Seemingly everybody outside of the Colorado locker room is patting the Buffaloes on the back for a great season and for finally turning around a program that has been in the dumps for a decade.

The message from the Buffs continues to be the same however: They aren't done yet.

"To me, we've just won a bunch of games," senior center Alex Kelley said. "It's cool, but that's not our ultimate goal. We still have a lot of work to do ahead of us."

No. 9 in the College Football Playoff rankings, and the Associated Press and Amway Coaches polls, the Buffs (9-2, 7-1 Pac-12) will face No. 21 Utah (8-3, 5-3) on Saturday at Folsom Field.

With a win, the Buffs will claim the Pac-12 South championship, which would be their first division title since winning the Big 12 North in 2005.

There's too much at stake — and too good of an opponent coming to town — to celebrate now.

"We look at going 1-0 each week. That's what we've been about all year," cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon said. "It makes it very easy to be successful each week when you just focus on that individual game; not the accolades, not what you're going to accomplish. But, just going out and doing what we've done all year to be successful.

"When those accomplishments come, and the game is over, we definitely enjoy and appreciate it."

To win the South, the Buffs have to find a way to beat Utah, which has won four straight in the series.


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While the Utes were hit with a surprising loss to Oregon last week, knocking them out of contention for the South, the Buffs are well aware of the challenge ahead of them.

"I'm preparing for how they've played in the past and they're usually one of the more physical (defensive) fronts we face," Kelley said. "They're a super-physical front."

Same goes for the Utah offensive line, which has helped the Utes rush for 213.4 yards per game, second-best in the Pac-12.

Leading that charge is Joe Williams, a senior running back, who retired two games into the season. After sitting out the next four contests, he returned and has been a man on mission. In his five games back, he's rushed for 1,013 yards and nine touchdowns.

"Joe Williams is running lights out," head coach Mike MacIntyre said.

Every year, the Buff and Utes have played tough, physical, close games. CU expects the same this week.

"We'll battle it out like we always do," quarterback Sefo Liufau said.

Liufau honored

On Tuesday, Liufau was named a finalist for the Polynesian College Football Player of the Year award.

Liufau, who has Samoan ancestry, was one of five finalists selected from a watch list that included 40 players.

"It's a blessing and I'm very honored to be recognized as one of the top Polynesian players in the nation," Liufau said. "I take a lot of pride in it, so I'm very thankful for the honor and to be recognized."

The other finalists: Louisville tight end Cole Hikutini, Utah defensive tackle Lowell Lotulelei, BYU safety Kai Nacua and USC receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster.

The player of the year will be announced on Dec. 8 and honored during the Polynesian Football Hall of Fame enshrinement Jan. 20-21 in Oahu, Hawai'i.

Expected sellout

On Tuesday afternoon, CU had less than 1,000 tickets remaining for Saturday's game, and the school expects to get those sold today or Thursday.

CU has not sold out of tickets since Oct. 4, 2008, when Texas — ranked No. 5 at the time — came to Boulder. At that time, CU was coming off an appearance in the 2007 Independence Bowl and started the 2008 season at 3-1.

That game against Texas is the only one that has sold out in the last 11 seasons.

Brian Howell: howellb@dailycamera.com, on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.