Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Utah Utes head coach Kyle Whittingham watches during practice at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2012.

SALT LAKE CITY — In football, there are bears and then there are bears. From the 'Monsters of the Midway" to a Big Sky Conference team in search of its first victory since 2010, there's quite a range.

On Thursday, Utah opens the season on the lighter end of the scale — playing host to Northern Colorado. These Bears went 0-11 in 2011.

"They've got some skill," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said at his weekly press conference on Monday.

Northern Colorado players to watch include junior linebacker Clarence Bumpas and senior return specialist Dominic Gunn. Bumpas is an All-America candidate who averaged 13.2 tackles per game in 2011, while Gunn holds school records for kickoff returns — both single season and career.

Another player of note is junior quarterback Seth Lobato, who threw for 2,448 yards last season.

"They're a spread team. Last year they spread the field and were very much a throw-first team," Whittingham said. "There are a lot of unknowns going into the opener and this year is no different. We're hearing there is more balance out of camp. It's more 50-50 this year rather than concentrate on the throw."

The Bears, thus, are very much a work in progress as they enter their second season under head coach Earnest Collins Jr.

Although it's a somewhat unpredictable situation, it hasn't affected Utah's approach.

"I've been more concerned about us this camp than any opponent," Whittingham explained. "... I'm more concerned about our own guys and our own schemes and making sure we're doing things the right way."

EXTRA POINTS: Northern Colorado will be making two appearances in Utah this season. The Bears visit Weber State on Nov. 10 ... The Utes have faced Northern Colorado twice before — prevailing 26-0 in 1936 (Salt Lake City) and 7-6 in 1937 (Greeley) ... Northern Colorado's last game against a team now in the Pac-12 was in 1941 when the Bears faced Arizona State.


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Northern Colorado at Utah

Rice-Eccles Stadium

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