How important is this game to the CU Buffs program? As a fan, to coach Hawkins, to the players...how important is it? How important is it to the CU Buffs seniors who have two games remaining at home and three games to try and get to a bowl game. How do the Buffs come out tomorrow? Do they come out like a 4 win team that has little hope to get to a bowl game or do they come out like a 4 win team that believes growth over the next two weeks and wins over Iowa State and Nebraska mean bowling.
There is an eerie feeling about CU football right now. Not a whole lot of confidence and a sincere sense of worry about tomorrow. The worry comes from the scary idea that if the Buffs lose tomorrow, where do we go from here? How do we answer those questions? I expect when I walk into Folsom Field, there will be a high level of anxiety and a fan base that just wants the Buffs to win, regardless of how bad it may look. No one wants to lose to Iowa State as that would mean the Buffs own the "worst team in the Big 12" distinction. There isn't a doubt in my mind that all the Buffs fans will walk into the game tomorrow thinking what if we lose and not, what if we win? That is anxiety my friends.
That being said, from the highlights of the Texas A&M game, the Buffs looked rather functional on the road. What seems to doom young teams is the propensity to turn the ball over and give up big plays. Buffs' fans saw that propensity again last weekend. But now Iowa State comes to Folsom Field where the Buffs are 4 - 1 in the state of Colorado this year and 3 - 1 at Folsom, only losing to Texas. Clearly, the Buffs are like most young teams, much better at home and horrible on the road. The Buffs also welcome in the worst opponent they will face all year in Iowa State. Yes, Eastern Washington would beat Iowa State, I am convinced of this. Okay, maybe not EWU as they have really fizzled after they played Tech and the Buffs tough. Iowa State is almost as bad as the Buffs on offense and even worse on defense, giving up 35 points a game this year and in their five Big 12 games, 43.2 ppg. The Cyclones are 0 - 5 in Big 12 play. Don't get me wrong, the Buffs have equally bad numbers but overall, most would say the CU defense has played pretty well against the Big 12 this year minus Missouri. The Buffs defense should be able to force Iowa State into some tough situations. Obviously, at home, the Buffs have been able to get it done this year as well.
Now for the "Keys to the Game."
Nothing would make me happier than to see an extremely enthusiastic Buffs team emerge from the locker room at kickoff. CU needs an aggressive game plan, especially on defense, to get the energy level up. It looks like the Buffs have been playing tight the last few weeks. They've seemed apprehensive and a step slow. Let down the reins and go attack. Get pressure on the quarterback, play physical at the line of scrimmage, even throw in a few trick plays. Loosen these young bucks up and let them act insticitively, not methodically.
The Scott and Hansen Show
Let the future have at it. Pound Scott all day long at a rushing defense that is giving up 185 yards/game. Maybe throw in a little option. I think if Hansen can get going from the shotgun, we may see a more effective Scott from the shotgun running back position. I realize we all hate the shotgun dive because Scott is standing still but with Scott as the #1 back and Hansen in at QB, the Buffs now have a threat at quarterback that can take the focus off #2. Get Hansen rolling on the option give and Scott could have a huge day.
Turning It Over
Last week the Buffs would have been in a much better spot without three interceptions. CU has only had one game where they had less turnovers than their opponent (West Virginia and they won). Part of the Buffs mediocrity is due to a negative turnover margin which ranks them 100th in the nation. Iowa State has a positive turnover margin so their ability to force turnovers is their. No fumbles by JFly and no goal line interceptions.
Two games stick out in my mind this year as missed opportunities for the Buffs to already be qualified for a bowl game: Florida State and Texas A&M. Their are three or four plays in each of those games that you can identify as plays the Buffs could have made that would have changed the outcome of the season. In the FSU contest, it was the three overthrows by Hawkins, a missed field goal, a bad judgment kickoff return by Josh Smith and a FSU kickoff return for a touchdown. Make three or four of those plays and the Buffs win the game. In the A&M game, Josh Smith dropped a touchdown pass, Hawkins threw a horrible interception in the end zone, another missed field goal and three long Texas A&M plays in the 3rd quarter. All plays the Buffs should be capable of making but they are not. If the Buffs want to become bowl eligible and win Saturday, they need to finish plays.
Buffs win 20 - 17. I am confused as to why Vegas thinks the Buffs are 10 points better than the Cyclones. I am desperately hope the Buffs are 20 points better but I just don't see it. CU wins another close one and needs to find a victory against Nebraska or Oklahoma State to become bowl eligible.