On Saturday, the Colorado Buffaloes play their first true road game of the 2012 Season. Though they won their last road game (the season finale last year at Utah), the road hasn't been particularly kind to the Buffs over the past few years. And this season has started out very slowly, to say the least. Colorado needs to see some serious improvements to get the W against a Fresno State team that looks rejuvenated under first year Head Coach Tim DeRuyter. Let's take a look at the key match-ups.
- Colorado's Offense vs. The Speedy Decline - Coach Bieniemy and the offensive staff has fixed one problem that has plagued this team in recent years: Those pesky slow starts on offense. The new problem is that we fall off quickly from the early production, and it's happening for a number of reasons. No adjustments are made, players start to get pushed around, guys get sloppy, Jordan Webb's effectiveness dwindles, the running backs are a step and the playcalling falls off and the execution isn't there. There are a LOT of things that go into this issue, but even improvements in a few of these areas will make a difference. This group has shown the ability to score points, and they've done it multiple different ways. Sustaining that production throughout the game will make a HUGE difference in the outcome of these games.
- Colorado's embattled offensive line vs. Fresno State's emboldened 3-4 Front - DeRuyter has run successful, attacking 3-4 defense everywhere he's been, and it looks like that trend will continue at his new stop. The Bulldogs will be bringing pressure from all angles, and our offensive line has had a lot of trouble identifying blitzes and dealing with overloads. We need to see a significantly more aware performance by the big boys up front, or else it is going to be another long day for the Buffaloes.
- Colorado's QBs vs. Getting the job done - Jordan Webb is a warrior, that can't be denied. But is he going to get the job done for us at QB? Maybe, but it hasn't happened yet. He has shown that he can be effective at times, but it's time to see what the other guys can bring to the table. Nobody likes to have a guy that only brings it during the game, but maybe Connor Wood will show up when there is another team lined up in front of him. We won't know until we see him against the Bulldogs.
- The Colorado Defense vs. Creating pressure - We are facing a kid at QB who can obliterate a defense. We need to get to him early and often. Chidera Uzo-Diribe is a nice pass-rusher, but we need to get pressure from everywhere and from everyone. The linebackers need to be more effective when getting after the QB and we could really use an interior push to prevent him from stepping up in the pocket. The best way to disrupt the no huddle is to force the opponent into second and third & long situations. I think moving Will Pericak outside is a move that will eventually help us there, but he's still getting used to playing a true edge position. The young guys in the middle of the line and the linebackers really need to step up.
- The Freshmen DBs vs. Steady improvements - We all want Ray Polk and Greg Henderson back, but in the meantime, these guys are talented athletes that the coaches felt could contribute right away. I want to see these guys learning from mistakes they've made the past two weeks, and fixing those issues going forward. And I really, really want to see them create some turnovers.
- CU's Defensive Leaders vs. The Big Play - Speaking of turnovers, we really are lacking in the big play department thus far. For a team that is completely starting over on offense, we need this defense to help shift momentum our way, and to make statements. There are more leaders (or at least more seniors) on defense, and they need to start playing like it. One of my definitions of a Leader is a guy who makes statement plays, and we need one of our leaders to do that. Derrick Webb may have done that off the field when he called the players only meeting this week, but we need to see that translate to what's happening on the field. And it doesn't have to be an upperclassman. Anyone can be a leader out there, he just has to have that mindset (and, of course, the talent to back it up).
Special Teams Note:
- Kenneth Crawley eclipse our entire team punt return yardage from last year through three games this year, but the one thing he hasn't done yet is really break a big one. We need the third phase of the game, special teams, to help inject some energy into the Buffaloes this week, and I'm hoping Crawley returning punts will provide that. He has solid instincts and the blocking in front of him has been solid, so let's see if that unit can get lucky this week. Wherever that extra jolt comes from, it is certainly welcome, and the punt return team is in a uniquely advantageous position to be able to provide it.