A bye week was just what the doctor ordered for the Colorado Buffaloes (3-1, 1-0 Pac-12), who became a unit of the walking wounded after the upset of 24th-ranked Arizona State on Sept. 21. Now the other conference team from southern desert comes to Boulder with the Arizona Wildcats (3-1, 1-0 Pac-12) looking to extend their current win streak to three over the Buffs.
Colorado received votes in AP Top 25, but failed to sneak into the rankings for a second straight week. The Buffs are undefeated against ranked teams at 2-0 this season and look to open 2-0 in Pac-12 play for the second straight year and the third time in four seasons.
Arizona beat Colorado in Tuscon by a final score of 42-34 in November 2018. The defeat came in the middle of a bad stretch for the Buffs and needless to say was a turning point for how the season ended. The 2017 shootout between Khalil Tate and Phillip Lindsay made memories for both teams and left Arizona with a 45-42 win the year prior. It was an outstanding display of athleticism as Tate and Lindsay, who combined for an FBS record 608 yards from scrimmage. The winner in the past eight contests have averaged 45 points per game.
A much different story for Colorado and Arizona this season. Both schools ended at 5-7 last year, but have each surged to a 3-1 record thus far through five weeks. Offense is the strong suit for both the Buffs and Wildcats, who are near even when compared against each other respectfully.
Colorado quarterback Steven Montez battles Tate in what could be a high-scoring affair; if Arizona’s dual-threat QB is healthy and plays due to a hamstring injury. Tate is key to the Wildcats offense being top in the Pac-12 and ranked fifth in the country in total offense at 552.3 yards per game. Arizona’s rushing attack leads the Pac-12 Conference in rushing at 255.5 yards per game, which can be credited to Tate’s running ability, as well as J.J. Taylor, who like Tate, missed action in last week’s 20-17 win over UCLA due to injury.
There’s a chance Grant Gunnell will be starting under center in place of Tate for a second straight week. The Pac-12 freshman of the week threw for 352 yards and a touchdown in a relief effort against the Bruins. As for Montez, the Buffs are 11-1 when he completes 65 percent of his passes over his career—a feat he has never accomplished against the Wildcats defense. Through the first four games, Montez has thrown for 1,164 yards and nine touchdowns while completing 67 percent of his passes.
The Pac-12 South match-up is intriguing from a defensive prospective with either team looking for an advantage. Arizona has held their previous two opponents scoreless in the fourth quarter with a 22-0 difference (Texas Tech, UCLA). The Wildcats are 1-25 when trailing after three quarters dating back to 2015. Meanwhile, Colorado has dominated in the final 15 minutes by a 54-31 margin this season. Add that to CU’s defense being one of the best to force turnovers at nearly two per game. Although, Arizona leads the nation with 9 interceptions behind three picks each for Jace Whittaker and Lorenzo Burns.
Another story line going into Saturday is the status of Laviska Shenault Jr., Mustafa Johnson, and others after being hurt against Arizona State. CU head coach Mel Tucker stated it would be a “game time decision” for both earlier in the week. Shenault left the game with an undisclosed injury and did not return. As for Johnson, the Buffs leading sack master was taken to the locker room with a leg injury and returned to the sidelines in a walking boot.
News and Notes
From the desk of Dave Plati:
“Colorado is currently second in the nation in kickoff returns, averaging 33.5 yards for six returns to date (the average starting yardline on those is the opponent’s 36). The school record is 26.6 (36 returns) set back in 1997; CU averaged 25.0 the next year (29 returns) but has not averaged 24 or more since. (Utah State is the national leader at 34.7 for seven returns.)”
Today game is brought to you by the letter ‘A’.
“Air Force. Arizona State. Arizona. This is the first time since 1936 that CU is playing three straight games against schools that start with the same letter (in ’36, CU won three straight over Colorado Mines, Colorado A&M (State) and Colorado College. It will be the 11th time overall, playing three straight C schools nine times previously and three D schools once (CU has played two schools starting with the same letter 11 times: C, D, H, I, K, M, N, O, T, U, W).”
Colorado opens up their Pac-12 home schedule with Arizona on Oct. 5. Kickoff is schedule for 2:30 p.m. for Family Weekend with a projected sellout crowd of 50,183 at Folsom Field. The Buffaloes hold a 14-7 advantage over the Wildcats in the series, but a 5-4 edge in Boulder. The odds are stacked against CU going 2-6 in Pac-12 home opener and 28-23 following a bye week in the post-World War II Era (2-5 as member of the Pac-12).
TV: Pac-12 Networks (National; except DirecTV)
Radio: 850 KOA (Regional)
Weather Forecast: 63°, Sunny at kickoff
Odds: -4 Colorado
Colorado is 3-1 against the spread; Arizona is 1-2-1.