STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL/GAME BREAKDOWN
Scouting the pass offense: If there is one place where Utah has made the most strides this season, it comes with the continued development of quarterback Tyler Huntley.
Huntley has emerged from a simple game-manager who was never expected to go out and win a game, to somebody with Heisman aspirations after the year he’s having.
For the season, Huntley has been dominant by completing 75-percent (174-for-232) of his passes for 2,608 yards and 14 touchdowns. He’s only thrown two interceptions on the season, and has saved his best for the fourth quarter of games where he currently leads the nation in fourth quarter QBR with a 241 rating.
But despite the praise Huntley has received from those within the Utah athletic department, there are still those who give slight at his performance and numbers this season — something Huntley says he hears and takes in.
“I kinda don’t look at what people be sayin’ just cause regardless of what you are doing somebody always going to say something,” Huntley said. “I just live by the code that the crème will always rise to the top. I just have to go out and do my job and everything else will take care of itself.”
Huntley’s rise comes with the improved play of his pass-catchers, particularly the depth of the Utes. Six players have at least 250 yards receiving on the season with eight players having caught scores.
The Utes can beat teams in a multitude of ways through the air, with big pass-catchers like tight end Brant Kuithe (who leads the team in yards and touchdowns) and wide receivers Bryan Thompson and Samson Nacua. Kuithe is the one who’s truly elevated his game this season, making huge leaps and bounds the past two games to become one of the best weapons in the conference.
"I don't think it is one thing that he is doing differently. … He has just been open, and Tyler has done a good job of finding him,” said Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham. “When he does get the ball in his hands, he is dynamic with the ball and making plays. The last two games he has really started to emerge. He is talented and talent usually rises to the surface at some point."
Utah can also beat teams in the slot with uber athletic and elusive receivers such Demari Simpkins and Jaylen Dixon, who have combined for 565 yards and 45 catches on the year.
This explosive unit could spell trouble for a Colorado defense that has been shredded for most of the season. The Buffaloes have the nation’s sixth-worst pass defense, giving up 26 touchdowns and 299.5 yards per game through the air.
However, they have 11 interceptions on the season, as safeties Mikial Onu and Derrion Rakestraw have a combined seven picks on the year.
This is a matchup where Utah has the clear advantage, as was such the past two weeks when it faced UCLA and Arizona, the 11 and 12 worst pass defenses in the conference. But in each of those weeks, the Utes ran the ball with such success that throwing wasn’t needed.
Passing might not be needed this week, but it would still be good for Huntley and co. to continue its dominance ahead of what could be a massive game next week against No. 14 Oregon in the Pac-12 championship game.