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Colorado Buffaloes Vs. Colorado State Rams: The Key Match-Ups

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GAME WEEK! Finally, right? And it's even worse with the closed practices because we've had zero observations to go on besides those that Embree and his coaching staff have given us. Yeah, I'm ready to finally watch this team. And on the other side of the ball, we still aren't 100% sure what we'll be seeing, so that makes this even tougher. At least there will be game tape on the other teams under new coaching staffs.

Anyway, this is what I'll be watching on Saturday.


  • Colorado's Offensive Line vs. CSU's Linebackers - It sounds like CSU will be running some sort of a hybrid Defense with 3-4 personnel to take advantage of their talent at linebacker. Well this will be our first chance to see if our offensive line truly is the heart of this team like the coaches have been telling us. We have two new guards in Alex Lewis and Daniel Munyer (not only new as in new starters there, but also guys who moved to the positions after playing TE/OT and C respectively) and Jack Harris is back at right tackle after missing the final 11 games last season. Those guys are going to have to dig deep in the Passing game and make good contact in the running game against the CSU linebackers, especially Shaquil Barrett and James Skelton. Hopefully practicing all offseason against our own talented group of Linebackers has them prepared for this.
  • Colorado Wide Receivers vs. CSU's DBs - It will also finally be show-me time for CU's unproven group of receivers. Momo Thomas and Bernard Blake certainly won't be the toughest covers that Nelson Spruce, Tyler McCulloch, Gerald Thomas & Co. will have to face, but they probably are the toughest in our non-conference schedule. While our offense will be built around a running game, an effective passing game will help this team out immensely.
  • Colorado's Skill Players vs. total lack of experience in their current roles/on this team/at this position - Not a single starting skill player is back from last year's squad. Of course, that group only won 3 games, but that still means we will be dealing with growing pains all over the field. We have a starting TE who has played the position for less than a season, and his development is vital to our offense. Nick Kasa still has the potential to be an impact player here, but who knows if that will happen. At wide receiver, two new starters take the reigns, and we have no idea how Nelson Spruce or Tyler McCulloch will handle being the go-to guys. Jordan Webb is really the only guy here with a track record of any kind, but we still don't know what we're going to get with him in the driver's seat. And Tony Jones flashed a little bit last season, but will have to carry the load in 2012. That's not even including the FBs, backup RBs, 3rd and backup WRs or the other TEs. Lots of 'new' to take in with this game.
  • Defense:
    • Colorado's Defensive Tackles vs. CSU's Interior Linemen - While Will Pericak has always produced for us and should be even better this year, behind him (and next to him) there is a whole lot of unknown. Nate Bonsu is supposedly ready to play again after getting us excited as a true freshman and though we have a lot of potential in the big bodies that joined the team in August, but we don't truly know what we'll get out of Josh Tupou and Justin Solis just yet. And CSU has some talent in the middle of their line, starting with center Weston Richburg. Dealing with their running back (who is next) will be no picnic, but it'll be a lot easier for the rest of the defense if the big boys up front can win these battles.
    • Colorado's Linebackers vs. CSU's Running Game - In addition to Chris Nwoke, who is a load coming out of the backfield and is finally turning into a pretty good running back, our linebackers are going to be facing down a number of tight ends and h-backs in an offense that will presumably know how to use them effectively. Throw a QB that can move his feet into the mix and Doug Rippy, Jon Major and Derrick Webb are going to have a busy day. And we hope it's those guys doing all the work and not our Safeties, because that means CSU is gaining too many yards against us.
    • Kenneth Crawley vs. Starting as a True Freshman - He is a very talented athlete, but it's not often someone can step onto campus and instantly play at a high level. Fortunately the guy opposite him did a solid job of that last year, and he has apparently been going to Greg Henderson for advice. With Greg Brown overseeing the defense and former Buff Chapelle Brown assisting with the DBs, hopefully Crawley is able to make the jump to D1-Football with ease. Watching him in game one will be very interesting.
    Special Teams Note:
    • True freshmen are listed as the top punt and kick returners, and I'm excited to see them get their first game action doing it. It's not surprising to me to see all guys that Embree & Co. recruited holding down the return positions and the starting wide receiver and cornerback slots. They've been preaching about the need to increase team speed and that has me thinking they've made some progress there.
    But mostly, I'm just excited to be watching my Buffaloes again.