Utah Utes scouting report
Head coach: Kyle Whittingham, 18th season (152-73)
This season: 8-3, 6-2 Pac-12
Rankings: No. 14 (CFP, Associated Press, Coaches)
Last week: Lost at No. 9 Oregon, 20-17
5 Players to Watch
• TE Dalton Kincaid: One of the most dangerous tight ends in the Pac-12, he leads Utah in catches (61), receiving yards (748) and receiving touchdowns (seven).
• CB Clark Phillips III: Among the best corners in the country, he’s tied for the national lead in interceptions, with six – and he’s returned two of them for touchdowns. Phillips also has 23 tackles and five pass breakups.
• LB Karene Reid: The sophomore has 61 tackles and is one of Utah’s leaders in tackles for loss (seven) and sacks (three). He’s had just one shared TFL in the last three games combined, however.
• QB Cameron Rising: Veteran is having another great season, completing 65% of his passes (202-of-311) for 2,395 yards, 19 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He has also rushed for 378 yards and six touchdowns.
• RB Tavion Thomas: Utes’ top rusher has 687 yards and seven touchdowns, averaging 4.8 yards per carry. In his two seasons at Utah, he’s rushed for 1,795 yards and 28 touchdowns. He had 142 yards and a touchdown against CU a year ago.
Despite dealing with a series of injuries, including losing star tight end Brent Kuithe to a season-ending injury in September, the Utes are dangerous offensively. They rank 16th nationally in scoring (37.3 points per game) and 25th in yards (450.0 per game). They’re also one of the best in the country at converting on third down (51.0%, seventh). The Utes have been balanced in their attack, with 2,693 passing yards and 2,257 on the ground. The offense is led by QB Cameron Rising, but it’s the ability to run the ball that drives the Utes.
After losing the 2021 Pac-12 defensive player of the year (Devin Lloyd) to graduation, the Utes have actually put up better numbers defensively this year. They rank 24th nationally in both points allowed (20.0 per game) and yards allowed (329.5 per game). They are also 10th in takeaways, with 22. Utah has been particularly good against the run, holding five of 11 opponents to less than 60 yards on the ground – including three times in the last four games.
Utah special teams
The Utes have used two different kickers this year, but Jadon Redding (2-for-4 FGs, 21-for-21 PAT) has handled most the duties recently. Jordan Noyes (6-for-8 FGs, 31-for-31 PAT) has also been used. Together, they’ve made just three of their last seven field goal attempts. Punter Jack Bouwmeester averages just 38.7 yards, but 18 of his 29 punts have been fair caught and 11 have landed inside the 20-yard line. Devaughn Vele has had a good season a punt returner (10.3-yard average).
How Utah can win
Run the ball, stop the run and avoid big mistakes. The Utes win the line of scrimmage against most teams and they’ve got a significant advantage over the Buffs, at least on paper, in that regard. As long as they play their game and avoid turnovers and mistakes, the Utes can coast out of Boulder with a win.
• Tied for third in the Pac-12, Utah came into the weekend with a shot to reach the conference title game. In addition to beating CU, Utah needs Oregon State to beat Oregon and Washington to beat Washington State. The Utes also needed UCLA to beat California on Friday, and the Bruins took care of business with a 35-28 win.
• Since CU and Utah joined the Pac-12 together in 2011, the Utes are 9-2 against the Buffs, including wins in the last five meetings. Utah has defeated CU more than any other Pac-12 opponent since 2011.
• Cameron Rising took over as the Utes’ starting quarterback in Game 4 of the 2021 season. The Utes are 16-5 with him as the starter, with three of those losses by three points.
• Utah has won nine straight against unranked opponents and is 11-1 against unranked opponents since the start of the 2021 season. The only loss in that stretch was at Oregon State in game No. 7 of the 2021 season.
• Since a 43-42 win against USC on Oct. 15, the Utes have held their last four opponents to 20 points or less (15.3 per game).