Video: 2013 Rumble in the Rockies preview
Saturday's Colorado at Utah matchup features two teams fighting for the same thing: ending their season with a win over their Rocky Mountain rival. Neither program is battling for Pac-12 South supremacy this year, but season win-loss records become irrelevant when the Buffaloes and Utes square off against each other. While Kyle Whittingham and Co. earned the 42-35 victory in 2012, a Buffs team that finished the season 1-11 helped further reignite the historic series by giving the favored Utes all they could handle.
Series History: While the CU-Utah rivalry is not the oldest or most continuous in the Pac-12, it's been the most competitive. Saturday's game at Rice-Eccles Stadium will mark the 60th time these two teams have met on the gridiron dating back to 1903. The Buffaloes won that initial meeting, shutting out the Utes in Salt Lake City 22-0. With the exception of 1909, the two teams would meet every season for the next 55 years. But after back-to-back games in 1961-62, the rivalry went quiet with Colorado playing in the Big Eight Conference and Utah in the Western Athletic Conference. It wasn't until 2011 when both schools entered the Pac-12 that the series was officially renewed with the Buffs and Utes alternating wins the last two years. CU holds the all-time series lead over its Utah neighbors at 31-25-3.
Memorable Moment: The modern restart of this rivalry is still gaining momentum, so we had to open up the archives to find this rivalry's high-water mark. Arguably the most significant game in the CU-Utah rivalry came in 1961, the second-to-last season the game was held before a nearly 50-year hiatus. Utah traveled to Boulder to take on the undefeated and eighth-ranked Buffaloes. After allowing Colorado to score the first touchdown of the game, the Utes dominated the next three quarters and sealed a surprising 21-12 upset win. The Buffs would overcome the loss and eventually head to the Orange Bowl that season, but the game likely cost them a shot at sharing the national championship and is still regarded as one of Utah's all-time greatest road wins.
Three players to watch for: Colorado
1. Sefo Liufau – The true freshman has been solid since taking over the quarterback position from Connor Wood in week 7. In that time he's thrown for over 1,538 yards and 10 touchdowns, and has become the Buffs' fourth-leading rusher. Liufau helped guide Colorado to its only conference season win off the year over California on Nov. 16 by completing 23-of-36 passes for a season-high 364 yards. Getting Liufau to connect with our second player to watch will be key to CU's success in Salt Lake City.
2. Paul Richardson – It's been a season-long highlight reel for the junior wide receiver. His success this year has led to a big question for Richardson: stay at Colorado or enter the NFL draft. But before that, he has one more game against Utah. Richardson overcame an ACL injury in 2012 to score two long touchdowns in the season opener and hasn't slown down since. He's had his best statistical year in Boulder with 79 receptions for 1,289 yards and 10 touchdowns. With an average of 16.3 yards per game, the receiver will be key in keeping the Buffs' offense moving.
3. Michael Adkins II – Another first-year player making an impact in Boulder, the freshman running back has become CU's second-leading rusher this season. He's gotten into the end zone six times on 93 carries for 497 rushing yards. Adkins' breakout game came against Charleston Southern when he notched his first 100-plus-yard game (137) and he's even added a receiving touchdown this season, coming Nov. 16 against Cal. Mike MacIntyre will count on Adkins and his versatility to cause problems for the Utes' defense.
Three players to watch for: Utah
1. Adam Schulz – The premature end to Travis Wilson's season following the discovery of a previously undiagnosed head injury threw Utah into some momentary chaos earlier this month, but that challenge hasn't fazed Schulz. In two starts over the last two weeks against Oregon and Washington State, the sophomore has thrown for 528 yards and four touchdowns. The Utes are winless in those two games, but the former walk-on's performance has some asking is Schulz Utah's future quarterback.
2. Dres Anderson – The junior receiver is Utah's biggest offensive threat heading into the Rumble in the Rockies. He leads the team in most major receiving statistics, including catches (46), yards (908), average yards per game (19.7) and, most importantly, touchdowns (7). Anderson needs 92 more yards against Colorado to become just the seventh Utah receiver to tally 1,000 yards in a season.
3. Trevor Reilly – The game against CU will be redshirt senior Trevor Reilly's last stand. The defensive captain and linebacker has been a mainstay of Utah's defense during the last four years. He leads the team in most defensive categories, including 86 total tackles, 52 solo tackles, 15 tackles for loss totaling 67 yards and 8.5 sacks totaling 58 yards, to name a few. Utes fans are hoping Reilly can add to those numbers by disrupting Sefo Liufau and the Buffs' passing attack this Saturday.