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Colorado Buffaloes vs Toledo Rockets: Keys to the Game & Prediction

Four quick Ralphie Report Keys to the Game and a Prediction

Colorado_mediumRe-establish the Trenches

Nothing was more shocking last weekend than the Colorado Buffaloes offensive and defensive line getting manhandled by the Colorado State Rams. The defensive line failed to define themselves as a unit that can get pressure on the quarterback and the offensive line played timid, soft, slow and without a mean streak. Toledo comes into the game with the nation's leading passer in Aaron Opelt, an offensive line with over 90 games of experience and two legitimate receiving threats in Stephen Williams and Eric Page. If the Buffs don't establish a pass rush, it could be a long day. Defensive coordinator Ron Collins will need to be creative in his schemes. As for the offensive line, its all about attitude. The Buffs should be able to physical manhandle the smaller Toledo line up front.

Colorado_mediumFind that Missing Swagger, Mean Streak

This team looked unconfident and mentally unprepared to do the work needed to be a successful team. The coaching was questionable as it looked like panic when the Buffs were on the field. Going into the first road game of the year, Colorado needs to take an us against the world approach, play with a little fire and hit people. It is time to send a message that last week was a fluke and this 2009 Colorado Buffaloes team will hit you in the mouth from the first whistle. Show some emotion and knock some people around.

Colorado_mediumBall Control, Ball Control

You know the stat. Toledo threw the ball 61 times last week, ran 91 total plays in their uptempo offense and racked up close to 500 yards in total offense. This team is going to try and wear down the underwhelming Buffaloes' defensive line tonight. I expect the Toledo defense to load the box against Colorado and make them throw. It will be imperative that Andre Simmons and Scotty McKnight have big games in the early going if the Buffaloes need to loosen up the front seven or eight of Toledo, who have up 315 yards rushing last week. Toledo coach Tim Beckman made it a point in his interviews this week that they are putting plans in place to be better against the run and I assume that is dedicating more men to the box. The good thing for Colorado is Toledo starts two freshmen and a sophomore in their secondary so the Buffs should have some opportunities in the passing game if they can get protection. I am not going to sugarcoat it, this isn't a top 10 defense and if the Buffs can get them on their heels early and pound the ball at them in the running game, Colorado can be successful when they have the ball.

The key is don't take bad sacks, limit the turnovers and stay out of third and longs. If the Buffs can get solid gains on first down, they will be in good shape.

Colorado_mediumGet Playermakers in Playmaking Positions

A favorite of the Ralphie Report's because, well, we don't know if this staff is capable of finding their playmakers and putting them in a position to succeed. The three playmakers I am looking for tonight to have an increased role in this offense are Brian Lockridge, Andre Simmons and Darrell Scott. If you look at the stats from the last game, you realize that these three have big play potential but did not receive the touches:

Brian Lockridge - 1 carry, 9 yards 1 TD
Darrell Scott - 1 carry, 1 yard 1 reception,14 yards - 7.5 yards per touch
Andre Simmons - 1 reception, 44 yards
3 Players - 4 touches, 68 yards and 1 TD at an average of 17 yards a touch

So what does this mean: Their were a total of 61 plays for the Buffs against Colorado State for a total of 251 yards for an average of 4.11 yards/play. These three players on four plays averaged 17 yards a touch and a touchdown. So what does that mean for the rest of the team? 57 plays, 183 yards and a paltry 3.21 yards/play. 27% of the Buffs offense came from the three mentioned players above on just 6.6% of the plays.

Get the playmakers the ball.

Colorado_mediumPrediction Time

Toledo's offense matchups up very well against Colorado if the Buffs don't get pressure on the quarterback and we think the Buffs offense is at an advantage when they have the ball. So that puts the extra pressure on the defenses tonight. I have to think that the back seven for the Buffs will play better than they did last week and be up for the challenge against a strong passing team. Other than S Barry Church for Toledo, the Buffs defense is stronger than Toledo's.

Back to the offenses. When it comes down to it, is Toledo's offense better than the Buffs and can the Rockets offense overcome the shortcomings on their defense to outplay the Colorado offense? As you can tell, I am having a hard time rationalize the prediction for a Buffs win with any confidence.

Less than 20,000 tickets have been sold to this game so while the Buffs will play on the road, the crowd will probably not be considered too hostile.

I give the Buffs the nod over Toledo tonight solely because I don't want doomsday part two to occur on Saturday morning.
I think both teams have the ability to win by 10+ points because, let's face it, Toledo is rebuilding in a lot of areas and everyone saw the Buffs play last Sunday night. For me, Colorado wins 27-24 in a close one, certainly not the dominating performance to make people feel a lot better.

Live game thread tonight should be publised a half hour before the game. Crack a cold one, celebrate Friday night and come join us! Go Buffs!