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BOULDER, CO - November 28, 2020: Mustafa Johnson (34), of CU, during the Colorado San Diego State game at Folsom Field in Boulder on November 28, 2020. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)
BOULDER, CO – November 28, 2020: Mustafa Johnson (34), of CU, during the Colorado San Diego State game at Folsom Field in Boulder on November 28, 2020. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)
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Buffaloes scouting report
Head coach: Karl Dorrell, 1st season (4-0; 39-27 career)
2020 record: 4-0, 3-0 Pac-12
Last week: Won at Arizona, 24-13

5 Players to Watch

  • RB Jarek Broussard, So.: Utah’s defense is stout against the run, but Broussard is second in the country in rushing. If Broussard can keep his streak of 100-yard games going, he’d be the first Buff to hit that mark against Utah since joining the Pac-12.
  • DT Mustafa Johnson, Sr.: CU’s defensive line, led by Johnson, has been solid all season and needs to be again – not only against the run but in putting pressure on the quarterback.
  • LB Nate Landman, Sr.: He has been exceptional this year and will need to be on his game for the Buffs to find success in stopping the Utah run game.
  • S Isaiah Lewis, Jr.: Could play a big role in CU being able to control Utah’s Brant Kuithe and Britain Covey in the passing game.
  • QB Sam Noyer, Sr.: After two great performances to start the season, Noyer has struggled the past two weeks. His ability to bounce back and get on track is key to CU’s success on offense.

CU offense: Suddenly this side of the ball has become fairly one-dimensional. QB Sam Noyer had a great first two games as a passer, but hasn’t delivered much through the air the past two weeks. During wins against San Diego State and Arizona, the Buffs had twice as many runs as passes and gained 70.2 percent of their yards on the ground. Last week, CU had four scoring drives that totaled 25 plays: 23 runs for 335 yards and two passes (one complete) for 12 yards. Dorrell and the Buffs would like to see more production in the passing game this week and moving forward.

CU defense: Two weeks in a row, the Buffs’ defense has led them to a win. The defense has allowed just one touchdown and 16 points in the last two games combined. They’ve been aggressive in putting pressure on the quarterback, while dominating the line of scrimmage. Last week, they were gashed a bit on big plays by Arizona’s run game – giving up 268 total yards on the ground – and will need to tighten that down this week against a strong Utah run game.

CU special teams: Evan Price is 5-for-6 on field goals, with the one miss being blocked. He’s also perfect on extra points. At punter, Josh Watts had his best game of the season at Arizona and seems to be hitting his stride. He’s averaging 40.0 yards per punt and has landed nine of 22 inside the 20. Punt returner Dimitri Stanley has increased his average to 8.3 yards per return and had a career-best 26-yard return last week.

CU keys to beating Utah
Run the ball on their terms: Led by Jarek Broussard and quarterback Sam Noyer, the Buffs are averaging 245.5 rushing yards per game, on pace for the program’s best average since 1994. Utah doesn’t give up much on the ground, but the Buffs need to find a way to win that battle.

Pressure the QB: Utah has given up just six sacks, but the opposition has made life uncomfortable at times for QB Jake Bentley, even if they don’t always get to him. Bentley has thrown four interceptions already and the Buffs can thrown him off his game with good pressure.

Ignore the hype: For the first time this season, the spotlight is shining on the Buffs. They’re now ranked, they’re in the Pac-12 title conversation. When that happened in 2016 and 2018, the Buffs lost. This team has to ignore the chatter and focus on playing its game.

Buffs notables

  • CU running back Jarek Broussard is aiming for a fifth consecutive 100-yard rushing performance, but it won’t be easy. Since joining the Pac-12, CU has never had a 100-yard rusher against Utah; Donta Abrams’ 84 yards in 2012 is the best in those games. The last Buff to hit 100 rushing yards against Utah was Bob Stransky in 1957 (162 yards).
  • CU senior KD Nixon has 96 catches for 1,169 yards in his career. He’s four catches away from becoming the 19th player in program history with 100. He’s also just 31 yards away from topping his position coach – Darrin Chiaverini – for 20th on the Buffs’ all-time list for receiving yards.
  • QB Sam Noyer is looking to become just the fifth CU quarterback since 1959 to win his first five career starts. The last to do it was Mike Moschetti in 1998.
  • The Buffs are looking for their first 4-0 start in conference play since 2002, when they started 4-0 in the Big 12.
  • Head coach Karl Dorrell coached against Utah twice when he was the head coach at UCLA from 2003-07, going 1-1.
  • Buffs linebacker Nate Landman ranks 13th in school history with 331 tackles. He needs eight more to pass Thaddaeus Washington (2003-06) and get into the top 10.

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Utes scouting report
Head coach: Kyle Whittingham, 16th season (132-66)
2020 Record: 1-2, 1-2 in Pac-12
Last week: Defeated Oregon State, 30-24, at home

5 Players to Watch

  • WR Britain Covey, Jr.: Finally healthy, Covey caught a touchdown pass and returned a punt for a score last week.
  • S Vonte Davis, Sr.: He’s been solid in the back of the defense, with 11 tackles and two interceptions this season.
  • RB Ty Jordan, Fr.: Had his first career 100-yard game last week (167 yards), as well as his first touchdown, but he’s led the Utes’ ground game all season.
  • TE Brant Kuithe, Jr.: The most targeted player, by far, in the passing game, he’s caught 16 passes for 122 yards. He had three TDs against the Buffs last year, including one on a 15-yard run.
  • LB Devin Lloyd, Jr.: The leader of the Utes’ defense, he’s got 29 tackles, five tackles for loss and a sack this season.

Utah offense: This is not an explosive offense, but the Utes have some dangerous weapons and they can wear down a defense with the run game. Freshman running back Ty Jordan is just 5-foot-7, but he runs hard between the tackles and is averaging 6.7 yards per carry. When QB Jake Bentley puts the ball in the air, he often looks at tight end Brant Kuithe, who has been targeted on a third of Utah’s passes. Bryan Thompson has been a deep threat, though, and the Utes finally have Britain Covey back after a hamstring injury. The 5-8 Covey caught four passes for 54 yards and a touchdown last week.

Utah defense: The Utes are typically the toughest team in the Pac-12 against the run, and that’s been the case so far this year. Utah has led the conference in rushing defense four of the previous five seasons (third in 2017) and is first again, allowing just 104.67 yards per game and 3.57 per carry. Linebackers Devin Lloyd and Nephi Sewell have been exceptional this season. On the line, Mika Tafua and Viane Maola have been stout against the run and provided pressure on the quarterback. Safety Vonte Davis has played well, but in general, the Utes have been vulnerable against the pass. They’ve also been opportunistic, with five interceptions.

Utah special teams: Usually a strength for the Utes, this phase has been solid once again. Sophomore kicker Jadon Redding has been perfect this season (4-for-4 on field goals, 8-for-8 on extra points) and has missed just three field goals during his career to this point. Punter Ben Lennon has landed four of 10 punts inside the 20 and only two have been returned – for 1 yard. Punt returner Britain Covey had a 64-yard touchdown against Oregon State last week.

Utah keys to beating CU
Protect the ball: The Utes had nine turnovers in their first two games, which played a significant role in losing those games. Last week against Oregon State, the Utes didn’t have any turnovers and had a solid night offensively.

Stop the run: Utah has the best run defense in the Pac-12 are rarely give up much on the ground. Since the start of the 2019 season, the Utes have had held 13 of 17 opponents under 100 yards rushing. In the last two meetings combined, the Buffs have rushed for 94 yards on 65 carries (1.44 per carry).

Rattle Noyer: CU quarterback Sam Noyer is a senior, but a first-year starter who has struggled a bit the past two games and made some bad decisions with passes. If the Utes can put pressure on him and disguise their coverages well, they can make him uncomfortable.

Utes notables

  • While there may not be a bowl game for Utah to play in this year, the Utes can still achieve bowl eligibility with a win against the Buffs and next week against an opponent to be determined.
  • The Utes have dominated the Buffs the last three years, winning all three by a combined score of 109-35.
  • Whittingham, who played for the USFL’s Denver Gold in 1983, has enjoyed great success against teams from the Centennial State, going 19-4 (7-2 vs. CU, 6-1 vs. Colorado State, 5-1 vs. Air Force, 1-0 vs. Northern Colorado).
  • QB Jake Bentley is ninth nationally among active FBS quarterbacks with 8,016 career passing yards. Of those, 7,527 came during his time at South Carolina. He’s thrown for 489 yards in three games with the Utes.
  • Receiver Britain Covey led Utah in receiving as a freshman in 2015 and again in 2018. In between, he served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He redshirted last year could still play two more seasons after this one.

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