Without Consistent Success From Buffs, Utah/Colorado Will Not Become Rivals

Nov 26, 2019, 3:37 PM
Armand Shyne #6 of the Utah Utes carries the ball against the Colorado Buffaloes in the third quart...
Armand Shyne #6 of the Utah Utes carries the ball against the Colorado Buffaloes in the third quarter at Folsom Field on November 17, 2018 in Boulder, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
(Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – It’s Rivalry Week. The Rumble in the Rockies is going down on Saturday. The game we’ve all been waiting for! Are you excited?

My guess is if you’ve read this far you are confused as to what I’m talking about.

Utah and Colorado will meet for the 66th time on Saturday at 5:30 pm MT at Rice Eccles Stadium.

Nine years ago both the Utes and Buffaloes joined the Pac-12 and at the time the conference was hoping this would develop into a natural rivalry. Nine years later that hasn’t happened. It’s not to say it can’t develop into one – just not yet.

No one is really trying to frame it as a rivalry. Not even the programs themselves.

We all know who Utah’s rival is. Colorado fans would probably still call Nebraska their rival. The two schools played some heated games over the years in the Big 8/Big 12 in the late ’80s and ’90s when both programs were national powerhouses.

Utah is starting to develop rivalries with conference foes but the building tension with USC, Arizona State and Washington is far greater than the tepid emotion you’ll find at a Utah vs. Colorado game.

There is a long history between the two programs but few are old enough to remember it. They first met in 1903 with the Buffs winning 22-0. They faced off in all but 4 seasons between 1903 and 1962 but then went 49 years without playing each other until they joined the Pac-12 in 2011.

The first game as Pac-12 foes was memorable because of what was at stake. The Utes had a chance to win the Pac-12 South and reach the conference championship game in their first year in the conference but they were upset by a Colorado team that won just 3 games. It was a major disappointment for Utah but did little to spark up the type of feelings necessary for a rivalry.

It hasn’t helped that Colorado has struggled since joining the Pac-12. A loss Saturday would guarantee the Buffs ending a season with a losing record for the eighth time in their nine years in the Pac-12.

The Utes and Buffaloes played once when the Pac-12 South title was on the line for both teams. Colorado won the game to clinch their one and only South title but that meeting wasn’t very memorable.

What makes a great rivalry? Tradition. Competitiveness. Championships at stake. Emotion. Moments that create strong feelings toward the other school. A game that makes rational people do irrational things. A game fans mark on their calendar before the season begins.

Utah vs. Colorado has, well, none of the above.

There is plenty on the line this Saturday. The Utes can clinch the Pac-12 South title with a win and earn a spot in the Pac-12 Championship against Oregon. They are very much alive for a spot in the College Football Playoff.

The Buffs will be fighting for bowl eligibility but it’s unlikely their fight will last long. The Utes are 28 point favorites. That’s the type of line you see in an FBS vs. FCS matchup, not a rivalry game between conference foes.

It would be fun if this matchup did develop into a rivalry someday. It would be great for the conference if this game had meaning every year. Until Colorado becomes a consistent winner the current temperature of this frozen rivalry is unlikely to change.

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Without Consistent Success From Buffs, Utah/Colorado Will Not Become Rivals