SALT LAKE CITY -- Missing a bowl seemed almost impossible for Utah a month ago.
The Utes had upset then-No. 5 Stanford at home and appeared poised to finally be a contender in the Pac-12 South. Everything quickly unraveled, however, amid mounting injuries and one of the nation's toughest schedules.
With a five-game losing streak, Utah (4-7, 1-7 Pac-12) will host Colorado (4-7, 1-7) on Saturday at Rice-Eccles Stadium in the season finale for both teams.
Last week's 49-37 loss to Washington State -- a defeat that eliminated Utah from bowl consideration -- felt like the lowest point in a season filled with low points.
"I don't think two words were said on the entire plane ride home," Utah's Trevor Reilly said. "That's how it usually is after a loss, but this one really hurts."
A handful of close losses have the Utes wondering what could have been if just a few more plays had gone their way. Utah has played the fifth-toughest schedule in the nation. All 10 of the FBS teams the Utes have played so far are bowl eligible and their combined record is 64-30.
Utah also lost starting quarterback Travis Wilson to a season-ending head injury two weeks ago and the teams has appeared to regress on both sides of the ball as the season has wound down.
"If this crew was going to fold their tent they would have done it long ago," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. "So that's not a concern. I believe this is a very tough, resilient group that has fought all season long and we expect no different mentality this week."
Meantime, Colorado has its most wins since 2010 and, with a victory over Utah, can clinch its best record since going 5-7 in Dan Hawkins' final season at the helm.
"It takes time to build a program in an elite conference," said Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre, who undertook a similar rebuilding project at San Jose State. "As long as you keep seeing progress, they keep doing (good) things at the school and everybody keeps moving in the same direction, it will and it can be done."
Here are five things to watch as Utah plays Colorado on Saturday:
* 1,000 YARD CLUB: Dres Anderson has a chance to join a select group of Utah receivers. Anderson needs just 92 yards against Colorado to become the seventh receiver in Utes history to have 1,000 yards receiving in a season. His 908 yards receiving rank ninth-best total in school history. Anderson has already tied a school record for most 100-yard receiving games in a season with six, a mark shared with Dennis Smith (1989) and Louis Thomas (1968).
* REWRITING RECORDS: Receiver Paul Richardson has been a game changer for Colorado this season with a single-season record 79 catches and 1,289 yards receiving. He just needs one more touchdown catch to get 11 TD receptions -- tying another school record set by Derek McCoy in 2003.
* RELIABLE KICKERS: If the kicking game becomes a deciding factor, little separation exists between Utah and Colorado. Utes kicker Andy Phillips and Buffaloes kicker Will Oliver both rank near the top of the Pac-12 in several categories. Both are perfect on PAT attempts this season. Phillips has made 38-of-38 attempts and Oliver is 28-of-28. Oliver and Phillips each rank second in field goals made (16). Phillips does have a small edge in field goal percentage, ranking 4th (84.2). Oliver is 7th (69.6).
* DEFLECTION WOES: Tipped passes have been a source of trouble for Utah all season, and the Utes will face a challenge in Colorado's Greg Henderson. He's tied for first in the Pac-12 with 10 pass breakups and he's snagged four interceptions, which also ranks in the league's top 10 for that category.
* BIG GAME REILLY: Can Trevor Reilly have another big game against Colorado? The senior made a splash a year ago when he intercepted the game's first pass to set up a Utah touchdown to help fuel the Utes' 42-35 victory. Reilly ranks 2nd in the Pac-12 in sacks (8.5) and fumble recoveries (3). He is also third in tackles for loss (15) and tackles for loss per game (1.4).