Buffs Hope To Send Seniors Out On Positive Note
BOULDER — Colorado's seniors will close out their career Saturday on the end of a historic stretch.
When the Buffaloes (1-10 overall, 1-7 Pac-12) square off against No. 14 Utah in a 2 p.m. game at Folsom Field, it will be Colorado's fourth consecutive regular season game against a ranked opponent. The game follows matchups against No. 8 Oregon, No. 8 USC and No. 15 Washington.
The Buffs haven't seen a regular season stretch like that since 1973, when Eddie Crowder's Buffs faced No. 3 Oklahoma, No. 7 Missouri, No. 13 Nebraska and No. 18 Kansas in consecutive weeks.
Now, at the end of a difficult season, Colorado coach Mike Sanford said the Buffs' goal this week is to make sure CU's seniors have an opportunity to wrap up their careers on a positive note.
"It's important for us as a staff, an entire group of players, support staff, everybody, to rally behind these players and do everything in our power to make sure we're at our best," Sanford said Tuesday at his weekly press conference. "It's been a tough stretch, a daunting physical stretch … We're going to do everything we can to make sure we are the best that we can be out there on Saturday."
The Utes (8-3, 6-2) will arrive in Boulder still clinging to hopes — albeit slim — of a berth in the Pac-12 championship game. For that to happen, they would need a win over Colorado, an Oregon State win over Oregon, a Washington win over Washington State and a UCLA victory over Cal.
But even without the chance of a Pac-12 title game appearance, they still have plenty on the line, ranging from a better bowl appearance to keeping alive their chances for a 10-win season.
The Utes opened the year among the favorites for a College Football Playoff berth. But they took a hit early with an opening loss to Florida, lost in a shootout to UCLA and then last week dropped a narrow decision at Oregon.
Still, they are a team loaded with talent and experience on both sides of the ball. They provided USC with the Trojans' only blemish on their record thus far and have already clinched their eighth straight winning season and 15th overall out of 17 under head coach Kyle Whittingham's direction.
"Utah has been a model of continuity," Sanford said. "It's a testament of what building a program and sustaining a program looks like. They're physical, they're violent. They've cornered the market in the Pac-12 of physicality and we're excited for that challenge."
Another familiar story line for the Buffs this week will be facing another quality quarterback. This season, Colorado has faced eight quarterbacks currently ranked in the NCAA's top 50 in overall QB rating and Utah's Cam Rising will be the ninth.
Under Rising's direction, the Utes are averaging more than 37 points and 450 yards per game.
Defensively, the Utes are a "typical" Whittingham team. Utah is 24th in the nation in total defense (329.5 yards per game) and 24th in scoring defense (20 points per game).
FAMILY ATMOSPHERE: Colorado offensive lineman Tommy Brown, who transferred in from Alabama last spring, has one year of eligibility remaining. But he said he hasn't decided whether he will test the professional waters or return to CU for one more season.
But Brown said what he does know for sure is that Colorado's overall environment has been one he has quickly come to appreciate in his 10 months in Boulder.
"Every team is a family and every family has its issues," Brown said at Tuesday's press conference. "This team is no different, of course, but how close the players on this team are is insane. I was talking with Frank (Fillip) yesterday. There's multiple guys on this team that will be in my wedding. And I've been here for 10 months."
Brown has also made some national headlines via his underwear endorsement through a Name, Image and Likeness deal. He appeared in a photo shoot and the photos quickly became a hit on social media.
"It's been a blast," he said. "It's something fun … There's a lot of people watching college football so there's a lot of people who have seen me in my underwear."
LAST GAME FOR RUSSELL: Tight end Brady Russell is one of a handful of Buffs who have been on the roster since 2017. Originally a walkon, he earned a scholarship a year later and has been a stalwart for CU since then.
But as he prepares to make his last appearance in a CU uniform and play his last game in Folsom Field, he said he hasn't had time to really consider the implications.
"I haven't even thought once about it to be honest," he said. "It's weird. But yeah, it'll probably be after the season's over that it kind of hits me."
Russell and CU wide receiver Daniel Arias have been invited to participate in the postseason NFLPA all-star game.
"It means a lot," Russell said. "Definitely after the year I'm having. I felt like I've done some things well, but I haven't put up some of the numbers I was hoping to. So to get an opportunity, that's all I was hoping for."
Russell led the team in receiving last season with 25 catches for 307 yards. But he's been hampered by injuries this year and has just 16 receptions for 114 yards.