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Utah, Colorado struggling after move to Pac-12

By John Marshall

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 12 2011 9:17 a.m. MDT

Colorado quarterback Tyler Hansen watches a replay after he was pulled from the game against Stanford in the fourth quarter of an NCAA college football game in Stanford, Calif., Saturday, Oct. 8, 2011. Stanford defeated Colorado 48-7.

Paul Sakuma, Associated Press

PHOENIX — Utah left the Mountain West Conference behind, hoping a switch to the Pac-12 would give the program a chance to move beyond its BCS-buster status.

Colorado left behind the Big 12, figuring the style of the West Coast conference would be a better fit.

So far, it hasn't gone well.

Nearing the midpoint of their first season in the Pac-12, the Buffaloes and Utes are both winless in the reconfigured conference and searching for answers that may take a while to find.

"We're off, but it's just a little bit," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said Tuesday. "Everyone in this conference is a little bit bigger, a little bit fast and a little bit stronger than the previous conference we were in."

The size and speed isn't much of a change for Colorado.

In the Big 12, the Buffaloes faced mammoth linemen, gun-slinging quarterbacks and talented skill players pretty much every week. Of course, Colorado didn't exactly fare well against those teams. Since 2006, when Dan Hawkins took over as head coach, the Buffaloes have failed to reach a winning record; the best they could do was a 6-7 finish in 2007.

It hasn't gotten a whole lot better for Colorado in its first season in a new conference and under coach Jon Embree.

The Buffaloes are just 1-5, their only win over rival Colorado State of the Mountain West. Colorado still hasn't won a road game, extending its away-from-Boulder skid to a school-record 19 games, and has yet to beat a team in its new league.

The Buffaloes had a chance to beat California in the second game of the season — a previously scheduled nonconference game — before falling 36-33 in overtime and followed that by blowing a 10-point lead in the final 3 minutes in a loss to Washington State. Colorado never stood a chance in its latest game, a 48-7 blowout at No. 7 Stanford on Saturday that had Embree chewing the team out.

The Buffaloes are 11th in the Pac-12 in total offense, middle of the pack on defense and trying to find a way not to get discouraged.

"I feel like they're dealing with it well," Embree said. "It's still important to them to play and try to win, and it's still important to them to compete and try to find a way to try and build what we're trying to do here."

The original BCS buster, Utah, was supposed to be one of the three teams to beat in the Pac-12 South, with Arizona State and USC. Instead, the Utes are just above Arizona at the bottom of the division, 2-3 overall and winless in three conference games.

Utah has the conference's worst offense in terms of total yards, which doesn't figure to get much better with quarterback Jordan Wynn out for the season because of a shoulder injury. The Utes also have had trouble holding onto the ball, turning it over 10 times the past two games and a Pac-12-high 13 overall.

Utah had kept games close early in the season but may have had its worst game last Saturday, turning it over five times as No. 22 Arizona State turned a close game into a rout. The Utes, on the heels of their first three-game conference losing streak since 2002, held a players-only meeting after the loss to the Sun Devils in an effort to get themselves straightened out.

"It's not a time to panic or feel sorry for yourself," Utah offensive lineman Tony Bergstrom said. "It's one of those things where you dug yourself into a hole and got to dig yourself out. It's something that's just going to require more work and attention to detail."

Colorado needs to do the same thing or it's going to be an even longer season for the Pac-12's two newest teams.

AP Sports Writer Lynn DeBruin in Salt Lake City contributed to this story.

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