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Colorado Buffaloes Open As Four Point Favorites Over Washington State Cougars

According to the Wynn in Las Vegas, the oddsmakers peg the Buffs as four point favorites over the Washington State Cougars this coming weekend. After CU's performance last week, I expect this line to drop. This will be Colorado's first Pac-12 conference game (1:30pm MT, FCS Pacific, 850 KOA). The Buffs are coming off a disheartening performance against Ohio State. The Buckeyes beat Colorado 37-17 in Columbus where the Buffs did little right especially on special teams. Colorado was severely out-coached, out-manned and out-classed against an Ohio State team missing five key players due to suspension and starting a true freshman quarterback.

Poor special teams play and turnovers made it easy on Ohio State QB Braxton Miller and the rest of the offense. No scoring drive for Ohio State was longer than 50 yards. The average starting position for the Buckeyes was in Colorado territory at the 47 yard line while Colorado had to start on their own 18. Such a huge discrepancy in starting position allowed Miller to ease into his first start at the collegiate level. Colorado turned the ball over two times, converted only 3-13 third downs, and once again, failed to start the game with any energy. Colorado went three and out with a turnover on it's first four possessions and didn't get a first down until almost mid-way through the second quarter. By then, the Buffs were down 17-0 en-route to a 19th straight road loss.

more after the jump on Colorado's next opponent, the Washington St. Cougars

Colorado answered got on the board with 2:44 left in the second quarter followed up by a great defensive stop, potentially sending the Buffs into halftime with some momentum. But an ill-advised timeout by head coach Jon Embree with 24 seconds left and a subsequent muffed punt by Rodney Stewart flipped the momentum back in favor of the Buckeyes. CU never recovered and Ohio State took control of the game early in the third quarter.

The Buffs were nailed with 9 penalties for 83 yards, which now ranks them as the most penalized team in the country averaging over 88 yards a game.

For the most part this year, Colorado's special teams had improved from the past five years but against Ohio State, it was a different story. Colorado fielded punts inside the five yard line, had three special teams penalties, kicked a kickoff out of bounds, gave up a 90 yard kickoff return, fumbled a punt inside their own ten yard line and poorly executed two rugby style punts. CU also ranks dead last in kickoff return average in the NCAA, only gaining 13.85 yards per return. It was one of the worst special teams performances in memory for the Buffs.

Colorado continues to struggle on the ground as well, ranking 105th in the nation averaging just 86.5 yards per game which is also second to last in the Pac-12.

If their is some good news for the Buffs, the defense hasn't been terrible. They rank 34th in the NCAA and third in the Pac-12 in total defense. They are the top defense against the pass in the Pac-12 and rank second in sacks-by averaging 3.5 per game. The bad news for the defense is poor offensive and special teams execution is putting them in compromising positions and short fields to defend against. Because of those positions, the defense ranks 85th in points allowed.

Washington State comes into Boulder 2-1. After two easy wins against Idaho State and UNLV where they scored 123 points, the Cougars lost to San Diego State 42-24 on the road. Washington State had a 24-14 lead on the Aztecs in the third quarter but turned the ball over three times in the fourth quarter which allowed San Diego State to score 28 unanswered points. The Cougars had two weeks to think about that game and prep for the Buffs as they were on a bye this past weekend. Potential good news for the Buffs is San Diego State gained 500 yards on Wazzu with 227 yards on the ground.

Washington State beat UNLV 59-7. UNLV beat Hawaii at home 40-20, the same Hawaii team Colorado lost to 34-17 to open the season. Of course, Colorado played Hawaii on the road where the Warriors are tough to beat and UNLV played Hawaii in Vegas.

Washington State does bring a powerful offense into Boulder averaging 540 yards per game which is tops in the Pac-12. They have averaged 49 points per game and thrown for over 380 yards per contest. Of course, they haven't played the non-conference schedule Colorado has but they do have some talent on the offensive side of the ball. WR Marquess Wilson leads the NCAA in receiving yards per game averaging over 140 per contest. He has averaged a whopping 29 yards per reception. Wazzu's starting quarterback Jeff Tuel was injured in the first game of the year against Idaho State but backup quarterback Marshall Lobbestael has done a good job filling in. He has averaged 319 yards per game, 10th best in the NCAA. He has 10 touchdowns to just two interceptions, but both came in that fourth quarter against San Diego State.