Guess what, the Buffs don't play Florida State, Texas or Kansas this week. No more top 5 ranked defenses, no more rush ends that will make most offensive tackles fall apart, no more defending Fiesta Bowl, Orange Bowl and Holiday Bowl champs. The Buffs are on par with their next opponent and it's the first time the Buffs are favored since the CSU game (no line for EWU). Yes, that is right, that is how hard the Buffs schedule has been the past few weeks. Something must be said for that. This is a young Buff team with a ton of injuries. How young you ask? 21 freshman have played this year. 21!
With all of that encouragement going on in the first paragraph, the Buffs still cannot take a breath as Kansas State rolls into town. When the two teams take the field Saturday night, Kansas State's offense is the best unit that either team will put out on the field. The 6'6" 250 Daunte Culpepper like quarterback in Josh Freeman leads a potent attack into Boulder. Once again, us Buff fans like to say "who have they played on their way to those numbers" partly because they haven't played anybody and partly because we like to boast CU's strength of schedule. The only worthy team on the schedule is Texas Tech who went on to pummel the Cats by 30. The same Texas Tech team that should have lost to Nebraska last week. Who knows how this game is going to turn out Saturday. Most think it will be high scoring. Usually that means a lower scoring game. Most think Colorado's defense will struggle against Kansas State's offense. Most think that Colorado's offense should get on track against Kansas State after Texas A&M ran up 544 yards last week. That 544 yards was 225 yards over the A&M average coming into the game. And the Aggies did it through the air. Take away the cream puff games vs North Texas and Montana State, Kansas State has given up an average of 564 yards, 339 of it in the air and 224 on the ground. Yes, I know we could do the same analysis on the Buffs offense but these statistics for the KState defense are mind boggling.
So how do the Buffs win this weekend?
Stop the Kansas State Rushing Attack: Josh Freeman will get his. The Buffs can give up the three touchdown passes to him and still win the game. What the Buffs can't do is let Freeman and the Wildcats rushing game get going. The stats don't lie on this one. Games where Kansas State has won: they averaged 188 yards on the ground. Games they have lost: 71 yards. If Freeman can get a play action game going, he has the opportunity to explode on the Buffs. Stop the rushing attack, get a lead on the Wildcats and the Buffs have a great chance. But be adaptable Buffs. Once CU puts points on the board, the focus needs to shift to getting pressure on Freeman.
the other keys to the game and prediction after the jump...
50 is the Magic Number - 50: The number of rushes the Buffs should attempt this Saturday. Louisville rushed the ball 50+, won the game. In fact the last 4 opponents have rushed the ball an average of 42.25 times a game against the Cats. Why is this important? How many reasons do you want? Here are the top reasons:
- It will make Cody Hawkins' life easier and will keep the turnovers down
- Extend drives, take time off the clock and wear down a defense at altitude
- Keep Josh Freeman sidelined and the KSU offense out of rhythm
- Give confidence to the offensive line while they play assignment-based football
- Did I say keep the ball out of Cody Hawkin's hands yet?
No More Three Man Rush: This is the biggest pet peeve of mine all year on defense (FYI - biggest on offense is not playing Josh Smith on every offensive down). Do you know why Kansas had its best day rushing against the Buffs last week? A three man rush. The Buffs need to stop the run and get pressure on Freeman. I am fine with a three man rush if we are flexing and blitzing linebackers to try and create confusion up front but simply dropping 8 into coverage didn't work against Reesing and it won't work against Freeman due to his ability to tuck the ball. If the Buffs come out in the 3 man fronts again without blitzing, CU will give up 40 points.
Learn From Last Year: We want to forget about the blow out against Kansas State last year but for one more week, we must learn from it. Don't make this defense better than it is and make no mistake, this defense is the worst in the Big 12. What do I mean? Last year the Buffs came out and started horribly on third down and threw an interception in the first quarter. Don't make the defense better like the Buffs made them last year. Get positive yards on first down, don't force the ball through the pass and win the field position battle. Last year the Buffs were 1 - 12 on third down, had 4 turnovers and threw the ball 41 times. Do that again, it will be a repeat blow out. The rushing game will solve a lot of these problems. Last year, the Buffs rushed for 5.2 a carry.
Dominate on Special Teams: Coach Ron Prince emphasizes what he calls the "we-fense." "We" as in the importance of offensive and defensive players coming together to make an impact on special teams. And that "we-fense" has done this:
-The Cats lead the nation in blocked punts with four, all of which have been returned for touchdowns.
-Including two blocked extra-points, K-State's overall total of six blocks leads the country.
-Of the 10 punt returns for TDs in the Big 12 (including blocked punts), Kansas State has five.
-The Wildcats are third in the nation in kickoff return defense, allowing just 16.2 yards per return.
-K-State's 15 touch backs by Brooks Rossman ranks 10th in the country.
On the Buffs side, kicker Aric Goodman is 3 for 8 in field goals this year, have given up 2 kickoff returns to touchdowns and has fumbled twice on returns that have led to 14 points plus a few other bone head plays that has given the opponents points. Somehow, someway the Buffs need a spark here. Jameson Davis needs to make sure every ball is out of the end zone. No excuses. Josh Smith needs to be smart with the ball and Aric Goodman needs to not be on the field. The Buffs need touchdowns, not field goals.
Colorado 28 - Kansas State 27
Close but CU's defense holds late and forces Kansas State to kick field goals.
I am scared of this game, though. Still, I can't wait for Saturday. As a fan that is on the fence about how good this team is, Saturday will provide all the answers we need about this team. It is a game the Buffs should win. Rough'em up!