buffaloes.
Lindsay already has 1,402 rushing yards for Colorado this season. He is second on the school's all-time rushing list with 3,635 yards. The senior also is the all-time leader in all-purpose yards (5,675) and yards from scrimmage (4,598) and has set 20 total school records while tying two others. With 962 receiving yards for the Buffaloes, Lindsay needs just eight more to become the all-time leader in that category for Colorado running backs. Thirty-eight more and he'll have 1,000 for the season.
It comes as no surprise that Lindsay is getting national recognition for his efforts. He was named as one of 11 semifinalists for the 2017 Doak Walker Award. Lindsay joins Rashaan Salaam, who won the award in 1994, and Chris Brown, who was the runner-up in 2002 as only the third Buffaloes running back to be named as a Doak Walker Award semifinalist.
3. Running amok
Given how poorly Colorado and Utah have both defended the run in Pac-12 play, offensive drives for both teams could stick to the ground quite a bit.
After holding California to just 61 rushing yards, Colorado has taken a step back over its last two games. Arizona State gashed the Buffaloes for 381 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. USC had 193 rushing yards and two scores a week later. Colorado has allowed 233.9 rushing yards per game in Pac-12 play.
Utah has had its own share of struggles against the run. The Utes are allowing 175.8 yards on the ground against Pac-12 opponents. After yielding a season-high 347 yards against Oregon, however, Utah has shown steady improvement in November. The Utes have allowed 284 total rushing yards over their last three games.
One constant in this series is tight battles that come right down to the wire. The last six games between Utah and Colorado have been decided by a total of 32 points. There's no reason to think things will be different in 2017. The Utes need to find a way to bounce back mentally and emotionally after seeing a potential upset win over Washington slip out of their grasp. The Buffaloes have struggled to stop every Pac-12 opponent they've faced. It gives Utah good odds to close out the regular season on a high note.
Prediction: Utah 27, Colorado 24
— 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.