Game at a Glance
Matchup: No. 21 Utah Utes (7-3, 5-3 Pac-12) at Colorado Buffaloes (5-5, 2-5 Pac-12)
Kickoff: 11:31 a.m. MT
Where: Folsom Field in Boulder. Capacity: 50,183. Turf: Grass.
TV: Pac-12 Networks
Radio: KOA (850 AM & 94.1 FM)
Odds: Utah by 7
Coaches: Colorado — Mike MacIntyre, 6th season (30-43; 46-64 career); Utah — Kyle Whittingham, 14th season (118-59).
Series: Colorado leads 32-29-3, including 17-12-1 in Boulder
When he woke up on Tuesday morning, Colorado quarterback Steven Montez already had plenty to worry about.
"I was thinking about Utah and what they were doing on defense," he said.
Surely, he and the rest of the Buffaloes also woke up thinking about the future of their head coach and how that might impact them in future years, as well. A report surfaced late Monday that CU and head coach Mike MacIntyre would part ways at the end of the season.
CU and MacIntyre have refuted the report, but the uncertainty remains.
Montez's response, however, was a reminder that the Buffaloes have a more pressing matter to tend to this week. On Saturday, the Buffs (5-5, 2-5 Pac-12) host No. 21 Utah (7-3, 5-3) at Folsom Field and take aim, yet again, at bowl eligibility.
"We are going to go out there on Saturday and try to play our best football regardless of the situation," Montez said.
CU is in this position because it hasn't played its best football. The Buffs are riding a five-game losing streak and are in danger of missing out on the postseason once again.
Throughout the losing streak, the Buffs have lost sight of the path that got them to 5-0 and a top-20 ranking in early October.
A trademark of the Buffs during the first five games was their ability to slam the door with a lead. In those games, they outscored the opposition 88-37 in the second half, including 23-6 in the fourth quarter.
During the last five games, however, CU has been unable to seal the deal. The Buffs have had leads in each of the last five games, but have been routed in the second half to the tune of 95-33. In the fourth quarter (and overtime) of those games, they've been outscored 62-16, and have just three points in the last four fourth quarters combined.
"I know football is a crazy game," Montez said. "This season has been a little crazy too, but I think what we have to do is get back to playing Colorado football. That is what we were doing in the beginning of the season against Nebraska and against (Colorado State) and against and all of those teams we were playing."
Montez described "Colorado football" as "tough, physical football."
Early in the year, Colorado football also included an offense that was sometimes explosive, putting up 37.8 points per game. The last five weeks: 21.6 per game.
"We have to play better and I have to do a better job, our coaches have to do a better job," said co-offensive coordinator/receivers coach Darrin Chiaverini, who is in his first year as the Buffs' play caller. "We're all in it together. It's players and coaches and when the plays are there to be made, we have to make them.
"We have a good football team and we're in the middle of some struggles and we have to fight our way out of it. The only way you get better is to fight your way out of it. You can't give in, you can't point fingers; you have to circle the wagons and you have to go out there and compete. It's competition at the highest level and we have to go out there and compete on Saturday."
When the Buffs take the field, much of the outside focus will be on MacIntyre, but Montez and other players said that won't be on their minds after kickoff. There will be a time for the players to concern themselves with the fate of the coaching staff, but that time will not be on Saturday afternoon.
"We are locked in and are ready to go for Saturday and for Utah to come down here to Folsom," Montez said. "At the end of the day, we're here to play football. We're not here to worry about all of the stuff that is going on above our head. I am sure everyone is going to do their job and everything is going to be great at the end of the day.
"We're here to play the game, so that is what we focus on."