The magic number for the Colorado Buffaloes (4-6, 2-5 Pac-12) is two for them to make a bowl game. Colorado will have to will their final two against Washington and Utah, two of the best teams in the Pac-12. This will be a monumental task as Colorado has struggled with injuries, having seen 38 different players start on offense (17) and defense (21).
The Washington Huskies (6-4, 3-4 Pac-12) are up first in the final weeks for Colorado. A team once regarded as a favorite in the Pac-12 in recent years is in danger of suffering their worst record during coach Chris Petersen’s tenure. Through it all, Washington is heading to a tenth straight postseason appearance, sixth under Petersen— which is the second-most among Pac-12 teams behind Stanford— who’s currently holding at ten and needing to win out against Cal and Notre Dame after being defeated by CU last week.
Washington started off the season at 4-1 before dropping three of the next five to the above par record they sit at currently. The past month hasn’t been a good one for Petersen’s team. Two back-to-back games going up against the Pac-12’s elite — then-No. 12 Oregon and then-No. 9 Utah — both resulting in losses for the Huskies. A bounce back with a 19-7 win over Oregon State snapped the two-game slide for UW two weeks ago, but it still keeps them out of contention for a Pac-12 title for the first time in four years.
After a bye week, Petersen’s focus is towards ramping back up, especially late in the season. “We’ve had a good couple weeks. Now it’s time to get back into game week,” Petersen said earlier this week. ”It’s been interesting having these late byes where you play and get all geared up and then you get a bye, and then you get geared up, you play, and then you have another bye. So it’s good for our guys to get rested up and more dialed into school, but it’s exciting to be back to game week.”
Some of the seniors for CU have vivid memories of Washington’s dominance. It was ‘The Rise’ that was put up against a powerful, highly-favored Huskies squad to decide the Pac-12 championship in Santa Clara, Calif. three years ago. Now those same players see the last time they’ll play at Folsom Field as an opportunity to overturn a bad series history. “This is a big game for not only the seniors, but also everyone on the team, CU offensive lineman Tim Lynott said. “You’ve got to treat every game as a statement game. I believe it’s just another game at Folsom where we need to go out and play good football.”
The last three meetings between Colorado and Washington has carried a similar story line. An eager Buffs team has kept the score close at halftime only to be shutdown in the final two quarters. A one-sided 67-6 is the point total Washington has put up against Colorado in the second half of the past three contests. CU had a great start down by one, 14-13, to the 15th-ranked Huskies going into the locker room of last year’s game. A wasted effort after going scoreless in the final 30 minutes. Colorado has gone 0-9 in the series with Washington since 1999, and has failed to surpass the 24-point mark during that time. Unlike the past three years, look for Washington to come out swinging early on the Buffs. UW has outscored opponents 107-13 in the first quarter in 10 games this season.
Jacob Eason is the man under center for Washington this season. The five-star Georgia transfer from Lake Stevens, Wash. decided to head back home and sit out a year after injuring his knee early in the 2017 season. Eason took over at quarterback for the exiting Jake Browning, and mulls over his options to turn pro after throwing for 2,472 yards, 20 touchdowns and seven interceptions. “He can throw the ball a mile, he’s got the best arm strength I’ve ever seen, college or pro,” CU coach Mel Tucker said about Eason at Pac-12 media day. Tucker wasn’t directly involved with recruiting Eason at Georgia, but has an upper-hand having prepared the Bulldogs’ defense to practice against the pro-style prospect. Adding Eason was a plus for Washington as some might argue he was the highest-rated recruit to ever step foot on campus in Athens.
Ready or not, Colorado’s defense must rise to the occasion and challenge Eason to make ill-advised decisions in the pocket. Washington has converted on 14-of-46 (30.4 %) times on 3rd down in the past three games, but managed to pick up an average of 401 yards of total offense in the process.
Winning the turnover battle will be huge for Colorado. Both teams have forced opponents to cough up the ball 16 times a piece this season (T-4, Pac-12) and have are positive when it comes to turnover margin (Washington +4, Colorado +3). The Huskies have surrendered nearly the same amount of fumbles to Eason seven INT’s for a total of twelve giveaways. Two of Eason’s picks have gone the other way for scores this season.
Despite the history between Colorado and Washington, Petersen knows not to take the Buffs lightly. “I know anytime there’s a coaching change it takes most times a minute to get everybody on the same page, all those type of things. But the one thing that jumps out to me is those guys play hard,” said Petersen. ”I don’t think you pay attention to the records. I really don’t. I think they play hard. Coach (Mel) Tucker has done a nice job of getting those guys to play inspired. I think their crowds – from what you can see on tape – and that’s a tight venue down there where the stadium is right on you. They’ve had good crowds most of the whole season. I think that helps them. They play well at home. I think that’s another thing. So late, cold night, grass all those type of things. It’ll be a good challenge.”
Opposite Eason is another pro prospect in CU’s Steven Montez. The El Paso, Texas native comes into Saturday’s game with the Huskies being a “stones throw” away from being atop CU’s record book for touchdown passes thrown— needing one to break the mark of 60 TD’s set by Sefo Liufau and Cody Hawkins. Montez also needs 316 yards of total offense to set the school record set by Liufau in 2016. The Buffs senior passer will have the chance to display his talents for NFL scouts after accepting an invitation to the East-West Shrine Game last week.
Montez and the Buffs offense will need a superb outing against the Huskies’ stout defense. Washington is ranked third in the Pac-12 for yards allowed, averaging 349.7 yards per game and is one of five teams in the conference not to allow a 400+ yard average. Colorado snapped an FBS record of allowing 30+ points in the past 14 games vs Stanford two weeks ago. Quite the opposite for Washington, who has scored under 30 points in all but one of their four losses this season-- a 35-31 mid-october road win for Oregon.
News and Notes
From the desk of Dave Plati:
“Touchdown-to-Interception Ratio. QB Steven Montez has already set or tied 42 records at Colorado, and is on the verge of several others, but one of the more standout ones is TD to interception ratio. He has 60 touchdown passes (tied for the most at CU with two others) and 32 interceptions; he is the closest for a 2-to-1 ration of any player at CU with 20 or more TD passes (1.88-to-1). The current record holders are QB Kordell Stewart (1991-94) and QB Mike Moschetti (1998-99); both had 33 TDs and 19 interceptions, or a ratio of 1.74-to-1. The record holder with a minimum of 10 TDs throws is QB Bobby Pesavento (2000-01), who had 11 touchdowns and four picks, or a 2.75-to-1 ratio.”
Colorado welcomes Washington into Folsom Field on Saturday, Nov. 23 at 8 p.m. MT. The Huskies hold a 12-5-1 all-time series lead, along with going undefeated at 7-0 as members of the Pac-12.
Radio: 850 KOA (Regional) Mark Johnson (play-by-play)/ Gary Barnett (color)
Weather Forecast: 38°, cloudy at kickoff
Odds: -14 Washington