In the pass-happy Pac-12 Conference, Colorado's defense is used to seeing top-notch quarterbacks.

Andrew Luck. Matt Barkley. Nick Foles. All of them might wind up as first-round NFL Draft choices next spring.

This week, the Buffs (2-10, 1-7 Pac-12) have to tangle with one of the Pac-12's best running backs.

Utah's John White leads the conference -- and ranks fifth nationally -- with 1,377 yards. He figures to be one CU's toughest challenges on the ground during Friday's game in Salt Lake City.

"He's a tough runner and he keeps his feet going," CU linebacker Jon Major said. "He's one of those guys that always falls forward and that's not really coachable. A lot of credit to him.

"Rushing is their bread and butter. We've got to stop the run."

The Utes (7-4, 4-4) are relying on the run more than they did early in the year, or in past years. Plenty was expected from junior quarterback Jordan Wynn, but he injured his shoulder during the fourth game of the season.

White averaged 18.8 carries per game with Wynn under center. Since then, with Jon Hays at quarterback, White is getting 29.3 carries per game. During Utah's current four-game win streak, White has averaged 166.8 yards on 34.3 carries, and he had 42 carries -- more than any FBS runner this season -- in last week's win at Washington State.

"We're more run heavy," White said. "Every team knows that. We're not going to even hide it. We're a hard-nosed team that likes to get after it."

A junior college transfer, White is making history in his first season as a Ute. He needs 131 yards -- a mark he's topped six times already -- to break Carl Monroe's single-season school record of 1,507, set in 1982.

"It's been a lot of fun," White said. "I never expected all of this, but I'm going to ride with it. I've had the opportunity to do a lot of things that a lot of running backs haven't done that have come through here.

"(The rushing record) would mean a lot for me and my O-line, the offense and just the team itself."

The Buffs, of course, hope to prevent that record from being broken against them. The Utes are 7-0 when White tops the 100-yard mark, and 0-4 when he's held to double digits.

"That's a lot of how football works," CU outside linebacker David Goldberg said. "On defense, if you stop the run you keep the offense one-dimensional and keep them off the field a lot and you do a lot of things to make them limit their playbook. It all starts with stopping the run, for sure."

Utah running back John White leads the Pac-12 in rushing.
Utah running back John White leads the Pac-12 in rushing. ( Dean Hare )

The 5-foot-8, 186-pound White is similar in size to CU running back Rodney Stewart, although Major said White is "a little more thick and a little more downhill."

Stewart may be quicker, Major and Goldberg said, but White will be a tough challenge. And, White expects CU to focus on him.

"They're going to come in just ready to play," he said of the Buffs. "They're going to come in playing hard. They said they're going to stop their (23-game road) losing streak, so I plan on their guys going with a full head of steam and getting after it."

Notable

On Monday night, tight end Austin Ray, a high school senior in Columbia, Mo., gave a verbal commitment to the Buffs. A three-star recruit, Ray had originally committed to Mississippi. He is the 14th player to commit to CU in this class. ... Senior safety Anthony Perkins, who has missed the past four games with an ankle injury, is practicing as he tries to come back for his final game. "He's moving around good, so I hope he does (come back)," CU coach Jon Embree said. "I hope he can play because I know for him being able to go out on his own terms would be good." ... Former CU quarterback Joel Klatt will provide color commentary on the television broadcast of Friday's game. The game will be carried on Versus.

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