It has been a busy week on The Ralphie Report so far...Woodrow and I have put up a lot of information from recruiting to round tables to an exciting podcast that we did with Burnt Orange Nation. But now it is time to get down to business. All the work has been put in during the week. The film has been studied, the game plans set, the schemes understood. Most people aren't giving the Buffs a chance and the popular opinion among Texas blogs is that this Colorado team is a joke, a mediocre team who will be lucky to go to a bowl game this year. Personally, I like the Buffs position right now. Its like Coach Hawkins said yesterday "So if you want to spend time handing out game balls 'cause you beat West Virginia or having a funeral 'cause you lost to Florida State, that's wrong. You just keep re-pooling, re-tooling, working it out." One bad game against FSU doesn't make a season and I fully expect this Buffs' team to respond against Texas in a strong manner. In either a win or loss result, I believe this team will take a step forward. One thing is for sure, Hawkins has a way to get his team motivated and ready for these types of games (look at Georgia & Texas Tech in his first year and Texas Tech & Oklahoma in his second). Now the keys to the game and The Ralphie Report's prediction! I think the keys of the game sections is the best of the year so far!
CU's Defensive Keys to the Game:
1) Texas has scored 73 of their 198 points (37%) in the second quarter this year compared to only giving up 20. On the flip side, Colorado has allowed more points in the second quarter (40 of the 94 or 43%) than any other quarter this year. What does this mean...the Buffs need to do a better job with the in game adjustments. Watch for the second quarter points. Last week against FSU, the Buffs gave up 12 points while not putting any on the board. The Buffs were down 12 at half time and never could recover. We talk about half time adjustments being important but this week it is about making the correct in game adjustments once Texas understands the schemes CU's defense is throwing at them.
2) Texas has had 31, count'em 31 plays over 20 yards this year. The Buffs must limit the big play. Texas has good wide receivers on the outside with Shipley and Cosby. Colt McCoy is also a threat to break a big run as he has 5 for over 20 yards. Momentum is going to be a big intangible in this game and nothing quiets a crowd or deflates a team early than a big special teams, defense or offensive play.
3) Without a doubt Colt McCoy has had a great start to this season. He, without question, has rebounded from what was a sophomore slump and has made hay against the four teams Texas has played thus far. McCoy has had a hand in 67% of the total offensive yards this year and is the leading rusher for the Texas Longhorns. How do you stop Colt McCoy's productive onslaught? Hit him hard every time he has the ball. If there is still animosity about the 70 - 3 loss in 2005, use it on McCoy. He needs to think twice about wanting to be Texas' leading rusher and Mack Brown needs to understand that putting your quarterback at risk for John Chiles is not a good option. We know McCoy is tough and is a competitor but to have him running wild like Texas has him doing with a history of getting dinged up from time to time is a little crazy in my mind. The Buffs need to make Brown and the Longhorns pay for not having a running game.
4) Great segue from the last key point is the fact that Texas doesn't have a running game without Colt McCoy. The Buffs can't do what they did last week: let an inexperienced offensive line and poor performing running game go for 269 yards and 3 touchdowns. That cannot happen this week. If there is a weakness to this Texas unit it is their lack of running game from the running back position and this week the Buffs cannot be the team that Texas turns it into a strength against.
5) CU's defense needs to be aggressive. Enough with only rushing four. Enough with counting on the defensive line to put the pressure on the quarterback. Enough with thinking that the Buffs are good enough to play straight up on defense and win these types of games. It's time that the coaching staff brings multiple looks (that does not include the 3 - 4 that we saw last week get torn up early). The Buffs need to bring people off the edge and up the middle from the linebacker position all day long. CU is going to have to get creative in trying to confuse an offense that is running on all cylinders. Sit back this week Ron Collins and Texas will torch the Buffs. Hey, blitzing might get the Buffs torched but it will give CU a much better chance at causing turnovers and sputtering the Texas offense.
CU's Offensive Keys to the Game:
1) The good thing about last week's game is that the Buffs make four plays that they are capable of, they win the game. But this game is about making plays and the Buffs, I mean Cody Hawkins, missed three that would have led to at least 14 points if not more. I would be shocked if Cody didn't come out and have his best game of the year. Finishing plays should be the goal of this offense come Saturday at 5 o'clock.
2) The Buffs have had no offensive rhythm the first four games of this year. When the Buffs scored 14 points on WVU early, they threw a bunch of quick hitting passes which never hit the ground. CU needs to play a timing offense where the ball is out of Cody's hands in under 4 seconds and into the receivers hands. Let's get the high percentage plays rolling early to give this young offensive line and Cody Hawkins some confidence.
3) Paging WR Scotty McKnight and WR Patrick Williams...time to start being contributors. McKnight really needs to get into the action early and often. He is the most reliable WR that the Buffs have and it needs to be a priority to get him in the groove early and often. The reason Scotty McKnight is so important for this offense is his ability to make plays over the middle. Right now the only threat the Buffs have is WR Josh Smith on the edges which is leaving 2/3 of the field unoccupied. We will know the game is going right if Scotty McKnight is rolling in catches over the middle.
4) There is a big statistic that looms over the head of this offense the last two years and frankly it is getting old. That stat is Cody Hawkins has throw an interception in 15 of his 17 games as a Colorado Buffalo. This year the Buffs have turned over the ball 8 times (average of 2 a game) and have an even turnover margin. That being said, Texas has only forced 6 turnovers this year but they have a +2 in turnover margin. Texas won't cause a lot of turnovers but at the same time, the Longhorns don't give the ball up on offense either. Once again, the Buffs can't make this the Longhorns coming out party for causing turnovers. It all starts with Cody getting his pre-snap reads, going through his 3 to 4 progressions and making the proper decisions. The coaching staff can help out Cody and the offensive line by calling high percentage pass plays with little risk to allow Cody to get a feel for the offense and understand the multiple sets Muschamp and the Longhorns are going to throw out their.
5) Get a lead. Like I said in the interview with Burnt Orange Nation, Texas hasn't faced any adversity this year. Getting a lead early in front of a sellout crowd at Folsom Field will put a little pressure on a Texas team that has mowed through it's competition so far. The beautiful thing about football is the fact that it is such an emotional and intangibly driven game that a team can get confidence and get hot. CU getting an early lead will do wonders for their confidence.
Players That Need to Go Big Against Texas
1) OT Matt Bahr - Surely Texas will put their big time defensive end Brian Orakpo (6 sacks) on first time starter and red shirt freshman Matt Bahr. My message to Bahr is that you know you are going to get beat but stay confident and keep attacking. Don't let Orakpo smell blood. To the coaching staff...let's make sure we get Bahr some help with TE Riar Geer chipping down or a back patrolling the area.
2) QB Cody Hawkins - the game rests on his shoulders. That's the good and bad about being a quarterback, especially on a young team. Cody realizes that and I think he believes this is a great opportunity. Good quarterbacks shine in tough spots. No fumbles, no bad sacks and no interceptions. Win this game and everyone forgets about last week.
3) LB Brad Jones - Mr Jones, you have been deemed my "Hit Colt McCoy in the Chops Guy." Nothing illegal Texas fans but Jones is in charge of making McCoy regret ever crossing that line of scrimmage. Jones has to be an animal this game. I look for LB Shaun Mohler to do some of the same patrol work as well.
4) DT Brandon Nicolas - time to step up. Nicolas and George Hypolite have been solid but not game changing like they were billed to be before the season started. If there is ever a time for a coming out party, this would be the week to do it. Texas will try to take these guys out of the game by running the shotgun spread offense similar to CU but eliminating the dive will help the linebackers focus on McCoy.
5) WR Scotty McKnight - I really like this kid but he has disappeared the last two games with only 5 catches for 21 yards. Last year he was Cody's favorite target and the Buffs most reliable WR as a freshman. He is a crucial part of the Buffs timing in the passing game. He will have to be Mr. Reliable this game for the Buffs to be efficient on offense.
So I am on record of saying Texas 31 - 23 and I will stick to that based on my concern for CU's on offense line agains the Texas defense and Brian Orakpo. I am also worred about whether the defense can fully contain the Longhorns but I will say this...don't sleep on the Buffs Longhorns. This isn't the pushover that you all think it will be. Buffs should at the least cover the 13.5 points.