USA Today Sports

Know Your Foe Q&A: Utah Utes

To get more insight into the Buffaloes' next opponent, we caught up with Dan Sorensen of UteZone.com, which is part of the Scout.com network...

What is the mindset of this Utah team now that it is no longer in the Pac-12 South race?

Dan Sorensen: "Publicly, they're saying that they've moved on and the focus is on Colorado. Privately, they're seething. They had a golden opportunity slip through their fingers, and they know it. The big unknown is how they're going to react. Make no mistake, this is a talented Utah team on both sides of the ball. When they're focused, they can beat just about anyone in the country. So do they come out and play focused, with nothing to lose? Or do they come out with a half-hearted effort and sleepwalk through the game to get it over with? That's the big question. I personally believe we'll see a team with renewed focus that wants to play with pride and play a spoiler role. We'll see."

It appears the Utes' offense goes as running back Joe Williams goes... for Colorado fans that haven't seen Utah play a lot this season, can you break down the Utes' offense and their top playmakers on that side of the ball?

"Joe Williams has been a special back over the past six games. He hits the hole hard, runs through tackles, and has sub-4.3 speed, so when he gets into the open field, he's capable of running away from even the fastest defensive backs. In the passing game, Troy Williams has been much more effective at QB than Travis Wilson was a year ago. He's able to make some big throws, and plays especially well during crunch time. Tim Patrick is Utah's top receiver. He's tall, fast, and has the best hands on the team. He's been suffering with injuries throughout the season, but should be good to go for Colorado. Interestingly enough, Utah's best player on offense might be left tackle Garett Bolles. He's one of the most aggressive, nasty linemen I've seen come through the Pac-12, and it's fun to watch him blow up opposing defensive linemen. Those who love watching football in the trenches should pay attention to him."

What are the strengths and weaknesses of Utah's defense, and their top playmakers?

"Utah's defense has always been known for the quality of their defensive line play. This year is no different. Defensive end Hunter Dimick leads the FBS in sacks, with 15. Tackle Lowell Lotulelei is a sure-fire NFL talent and is a finalist for Polynesian POY (along with Sefo Liufau). Utah also boasts two of the top safeties in the Pac-12 with Marcus Williams, who some think could be the top safety in the NFL draft this year, and Chase Hansen - a hard hitting strong safety that has forced six turnovers. Utah is one of the best teams in the country at forcing turnovers, and they'll need to keep that pace up if they want to beat the Buffs. Their biggest weakness over the past couple of weeks has been tackling. Missed tackles were a big reason behin dwhy Oregon came back to beat them."

"Rumble in the Rockies" is a catchy name but it doesn't seem like there is much, if any, animosity between Utes and Buffs fans. In your opinion, will this ever develop into a true rivalry?

"No animosity yet. There just aren't that many obnoxious CU fans in proximity to Utah fans that inspire the hate - especially when so many BYU fans are more than happy to fill the role of the obnoxious rival fan (only one fan base is special enough to lose six straight times to an opponent yet not once concede that said opponent is better). I think as CU remains competitive and these games continue to have meaning on the Pac-12 South, the rivalry could develop into something special. But both teams need to be good, and they need to break each others' hearts a few times first. Personally, I like just about every Colorado fan I've met in person. You guys need to be more hate-able."

Do the Utes have any injuries of note for this Saturday's game?

"Utah treats injuries like a state secret. That said, other than the well-documented season ending injuries that Utah has been dealing with for weeks, most everybody should be relatively healthy - minus part time starting LB Cody Baton, who broke his collar bone against Oregon. The biggest question mark will be starting middle linebacker Sunia Tauteoli. He missed the Oregon game as a game time decision, and Utah suffered because of his absence. Utah's defense is much better when he plays."

Lastly, how do you see Saturday's game shaking out and what is your score prediction?

"Utah has a habit of playing close games this season, and I expect this one to be the same. In the end, turnover margin and special teams play will be the deciding factors - as they often are in a close game. At the end of the day, Utah has come up short too many times this season and I think the same will happen this week. I predict a Colorado win: 31-28."


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