SALT LAKE CITY — Rivalry Week has been replaced by something called "Rumble in the Rockies." Instead of closing out the regular season against BYU, the Utah Utes are gearing up for a Friday afternoon finale against Pac-12 foe Colorado at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
"It's a different feel. Ever since I've been here, it's the rivalry game with the guys from Provo, but this year is different," said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. "I don't think you can manufacture a rivalry game. I think something has to naturally come about. I don't think that's something you can force to happen and so we'll see how things work out."
While noting the start of something new, senior defensive back Greg Bird acknowledged it's already had an impact on the annual BYU game. The Utes defeated the Cougars, 54-10, at LaVell Edwards Stadium on Sept. 22.
"That rivalry is still there," Bird said. "But it's not the same as it was."
DEFENSIVE SUCCESS: Utah enters the regular-season finale ranked ninth in the nation against the run (92.7 ypg) and No. 1 in the Pac-12 in pass efficiency defense (113.7 rating) and scoring defense (19.9 ppg). When asked how the Utes have fared so well against a variety of schemes, Whittingham praised his defensive coordinator.
"I think the overriding reason is Kalani Sitake has done a great job with his game-planning on defense," Whittingham said. "And the players have done a great job implementing the game plan."
EXTRA POINTS: The Utes practiced at Rice-Eccles Stadium on Tuesday. ... Colorado leads the all-time series, 30-24-3. The Utes, though, won the last meeting 37-21 in Salt Lake City in 1962. ... The MUSS will be honored at the game. It's the group's 10th anniversary season under the moniker taken from the school fight song.