SALT LAKE CITY (AP) There is no rivalry between Utah and Colorado. Neither team is ranked, the Buffalos are out of the bowl picture and the Utes are out of Pac-12 championship contention. There's little on the line in the regular-season finale for the two programs.
That leaves both with an eye on the future while trying to end 2015 on a high note.
The season crashed for Utah (8-3, 5-3) after being ranked No. 3 in the country and being in the College Football Playoff discussion just over a month ago. The Utes have lost three of five and are destined for a middle-of-the-road bowl game. A victory, however, would give the program its most wins in conference play since joining the league in 2011. A win would also give Utah a tie for the best record in the Pac-12 South - though UCLA (8-3, 5-3) and USC (7-4, 5-3) hold the tiebreaker to advance to the conference title game.
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham called it ''incremental growth.''
Whittingham said the next step for his program is improving depth. The Utes have had 10 starters miss time since a 6-0 start.
''We feel we are further ahead than we've ever been before, but we still have to continue to recruit,'' Whittingham said. ''With the physicality of this league you get to your 2's and 3's real quickly, so they better be very good.''
Colorado (4-8, 1-7) has not had the same success since also joining the Pac-12 in 2011. The Buffaloes have five total conference wins in five seasons and haven't had an overall winning record since 2005.
The Buffalos have, at least, been much more competitive in 2015.
''When I first got here we were getting blown out,'' Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre said. ''Last year, we played some close games and then this year we were leading a bunch of teams at halftime and the fourth quarter. Teams that had beaten us like a drum the four previous years. That's very frustrating, that we've improved that much, but didn't finish in some of those games.''
MacIntyre said they only played about six seniors a significant amount of time, so there's hope that 2015 can be the springboard into being more than just competitive next season.
Things to watch when Utah hosts Colorado:
NEWBIES: The Utes are without the centerpiece of their offense, running back Devontae Booker, and top receiver Britain Covey. Booker had surgery to repair a torn meniscus and Covey suffered an undisclosed leg injury against UCLA. Junior Joe Williams takes over at running back and Whittingham said junior Delshawn McClellon will have an increased role at slot receiver, though Bubba Poole is listed as the No. 1 on the depth chart. Williams had 121 yards on 26 carries against UCLA. McClellon has one catch this year and eight total in three years.
GALLOPING TRAVIS: Travis Wilson ran the ball a career-high 18 times in the loss to UCLA. Whittingham said it was just part of the game plan, but Booker's absence likely played a role. The 6-foot-7, 233-pounder looked to call his own number in the read-option more often than normal. That could continue this week. His previous high was 17 attempts in 2013 and this season's high was previously 14.
SECOND START: Redshirt freshman Cade Apsay made his first start for Colorado last week after Sefo Liufau was lost for the season after foot surgery to repair a Lisfranc injury. Apsay threw for 238 yards, two interceptions and no touchdowns. Liufau is second in school history in passing yards (7,397), second in touchdown passes (49), first in completions (688), third in attempts (1,093), first in completion percentage (62.9), second in total plays (1,309) and first in total offense (7,842).
QUOTABLE: ''They're kind of where we were at a couple years ago with not getting over the hump in some of the games where they should have won, but the football didn't roll their way.'' Utah linebacker Jared Norris said, ''One of those teams that are scary because usually you feel like you can beat them and they're very good this year.''
AP college football website: collegefootball.ap.org
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