The no.6 Utah Utes are just one win away from playing in their second straight Pac-12 Championship Game as they face the Colorado Buffaloes in the Rumble of the Rockies to close out the regular season. Game time is set for 7:30 EST on Saturday, November 30 at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City, Utah. The game will be broadcast nationally on ABC.
The latest betting odds for this game have Utah favored by 28.5 points at home. The over/under for the game is set at 49 points. Click here to check out a full list of this week’s college football betting odds.
Believe it or not, Utah is becoming a serious contender to sneak into the College Football Playoff. Of course, the Utes are yet to officially clinch the Pac-12 South Division. Since their only loss of the season came against USC, the Utes need to win their season finale against Colorado or else the Trojans will leapfrog them for the South Division crown. On the bright side, if Utah can take care of business against Colorado and then beat Oregon in the Pac-12 title game, they’ll have a strong case for finishing in the top-4. Some of it will depend on other results around the country, but right now, the Utes have a strong case for being in the CFP if they can win out.
In addition to trying to knock Utah out of the Pac-12 title game, the Buffaloes are playing for their bowl lives in this game. It’s been a trying season for Mel Tucker, who is in his first full season as a head coach. Not long ago, the Buffaloes had lost five straight games and looked dead in the water. But Colorado has stayed alive with back-to-back wins over Stanford and Washington to get them to 5-6 on the season. Unfortunately, the toughest game of the season comes at the end of Colorado’s schedule, as the Buffs need to beat Utah in order to become bowl eligible.
It’s been nice for both fanbases to see this rivalry reignited in 2011 when both schools moved to the Pac-12. Before 2011, the last Rumble of the Rockies came in 1962. Nearly 50 years later, the rivalry was renewed and is now a yearly occurrence. Since 2011, the Utes have won six of the eight head-to-head meetings with Colorado, including a 30-7 win in Boulder last year. The Buffs are now seeking their first win in Salt Lake City since the 2011 meeting.
While I appreciate how much Utah has dominated their opponents for most of the season, the line in this game is a little too high for my liking. If it were a few points lower, I could have entertained laying down the points. But I think Utah could be a little tight in this game, knowing what’s on the line. I also think Colorado is poised to make this a close game after getting some of their confidence back the past two weeks. I think Utah will win, but I like the Buffaloes to beat the spread.
The nicest thing I can say about the Colorado offense this season is that they’ve been consistently inconsistent. At times, they’ve been sharp, especially early in the season. At other times, however, they’ve looked like a shadow of the team we’ve seen the past couple of seasons. That being said, I have no doubt that the Buffs are more than capable of putting points on the board.
Admittedly, that won’t be easy against a Utah defense that’s giving up 11 points per game on the season and tends to beat up opposing teams up in the trenches. But the Colorado offense has the tools to give the Utes problems. Quarterback Steven Montez is closing in on the end of an impressive career. He’s seen it all during his time at Colorado, so he won’t be intimidated by the Utah defense.
More importantly, Montez has the skill players around him to create explosive plays. Alex Fontenot provides a functional running game while the Buffs possess a nice set of receivers, highlighted by Laviska Shenault Jr. and Tony Brown. Despite all of their ups and downs, the Colorado offensive line has yielded just 16 sacks this season. As long as Montez gets decent protection in the pocket, he’ll have a chance to push the ball downfield and let his receivers go to work.
Of course, the Buffs have a few more concerns on the defensive side of the ball. In fact, Colorado had given up at least 30 points in every game this year until the last two wins against Stanford and Washington. But the Buffs seem to have turned things around in those two games. Admittedly, the Stanford offense is subpar, but holding Washington to 14 points and under 250 total yards is no small feat. Remember, Tucker has been a defensive coordinator in both college and the NFL. He might finally be getting through to his team and may have a plan for how to slow down the Utah offense.
I’ll admit there’s some risk in this pick because Utah is more than capable of covering this spread. But the Utes would have only covered this spread in three of their eight Pac-12 games. With Colorado showing some promise the last two weeks and having a lot on the line in this game, I’m okay taking a chance on the Buffs keeping the game respectable and beating the spread, even if an upset win is unlikely.