Utah Utes (8-3 SU, 6-5 ATS) vs. Colorado Buffaloes (9-2 SU, 10-1 ATS)
College Football Week 13
Date/Time: Saturday, November 26, 2016 at 7:30PM EST
Where: Folsom Field, Boulder, Colorado
By Loot, NCAA Football Handicapper, Lootmeister.com
Betting Odds: UTAH +10.5/COLO -10.5
Over/Under Total: 53
In a big Pac-12 matchup, the Utah Utes come to Boulder to face the Colorado Rockies on Saturday. The stakes are high, especially for Colorado. If they win, they will cap off an incredible season and win the Pac-12 South after being picked by many to be last in the division. On Saturday, they were able to win a game that lets them control their destiny heading into the final regular season game. Utah fell to Oregon on Saturday when a TD throw with two seconds left lifted the Ducks to victory. Colorado stayed on the right track on Saturday with a 38-24 win over Washington State, handing the Cougars their first conference defeat.
The Buffaloes have been the nation's biggest over-achiever this season, as evidenced by their 10-1 ATS record. A team that could barely buy a win in conference since joining the Pac-12 and was considered one of the weakest programs in the Power Five conferences has put together a run of big Pac-12 wins that has them on the precipice of big things. Against a ranked Washington State team on Saturday, it was a back-and-forth battle for nearly three quarters. Down 24-21 in the second half, Colorado scored three straight times to pull away for the win.
On Saturday, senior Buffaloes quarterback Sefo Liufau was banged up some, but still threw for 345 yards. He has braved through injuries and innumerable hits this season, with his single-minded devotion and commitment to the program being an instrumental part of Colorado's success. Liufau chipped in with three rushing scores on 108 yards rushing. But late, it was RB Phillip Lindsay who shined brightest, running for 144 yards and a pair of scores. Through the air, it was Devin Ross and the coach's son Jay McIntyre who led the way with 121 and 90 yards, respectively.
The Buffaloes offer a balanced offense that can shine both on the ground and through the air. There is a lot of experience on this team, with a lot of standout players having gone through tough times to get to this spot. In addition to the individual pieces of the team and what they do well or not so well is their character. For a team to so massively buck the odds and get the better of so many more-fancied programs while losing only once in conference by 4 points to USC is truly remarkable.
The Buffaloes defense offers the same kind of balance that is seen on the other side of the ball. They have been resolute against both the pass and the run, while being 13th in the nation in points allowed with just 18.5 a game. They get after the quarterback, led by Jimmie Gilbert and his nine sacks. They can make plays in the secondary with Tedric Thompson picking off 4 passes, among the 20 turnovers this defense has registered this season.
Utah was supposed to beat Oregon. Sure, the Ducks are a dangerous team, but they were 3-7 for a reason. And for it to happen with two seconds left in the game made it extra upsetting. At the end of the day, it was the Ducks' rushing attack that got them in position to strike last with the winning score. But Utah can end their regular season and position themselves better for a big bowl game by ruining things for the Buffaloes.
Utah is a resourceful bunch. Their passing attack lags some behind the run. Running back Joe Williams is over 1000 yards with most of that coming in the last six games. Quarterback Troy Williams has been efficient, making good use of a powerful run-game, while working the pass game with useful weapons like Tim Patrick, Raelon Singleton, and others. While they didn't necessarily show it with 28 points against an Oregon defense that has been awful this season, it's an offense that can get some business done. It was just upsetting to see it fall short at such a critical part of the season at home against a 3-win Ducks bunch.
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The Utah defense wasn't able to close the show on Saturday, while they were readily exploitable against the run, which is considered the strongest part of their defense. They got after the quarterback, as the nation's sack-leader Hunter Dimick added two more sacks, giving him 14 on the season. Pita Taumoepenu has 7 sacks. They have a secondary that can be leaky, but at least makes plays with Brian Allen and Marcus Williams each pulling down four picks. While not one of the better defenses in the conference, they rush the passer, make plays, and can even score. Again, not a lot of that was in evidence in Saturday's costly loss.
At this point in the season, it's easy to misgauge a team's true level and source for motivation. To just blindly take Colorado here on the basis of them needing it more could send us down the wrong course. Utah is not going to phone this in and Colorado's urgency won't necessarily result in a better game plan or better execution. At the same time, after everything it took for Colorado to get here, it's hard to imagine them falling apart now. Still, with a better-than 10 point cushion, I like the Utes this week.
Loot's Prediction to Cover the Point Spread: I'm betting on the Utah Utes plus 10.5 points. Tired of your credit card not working for sportsbook deposit? End that problem today by signing up and betting the Utes vs. Buffaloes at Bovada Sportsbook where your credit card WILL work and where you'll receive a generous 100% sign-up bonus!