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Game Day Buff Bites - Colorado Buffaloes vs West Virginia Mountaineers

Gameday has officially arrived. Here are some news and notes from around the web to help get you ready for tonight's game. We will also be posting a few items today as well and, as always, we will be hosting our live game thread tonight starting at 5:00pm MT. Go Buffs!

Colorado_mediumWoelk: CU offense still lacks 'calling card` - Boulder Daily Camera
This pretty much sums the offense up:

Four years into the Dan Hawkins era, it`s still difficult to tell exactly what kind of team the Colorado Buffaloes want to be on offense. As Camera reader Rand Gambrell noted in an e-mail earlier this week, Hawkins` Buffs have yet to develop an "identity." It`s a phrase that`s tossed around all too often when a team is struggling, but in this case, it fits. The Buffs can`t seem to decide what they want their calling card to be. When Hawkins arrived in Boulder, he vowed to put a balanced, daring offense on the field, an attack that would keep opponents on their heels and move the ball with efficiency and effectiveness. But in his three-plus seasons here, Hawkins` offense has produced significantly more passing yards than rushing yards. In both cases, effective and efficient have not been the program`s watchwords.

Colorado_mediumCU football: Buffs must take advantage of early scoring opportunities - The Denver Post

 "We need to start fast and score as soon as we get the ball. That's the main thing," CU sophomore tailback Darrell Scott said. "You can't start slow. The fans get into it. "And in Morgantown, they have a tradition of burning couches to get everybody fired up. We need to come off the bus ready to go." CU fell behind early at Toledo and was routed 54-38. Getting the first score "is really big, really big," CU coach Dan Hawkins said. "It affects your own confidence level. It affects the crowd."

Colorado_mediumWoody's Mailbag: NL playoff picks - The Denver Post
Woody Paige calls Dan Hawkins a changed man and a guy who just can't take the pressure anymore. He also takes a shot at the bloggers, saying no one reads the stuff we write except Dan Hawkins. Well, Woody, we beg the differ. We can send your our vistor numbers whenever you would like us to:

Dan Hawkins and Clint Hurdle were BFF's, and it's obvious by the way that both struggled to win and then attacked the media and fanbases afterwards. I'd like to hear your thoughts on what Dan Hawkins could learn from Jim Tracy in terms of leadership and showing respect to the media and fan base. Thanks. -- Jamie, Glenwood Springs

Jamie: Truth is, and I'll take grief for this, Hawkins just can't handle the pressure any more. The pressure on him to win, the pressure on his son and his family, the pressure from the alumni and boosters, and even the pressure from bloggers who nobody reads (except him). Hawkins is a changed man this year. Maybe it was the off-season surgical removal of kidney stones, maybe the fact that the administration will not cut him a break on borderline players, especially from junior college, maybe because he hasn't had a winning season, maybe because he is fed up of all the talk about him and his son, and probably a combination. At Media Day, weeks before the first two losses, I could tell he wasn't the same with the press (as if it matters) by the way he answered some questions in a chippy way. I wrote in my notebook "Hawkins new attitude?" I think, and I'm sure I've said it before; he was treated so well in Boise by the fans and the media because it's a small city, and not a negative one, and because he won. He has won, what, two road games here? What might one expect? Hawkins is not going to listen to Tracy, Bill McCartney (who went through this and came out the other side) and certainly not to this mailbag.

A lot more links after the jump... Bits & Bytes: WVU - Colorado
Here is a good piece from the West Virginia site. The author notes that in the Buffs first two losses, the opponent scored on their first drive. I guess we will have an early litmus test for how the rest of the night will go after the first series.  

Due to injury and a deep contingent of tailbacks, sophomore Darrell Scott hasn’t gotten the carries that he expected this year. In fact, he has as many kickoff returns (13) as he does carries from scrimmage. Scott has taken advantage of his chances in the kicking game, however, as he is averaging 26.3 yards per return this year. A highly-regarded recruit, Scott figures to have a breakout game in the backfield for the Buffs sometime soon. Ironically, Scott replaced his uncle, Josh Smith, as one of Colorado’s primary return specialists this year. Smith, a very talented return man, transferred to UCLA following last season.

STARTING POINTS In its two losses, Colorado gave up long touchdown drives on its opponents’ opening possession, and did not score on its first try. In its win against Wyoming, the Buffs reversed that stat, driving 74 yards for a touchdown while holding the Cowboys to a three-and-out series. Now, does this mean the first team to score in this week’s game will get the win? Not necessarily. But it’s a fun stat, and could be an indicator of the positive results that can come from a good start.

MAKING IT COUNT Colorado has scored every time it has gotten into the red zone this year. On twelve trips inside opponents’ 20-yard line, the Buffs have scored ten touchdowns and kicked two field goals. That’s an outstanding TD to FG conversion rate, which is one of the important hidden metrics in red zone scoring. West Virginia’s defense, on the other hand, isn’t faring as well in the red zone as it did a year ago. As has been pointed out several times before on this site, keeping an opponent out of the end zone from point blank range involves a combination of determination and luck. Last year, WVU had the perfect storm of turnovers and key stops to lead the nation in red zone defense. This year, while the Mountaineers are certainly playing just as had and arguably have at least the same talent level, the numbers haven’t been so good. WVU has given up six touchdowns in nine red zone chances this year, to go along with two field goals.

Colorado_mediumWest Virginia's unusual "stack" defense concerns Buffs - The Denver Post
Tom Kensler of the Denver Post details the West Virginia 3-3-5 defensive scheme and gives us his three questions for the game tonight:

The Mountaineers (2-1) set up in an unusual 3-3 "stack" defense, with three down linemen and three linebackers. Four conventional defensive backs are joined by Franchot Allen, who plays the "bandit safety" position. Allen, a 6-foot-1, 193-pound senior, roams all over the field. ...

Three questions for CU 1. Will Colorado build on its shutout of Wyoming and make a statement on national television with a strong defensive effort? This won't be easy. West Virginia is 29-5 at raucous Milan Puskar Stadium since the start of the 2004 season and is much better on offense than Wyoming.

2. Will CU's new wide receivers step up? The quartet of Will Jefferson, Andre Simmons, Markques Simas and Anthony Wright has combined for a total of just three catches in three games. That must improve if the Buffaloes are going to pull the upset.

3. Can Colorado defenders keep WVU tailback Noel Devine under 150 yards rushing? The 5-foot-8, 175-pound junior may have the most lethal combination of elusiveness, strength and speed of any running back in college football. He rushed 26 times for 133 yards in last year's meeting in Boulder. Keeping Devine contained could go a long way toward winning.

Colorado_mediumAmerican Chronicle | Both WVU and Colorado Have Reason to Worry at Tonight's Game
Coach Bill Stewart now has his team talking highly of Cody Hawkins. Here is a comparison to Drew Brees. The author nails it, though, when he says Hawkins stats don't measure up to all of this praise:

Hawkins "can throw on the run," WVU linebacker Najee Goode observed. "He's like a Drew Brees type of guy who can get out of the pocket and scramble. "Last year we tried to fluster him a little bit and this year we'll try to do the same thing. He's pretty good at looking for targets -- the tight end and the wide receivers -- and he's a good mobile quarterback." At first glance, Hawkins' stats don't measure up to his billing.

Colorado_mediumBrooks: McKnight Poised For Record Night -—Official Athletics Web site of the University of Colorado

If McKnight catches one pass against the Mountaineers (how can he not, you ask?) he will set a CU record for receptions in consecutive games (28). But if he walks out of Milan-Puskar Stadium without having put his hands on the ball, that would be OK with him - as long as the Buffs trot out with a win. It's a cliché, but McKnight is aware that spelling "team" doesn't require an "i." "First things first," he said. "We're 1-2 and we need to come out of this one with a victory. We've been practicing real well and things are looking good for us. I'm excited to get this thing going.

Colorado_mediumBuffs face potent Mountaineers - Boulder Daily Camera

The program needs to find some downhill momentum more than any time in recent memory tonight in the rolling hills of the Appalachian Mountains at West Virginia or the season could turn even more sour than its unpleasant start. The Buffs must find a way to run the football against the 14th ranked rushing defense in the nation in order to keep an explosive Mountaineer offense off the field and break a road losing streak that stretches back to the 2007 season. CU also needs its defense to produce some turnovers in the nationally televised tilt.

Colorado_mediumMountaineer Gameday: Colorado open to all dates in ... - Sports - The Charleston Gazette - West Virginia News and Sports

Colorado_mediumWhat to watch in the Big 12, Week 5 - College Football Nation - ESPN

9. Can Colorado build on its first 2009 victory? The Buffaloes are coming off a bye week after their triumph over Wyoming that turned some of Dan Hawkins’ self-described "conflama" that had dogged his program after two losses to start the season. His team will be facing a tough Thursday night challenge against West Virginia, which blew a fourth-quarter lead in the turnover-marred loss at Auburn. Colorado is a huge underdog in this game and will need a big effort to keep the game from getting away like earlier nationally televised losses to Colorado State and Toledo.

Colorado_mediumBig 12 predictions, Week 5 - Big 12 - ESPN
Tim Griffin, like everyone else, is picking the Mountaineers in a comfortable victory. The point spread did drop to 16.5 last night.

West Virginia 34, Colorado 17: The Mountaineers will be intent on gaining revenge for their loss last season in Boulder, along with bouncing back from their recent loss at Auburn. The Buffaloes should have Darrell Scott and Rodney Stewart close to 100 percent, although they should struggle against West Virginia’s imposing run defense. West Virginia quarterback Jarrett Brown is looking for some retribution after he was knocked out of the Auburn game after earlier contributing five turnovers. Look for the Mountaineers to try to dictate tempo by running Noel Devine (16th nationally in rushing) against a weak Colorado rush defense (103rd nationally). West Virginia has too many weapons to keep this from being very competitive.

Colorado_mediumBig East picks, Week 5 - Big East - ESPN
Brian Bennett of ESPN also picks the Mountaineers to put up some big numbers tonight:

West Virginia 38, Colorado 16: The Buffaloes shut out Wyoming in their last game. West Virginia is no Wyoming. This will be more like the Toledo blowout for Colorado, which showed no ability to stop big passing plays. The Mountaineers have spent nearly two weeks steaming over their loss to Auburn, and I expect Jarrett Brown to be a little more careful with the ball while still creating huge gains downfield. Noel Devine should outrush Colorado by himself. The Buffs simply don't have enough.