The Colorado Buffaloes are a surprising 3-0 on the season. Considering the upcoming opponent on Saturday, they’re heavily favored to make that four games undefeated.
The Buffs opened as 3-point favorites over the Arizona Wildcats, but that line has since ballooned to 7.5-points and figures to keep growing. OddsShark, for example, projects the game to be 14-point Colorado win.
None of this to say the Buffs are a juggernaut beating up everyone in the Pac-12 South. CU certainly has impressed, but that’s compared to the low expectations we had for a team with seven first-time starters on offense and a first-year head coach. Instead, these projections are about how bad the Wildcats are at football.
The Wildcats opened their season against USC and nearly beat the division favorites, but Trojans running back Vavae Malepeai scored a last-minute, game-winning touchdown. That could have been a great win for Arizona, even if it made possible by a languishing USC offense that still struggles to move the ball.
Since that game, U of A has been absolutely beaten down. They trailed 37-0 against Washington before scoring 24 points in a hopeless 4th quarter comeback attempt. Then freshman Will Plummer replaced an injured Grant Gunnell and led the offense to just 300 yards in their 27-10 loss to UCLA. Their offense line got absolutely whipped by an defensive line that CU tossed around.
Arizona’s struggles on offense are not new. Kevin Sumlin is on the
boiling hot seat because his teams have gotten progressively worse since Rich Rodriguez was fired. Sumlin was supposed to be an offensive guru, but his quarterbacks have never improved, his depth is paper thin and his players have apparently lost faith in his abilities.
This isn’t to say anything about their defense, which is looking increasingly flammable as they rely on freshmen and walk-ons. Arizona has become such a hopeless situation that a number of players — mostly in the defensive secondary — have opted out or are on the verge of transferring someplace else. According to AZ Desert Swarm, the Cats are down to six scholarship players for four defensive back positions. The team itself is down to just 65 available scholarship players, fairly close to the minimum 53 players required to play.
In summary, Arizona is starting an overmatched freshman quarterback, can’t do anything on the ground because their offensive line is out of sync, had little talent and depth on defense even before half of their secondary opted out, and, according to a source, have a decimated locker room morale.
The disaster unfolding at Arizona doesn’t guarantee a win for the Buffs, of course. The CU offense struggled horribly against San Diego State, and although the Aztecs are a better team than Arizona and there were only two days to prepare for the game, the Buffs certainly have some weaknesses that can be exploited. It doesn’t matter how many walk-ons Arizona is playing in the secondary if Sam Noyer and his receivers aren’t on the same page.
I am comfortable projecting a fourth straight win for Colorado, but if the spirit of Khalil Tate haunts you as it haunts me, this should be a cautious optimism.