(1 - 0, 0 - 0) (0 - 1, 0 - 0)
Last Week: W CSU 38 - 17 Last Week: L Texas Tech 24 - 49
I admit it, I have been influenced. Whether it is the pain of losing to Montana State in 2006, the #7 FCS ranking or how competitive the "score" was in the Texas Tech game, I am not overlooking this game. I imagine the players and coaches have the same, if not more, attention to the upcoming opponent. This should be an advantage in that the Buffs know what it feels like to lose to an FCS school with many of the players on this team there that day MSU beat CU in Boulder. The Buffs also have a bye week next before West Virginia so there is no excuse to be looking forward. But is Eastern Washington a team to worry about? Was the 35-24 score last week in the fourth quarter something to fear? Let's find out.
EASTERN WASHINGTON DEFENSE v. COLORADO OFFENSE
I classify last week's game against Texas Tech as a head scratcher to try and evaluate. There is a ying and a yang to the entire story especially on offense. On defense, EWU had to deal with Graham Harrell and that prolific offense. They actually did a good job on Michael Crabtree, holding him to under a 100 yards which is a rare event. That being said, they gave up 636 yards to Texas Tech, 103 on the ground and 533 through the air. Yes, how was this game not 70 - 7. Well that is what throwing the ball does to you especially with two teams that like to air it out. It keeps everyone in the game and with a lot of chances to score. The Buffs and Rams ran 129 plays last week in which CU showcased a no-huddle up tempo offense. Well, maybe not that up tempo in when looking at EWU and Texas Tech. In comparison, the Red Raiders and Eagles last week ran 168 plays (EWU - 85, TT - 83) with only 47 rushing attempts. These are astounding numbers. Tech averaged 7.7 yards/play against the Eagles' defense. We were pretty happy as Buffs fans with the offensive performance which yielded 5.6 yards/play. The Buffs aren't going to want to get into a shoot out with these guys. The starting front four on the Eagles' defensive line are 245lbs, 255lbs and the two interior guys at 275lbs. Clearly, the Buffs have a big size advantage here as they don't have a starter under 295lbs. EWU does have defensive line experience with three seniors but I'll take size over FCS experience any day of the week.
In coverage, EWU had 22 interceptions last year so it isn't a bad defensive backfield but Texas Tech did throw up 533 yards in the air. Overall, the talent and size advantage that the Buffs have on the offensive side of the ball is overwhelming. With the quick impact that Josh Smith has and Scotty McKnight continuing to be productive, the Buffs look potent on offense. Hawkins looked efficient and strong last game, hitting 8 different wide receivers while converting on many key third downs. I think the Buffs come out and are very physical with Eastern Washington on the offensive side of the ball, with a heavy dose of the RB trio Sumler, Scott and Stewart. I think the Buffs have their way with the Eastern Washington defense.
Advantage when EWU is on defense:
EASTERN WASHINGTON OFFENSE v. COLORADO DEFENSE
The media attention covering Eastern Washington has been all about the offense. But remember my ying and yang theory. QB Matt Nicols is definitely a stud. The 6'2" 220 lb quarterback from California was the Big Sky Offensive Player of the Year last year as a sophomore. Nicols has set five school season records and is probably a good year away from breaking all the Eastern Washington career passing records. Against Texas Tech in the opener, Nichols threw for 335 yards. Slot WR Tony Davis lead the Eagles with 13 receptions for 114 yards and 1 touchdown. The "yang" of the story is that he attempted 61 passes and completed 36 for a 59% completion ratio with his yards/attempt being 5.4. Cody Hawkins last week had a yards/attempt of 7.4. Nicols also had three interceptions. Eastern Washington scored 24 points against the Red Raiders, but the other side of the story has the Eagles down 21 in the first quarter and probably the only reason that EWU made the game close was Graham Harrell threw and interception that was returned 30 yards to the Raiders 7 yard line. Maybe the most discouraging part to the statistics for EWU is that they had 22 rushes for 23 yards making them heavily dependent on the passing game. EWU has some big guys up front all over 280 lbs but with Eastern Washington being one dimensional, the Buffs have the ability to really attack the Eagles.
Texas Tech had three sacks last week against the Eagles while the Buffs had 5 sacks against CSU. A pass rush will be very important to disrupting the passing attack of the Eagles and aiding the Buffs secondary who is suffering with depth issues due to injuries to Jimmy Smith and Anthony Wright. I expect Gardner McKay, Jalil Brown and Cha'pelle Brown to have their hands full but if the Buffs are able to drop seven in coverage, the Buffs will be fine but the front four needs to get pressure all day on Nicols. Coach Hawkins called the defensive line the best unit on the team this year. The defensive line needs to show it this week to cover up some of the issues in the secondary. If they can do that, the Buffs will have no problem.Maybe the most important stat is the penalty yards Texas Tech had against them last week. You might want to sit down for this: Tech had 18 penalties for 169 yards. Against an FCS team? That is unthinkable. And we thought the Buffs needed to cleanup their sloppy play! This stat alone makes evaluating this game difficult as to how effective Eastern Washington was and how ineffective Texas Tech was with penalties and a poor defensive performance. The Buffs certainly won't have 18 penalties, you can count on that. I believe the Buffs have a better defense than Texas Tech and more talent than the overall Eastern Washington offense. I favor the Buffs in this one but it is close depending on how efficient Nicols is.
Advantage when EWU is on offense:
SPECIAL TEAMS AND INTANGIBLES
This goes to the Buffs hands down. We saw what WR/PR/KR Josh Smith could do last week, 3 kickoff returns for 160 yards and a touchdown. Jameson Davis did well on kickoffs getting three touchbacks. And on an intangibles factor, do the Buffs need anymore motivation than Montana State? Team leaders like S Ryan Walters, C Daniel Sanders and DL George Hypolte won't let the young guys forget the importance of taking every team serious.
Advantage on special teams and the intangibles:
Stay tuned, we will be previewing the big keys of the game and give our predictions for a couple contests this Saturday including the matchup in Boulder.