Utah coach Kyle Whittingham.
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. ( Reed Saxon )

In the 27 months since Colorado and Utah began playing in the Pac-12 Conference, both programs have seen a lot of positives in their new home.

One of the drawbacks of the conference realignment, however, is that the final week of the football regular season just doesn't have the zest it used to have for these two teams.

From the early 1980s through 2010, Colorado always knew its No. 1 rivalry was with Nebraska. During the last 15 years of that rivalry, fans of both teams knew how their regular season would end -- facing each other on the Friday after Thanksgiving. During that entire run, the game was a fixture on ABC-TV's national coverage.

With only four exceptions, Utah ended every regular season from 1979 to 2010 by facing its bitter rival, Brigham Young University, in the final weekend of the regular season.

Times have changed, however, and on Saturday, Colorado (4-7, 1-7 Pac-12) will visit Utah (4-7, 1-7) in the regular season finale for both teams. They're playing at noon and on the Pac-12 Network, which isn't available to a lot of fans.

"Maybe a little bit," Utah Kyle Whittingham said on Monday during his weekly press conference when asked if the Utes consider CU a rival. "It doesn't have the real flavor of that completely."

In 2011, when Colorado left the Big 12 and Utah left the Mountain West, they were slotted in as rivals -- sort of like an arranged marriage. It was convenient, but to this point, there's not a lot of substance to it.

First off, there's not much history to lean on. The schools do have a history that dates to 1903, and they played almost annually from 1903-1962. But, considering they didn't meet on the football field at all from 1963-2010, it's not quite on par with the other Pac-12 rivalries.

This week's Pac-12 schedule includes long-standing rivalries such as:

Oregon and Oregon State in the Civil War (series began in 1894)

Arizona and Arizona State for the Territorial Cup, believed to be the oldest trophy in college football (series began in 1899)

Washington and Washington State for the Apple Cup (series started in 1900)

And UCLA and Southern Cal vying for the Victory Bell, a series that started in 1929.

Stanford and California played last week in The Big Game, an annual rivalry that began in 1892.

"It's starting to become ... with the game position at the end of the season and where it is geographically -- I think that's maybe the beginnings of one," Whittingham said of the CU-Utah game. "I wouldn't say it's a full-on rivalry, though. Not at this point in time."

So far, the series has lacked incentive, too.

Generally, the CU-Nebraska had something on the line -- whether it was bowl eligibility for one team or another, a spot in a conference title game, or even a spot in the national title game. At least one of the two went to a bowl game every year from 1996-2010. In most cases, both went bowling.

The same was true for BYU and Utah. From 1998-2010, there were only two seasons when both teams missed out on bowls (in 2000 and 2002).

This year will mark the second consecutive season in which CU and Utah are both headed home regardless of the outcome.

"Seniors' last game at Rice-Eccles Stadium, and that's the objective now, to send the seniors out on a positive at home in their final game," said Whittingham, whose team is riding a five-game losing streak.

The CU-Utah "rivalry" does have one thing going for it, though. So far, the teams have played competitive, down-to-the-wire games.

In 2011, CU went into Salt Lake City and stunned the Utes with a 17-14 victory. Utah missed two fourth quarter field goal attempts, including one with 3 seconds to go.

A year ago, the Utes came into Boulder and stole a 42-35 victory. CU tied the game on a 100-yard kickoff return for touchdown by Marques Mosley midway through the fourth quarter. But, Utah's Reggie Dunn matched that with a 100-yard kickoff return for touchdown 13 seconds later, providing the winning score.

Saturday's game at Rice-Eccles Stadium could turn out to be just as dramatic. But, in the end, it's really just another game.

In fact, it was telling that in a nearly 15-minute press conference on Monday, Whittingham was asked just one question about Colorado.

Contact staff writer Brian Howell at howellb@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/BrianHowell33.