It would certainly be a positive thing and that’s what we’re aiming towards. It always gives you a better feeling going into the offseason, regardless of how the season has gone. —Kyle Whittingham
SALT LAKE CITY — Make no mistake about it. The Utah Utes are not — as in no way, no how — looking at their season finale against Colorado as any sort of pseudo bowl game.
At 4-7 overall and mired in a five-game skid, the Utes are focused on something else.
“We look at it as a way to try to get the seniors out on a positive note and that’s the big objective and the No. 1 concern,” said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham, who added that the focus is doing everything possible to make sure that his seniors' last game at Rice-Eccles Stadium is a good experience.
Nineteen departing seniors will be honored in pregame ceremonies before the Utes and Buffaloes kick off at noon. Whittingham credits the veterans for setting the tone on a team that he said has not folded its tent.
“This is a very tough, resilient group that has fought all season long, and we expect no different mentality this week,” he said.
The Utes, who have lost three games this season by a touchdown or less, are eager to finish off the campaign with some success. They haven’t won a game since upsetting No. 5 Stanford (27-21) on Oct. 12.
Besides avoiding the program’s first six-game losing streak since 2002, a victory would make the impending offseason easier to handle.
“It would certainly be a positive thing and that’s what we’re aiming towards,” Whittingham said. “It always gives you a better feeling going into the offseason, regardless of how the season has gone. It’s just a positive.”
Colorado, meanwhile, is also pursuing good vibes. The Buffaloes (4-7, 1-7) actually have some. In their first season under head coach Mike MacIntyre, they’ve already surpassed the program’s combined win total of the past two seasons.
Even so, the Buffs want more as the program builds under the new regime.
“It’s a process and I see the steps being made daily,” MacIntyre said. “We just need to finish the season off strong.”
MacIntyre noted it takes time to rebuild a program in an elite league like the Pac-12.
“You don’t wave a magic wand in a BCS conference and just get it done when it’s down for a while,” said MacIntyre, who explained that it takes perspective and perseverance.
The latter, perhaps, also describes what it may take to rekindle the Utah-Colorado rivalry. The teams played every year from 1903-62, but took a hiatus until both schools joined the Pac-12. Since then, the two meetings have been split. The Buffaloes prevailed 17-14 in Salt Lake City in 2011 and the Utes countered with a 42-35 win in Boulder, Colo., last season.
Whittingham, though, wouldn’t say it’s completely a rivalry again.
“Maybe the beginnings of one,” Whittingham said. “I wouldn’t say it’s a full-on rivalry, not at this point and time.”
Colorado has been a difficult opponent for Utah the past two seasons. The Buffs wound up costing the Utes a berth in the Pac-12 title game two years ago and put up quite a fight last season.
“They’ve played well. They’re a bunch of tough kids,” Whittingham said. “We expect their best shot without a doubt.”
EXTRA POINTS: Colorado leads the all-time series, 31-25-3. However, it’s all knotted up — at 14-14-2 — in Salt Lake City. ... Colorado senior defensive linemen Chidera Uzo-Diribe leads the nation in forced fumbles with 0.45 per game. ... Junior wide receiver Paul Richardson is second in the Pac-12 and seventh nationally with 117.2 receiving yards per game. ... Utah tops the Pac-12 in net punting (40.04 yards), onside kicks recovered (2-2), PAT percentage (1.000/38-38), sacks (36) and sacks per game (3.27). ... Since joining the Pac-12 in 2011, the Utes are 8-18 in conference games.