The Colorado Buffaloes, fresh off of a rough loss to the Cal Bears, now face a significant upgrade in talent as they head to Eugene to take on the heavily-favored, 7th-ranked Oregon Ducks.
These teams haven’t played since 2019 due to the pandemic shortened season and it’s unlikely the Buffs (2-5, 1-3 Pac-12) can pull off any heroics similar to the upset that started The Rise five years ago.
Overall, the series with the Ducks (6-1, 3-1 Pac-12) has been lopsided since CU transitioned to the conference over a decade ago. The Buffaloes have only managed a single win in the previous seven meetings as they’ve tried to prove that they are a program that can reach the same levels as the Pac-12 powerhouse. This contest also marks Colorado’s third consecutive trip to play at Autzen since last hosting Oregon at Folsom Field in 2015.
The Pac-12’s top-ranked team is trying to stay in the College Football Playoff conversation after a loss to Stanford has them teetering on the brink of another conference season without a playoff contestant. A win would move them one step closer to possibly representing the Pac-12 in the four-team postseason.
The Ducks have typically operated out of a pass-first offensive attack, but lately have incorporated a steady run game into the mix. Last week’s 34-31 win over UCLA was Oregon’s best passing performance thus far in the season with Anthony Brown gathering 381 total yards, a rushing TD and two interceptions— his most yards since transferring from Boston College before the 2020 season.
Travis Dye, Oregon’s top rusher has received a majority of carries out of the backfield and leads the team with 562 yards and eight touchdowns. Dye and Brown each have 300+ yards this season. CJ Verdell, one of the Ducks best talents at running back, was lost to a season-ending injury nearly a month ago. Since losing the top back, the U of O duo have combined for 958 yards of total offense and eight touchdowns including every score against the Bruins on Saturday.
If Colorado’s all-conference linebacker Nate Landman is ruled out, expect Oregon to come out swinging with several runs early against the Buffs. The secondary should be able to stand their ground and prevent Brown from launching it down the field often. However, if you give him a chance, he’ll find a way to burn you with his legs.
The same is true for Colorado’s offense as Brendon Lewis continues to rely on the Buffs rushers to move the sticks. What Oregon’s defense will look for is any opportunity to pick up a sack or tackle for loss. And the trio of Kayvon Thibodeaux, Adrian Jackson Jr. and Bradyn Swinson are among some of the best in the conference with 14 tackles for loss and four sacks against UCLA’s offensive line.
For a unit that gave up six sacks last week against Cal, Colorado can’t afford back-to-back weeks with Lewis being thrown to the turf more times than his previous outings. Colorado is near the bottom with 15.1 points and 238.1 total yards per game, prompting a coaching change for the Buffs on the offensive line earlier this week.
Oregon’s blueprint will be simple. As long as they take care of the ball and play mistake-free without playing down to CU’s level, they’ll be in good shape to send the Buffs home with their sixth loss of the season. Not saying if Colorado plays like they did against Texas A&M that they won’t have a shot to make this interesting, after all, Arizona kept it close. But this Ducks team has the ability to run away from the Buffs if they play their best.
With that being said, Oregon is one of five teams in the country that has won at least four games by a touchdown or less and one of only three in the Power 5 (Oklahoma - 5, Kentucky - 4). It’s the first time since 2009 that an Oregon team has won at least four one-possession games in a season.
From the desk of Dave Plati:
Obscure note of the week: “Colorado was not penalized in the first half at California (one was declined), the first penalty-free half this season (either half). The last first half without a penalty was at Arizona State on Sept. 21, 2019 (CU finished with 3-30 yards that day). The Buffs weren’t flagged for any in the third quarter either, as CU’s only two penalties came in the fourth quarter (an offsides on special teams and an offensive holding).
“The last time Colorado wasn’t penalized through three quarters was also the last time it wasn’t in a game – Nov. 26, 2016 versus Utah in a 27-22 win that clinched the Pac-12 South title. There are five documented games in CU history without a penalty; twice this year CU has had just two penalties (A&M, Cal) and had only three against Minnesota”
Colorado wraps up a two-game road trip against Oregon on Saturday, Oct. 30. Kickoff is scheduled at 1:30 p.m. MT from Autzen Stadium. The Buffs are 25-98-3 all-time against AP Top 10 teams, dropping the last 15 straight dating back to a 27-24 upset of No. 3 Oklahoma in Boulder during the 2007 season.
TV: FOX (National)
Radio: 850 KOA (Mark Johnson & Gary Barnett)
Odds: -24.5 Oregon
Weather: 60°, cloudy