Last week’s contest in Eugene stuck to the script the season for the Buffaloes. The 23-point loss to No. 4 Oregon puts CU’s on the brink of elimination from postseason play with a month left in the 2021 season. On the other hand, this week’s opponent, Oregon State, can become bowl eligible with a win for the first time in eight years.
After being on the road for two weeks, the Buffs (2-6, 1-5 Pac-12) return to the friendly atmosphere of Folsom Field for a meeting with OSU. The history between both teams has been close over the past decade with Colorado taking three of the previous four, but none of those contests have come in the previous three years.
The Beavers (5-3, 3-2 Pac-12) started off the season hot, including a historic win at the LA Coliseum over USC. In fact, it remains the Beavers’ lone road win prior to a tough run over the past three games that included road losses at Washington State and Cal. Despite the losses, Coach of the Year candidate Jonathan Smith has transformed Oregon State into a team better equipped to compete with all the programs in the Pac-12.
A huge reason for the Beavers turnaround out of the Pac-12 basement has been the consistency of B.J. Baylor. The conference’s leading rusher has 872 yards and 10 touchdowns with an average of a score every thirteen touches so far this season. He is a game-changing back with the ability to light up opposing defense with a quick burst of power and speed. OSU has only lost one game this season when Baylor has broken the 100-yard mark, three weeks ago at Washington State.
Outside of Baylor, OSU’s offense runs through quarterback Chance Nolan, who has been steadily improving but still can’t shake the turnover bug that has plagued him this season. His 243 passing yards last week against Cal came along with two touchdowns and a pair of interceptions. Nolan has 1,504 yards with 13 TDs to a total of 7 INTs in eight games.
Colorado will have to try and slow Baylor and force Nolan to be the Beavers playmaker. So far, OSU is win-less in Pac-12 play when he attempts over 20 passes, which he has done twice. This means the Buffs defense will once again have to play lights out for 60 minutes as they intend to stay alive in 2021— easier said than done. The Beavers are averaging 40.2 points in their five wins and 23.3 in the three losses.
Unfortunately, CU’s offensive attack is still stuck in reverse, although we began to see some signs of hope against Oregon. The Buffaloes rank dead last in FBS in total offense (251.0 ypg), and are 123rd overall as one of eight teams averaging less than 17 points per contest.
It’s hard to support a good defense when they’re asked to play multiple series on the field with quick turnarounds. The Buffs are 32-of-99 (32.3%) on third down conversions so far this year which is the fourth-worst in FBS. Outside of the 15 points surrendered by Oregon in the fourth quarter last week, Colorado has been shut out in nearly half of the quarters they’ve played.
Brendon Lewis shows flashes of greatness but is still working to advance his game to the next level. The Texas freshman threw for 224 yards and three touchdowns against Oregon and looks more comfortable every time he steps on the field.
Lewis has tied Cody Hawkins for the most touchdown passes by a freshman quarterback to freshmen receivers with the five, according to CU athletics. At this point, and if for nothing else, Lewis could be auditioning for next year’s starting role in the coming month with Tennessee transfer JT Shrout expected to be returning from injury in the offseason.
From the desk of Dave Plati:
Turnover-Free. “One thing Colorado has done exceptionally well has been taking care of the football – the Buffs have just six turnovers in eight games – the fifth-fewest in the nation – and have now had four games without one in 2021. It’s CU’s fifth turnover-free game in 14 under head coach Karl Dorrell, which, granted a small sample size, is the highest percentage of any coach in school history.
“Mike MacIntyre (2013-18) had 17 games out 74 without a turnover, the best percentage of all previous coaches (23.0); Bill McCartney (1982-94) had the most games, 23 (out of 153, or 15.0%). Otherwise, only Gary Barnett (1999-2005, 11 out of 87), Dan Hawkins (2006-10, 8 out of 58) and Eddie Crowder (1963-74, 6 out of 118) had more than the five games Dorrell has under his belt.”
Colorado hit homecoming week against Oregon State on Saturday, Nov. 6. Kickoff is scheduled at 5 p.m. MDT from Folsom Field.
TV: Pac-12 Network
Radio: 850 KOA (Mark Johnson & Gary Barnett)
Odds: -11.5 OSU
Weather: 71°, partly cloudy