Utah-Colorado Preview

Utah is stumbling down the stretch but figures to go into its bowl game on a high note.

That’s because the Utes will be visiting one of the worst teams in college football Saturday when they try to send Colorado into the offseason on an eight-game slide.

Utah (7-4, 4-4 Pac-12), which is No. 25 in the College Football Playoff rankings, has lost three of four to drop out of contention for the South Division crown. The Utes were blown out 42-10 by then-No. 15 Arizona last Saturday and fell out of the AP Top 25 a day later.

"I think it’s safe to say our poorest performance of the year overall and most disappointing to me personally," coach Kyle Whittingham said. "It just didn’t feel like for the first time this season we came out with the passion and the energy that we usually have."

The coach allowed Conner Manning to finish up in relief of Travis Wilson, who was 16 of 29 for 143 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. Manning went 2 for 6 for 28 yards with one interception.

Whittingham said there will be an open competition this week to determine the starter.

"Travis is the starter but we’ve got to make sure that we get the guy out there that gives us the best chance to win," Whittingham said. "That’ll be predicated on practice this week."

Utah’s rush defense has been porous during this four-game stretch. The Utes have allowed 996 yards on the ground, including 298 by the Wildcats for a season high by an opponent.

They are yielding 161.9 rushing yards per contest for the Pac-12’s third-worst mark. Colorado (2-9, 0-8) ranks last at 211.8.

Utah will probably want to emphasize running back Devontae Booker, who is second in the conference with 114.1 yards per game after a 142-yard effort last weekend.

"He’s athletic, he’s strong, he’s powerful, he’s run on everybody in our league well," Buffaloes coach Mike MacIntyre said. "We have to be able to tackle him well, tackle him low, especially when he gets into the secondary, we have to minimize his long runs."

MacIntyre switched quarterbacks last Saturday, giving Jordan Gehrke his first career start instead of Sefo Liufau in a 44-10 loss at No. 3 Oregon. Gehrke was 9 of 18 for 64 yards while Liufau was 7 for 14 for 41 with a TD.

It is not clear who will start this weekend.

"I thought that both players handled everything maturely," MacIntyre said. "I thought that was excellent on how they handled it."

The Buffaloes have lost 31 of 35 Pac-12 games since joining the conference in 2011.

This series has been closely contested in Pac-12 play. Colorado won 17-14 at Utah in 2011 before the Utes won by seven points each of the last two years, though Whittingham fell short of calling this matchup a rivalry.

"It’s my own opinion that a rivalry has to develop on its own, I don’t know if you can force it to happen," Whittingham said. "Proximity-wise, it’s certainly the closest Pac-12 school to us geographically. But a rivalry to me signifies some bad blood or something like that, something that’s transpired."