The Colorado Buffaloes defeated Utah 27-22 to win the Pac-12 South championship.
And, judging by how it played on Saturday night, don’t be surprised if Colorado hoists the Pac-12 championship trophy next weekend.
That’s not to say that the Buffaloes were perfect. They definitely were not. The Colorado special teams allowed two long kick returns, which resulted in 10 points. In addition, the defense gave up three plays of 30 yards or longer in the second half, which allowed Utah to remain within striking distance.
Despite these issues, it’s hard not to be impressed with Colorado’s performance in this contest. Yes, the Buffalo D gave up some big plays, but it also produced plenty of its own, recording three sacks, intercepting two passes, and forcing two fumbles, one of which was returned for a touchdown. In addition, the run defense held Joe Williams — who averaged 202.6 yards per game since un-retiring in October – to 97 yards on 26 carries.
Yet, the stat that stands out the most from Saturday night’s contest is a big, fat zero. That’s the number of touchdowns that Colorado’s defense allowed in Utah’s first four red zone trips. This includes a crucial stop in the third quarter that prevented the Utes from tying the game at 20 after a Kyle Fulks 93-yard kickoff return gave Utah a first-and-goal situation from the Buffalo three-yard line.
With the victory, Colorado showed that it’s perfectly capable of winning the Pac-12 title game next week. As USC demonstrated a couple of weeks ago, the key to beating Washington is to take away the run and to get after the quarterback. The Buffalo D has done an excellent job in both of those departments this season, ranking 29th nationally against the run and 23rd in sacks heading into this contest. Considering how well Colorado’s defense played against Utah – where the constant bombardment of pressure resulted in the Utes completing fewer than 33% (13 of 40) of its passes – there’s no reason to think that the Buffaloes won’t cause similar problems for Washington in the league championship game.