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Colorado hopes to extend home streak against Cal: Week 7 Preview

The start of the Mike Sanford era in Boulder.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 23 Colorado at Cal Photo by Bob Kupbens/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It’s amazing what a head coaching change along with a bye week can do as a confidence builder. As college football’s last winless team, the Colorado Buffaloes (0-5, 0-2 Pac-12) are midway through the 2022 season hoping to finally begin to show some improvement. They’ve dropped their first five games in a season for just the fourth time in school history.

Karl Dorrell is out in Boulder and interim coach Mike Sanford takes over for now. The one-time head coach at Western Kentucky has been an offensive coordinator with stops at Notre Dame, Boise State, Utah State, and Minnesota. While his resume is stacked with experience over the past 17 years, Sanford has yet to post a winning season as head coach, and isn’t going to win out this year.

Colorado faces off against the California Golden Bears, who’re coming off a 28-9 road loss to Washington State. The combined record of CU’s next five opponents is currently 20-9 with Arizona State as the only team under .500 at 2-4 overall. This also includes back-to-back contests with No. 12 Oregon and No. 7 USC to start of the month of November.

Cal (3-2, 1-1 Pac-12) hasn’t pulled off a win in Boulder in 11 years, losing the last two road games in the series, despite taking both games at home in Berkeley. The Bears hold a 7-4 advantage over the Buffaloes going back to 1968.

If Colorado has a chance to stop the bleeding and notch their first win of the season, it has to come on defense. Jake Plummer and the Bears offense has been solid as of late with 1,206 total yards, ten touchdowns, and no turnovers in the past three games. Despite the success, Cal is 1-2 during that span due to miscues on defense.

As for the Buffs, they’ve allowed 216 points which is the second-most among Power Five teams. However, the offense isn’t much better with a total of 67 points so far with a season-high 20 points in the loss to Arizona two weeks ago. Colorado is one of six FBS teams to allow over 40 points per game, and the only one west of the Mississippi in the continental U.S. (Hawaii: 40.5 ppg). Keep in mind, CU’s defense has given up less passing yards statistically than 11 ranked teams, but remains the worst Power Five team against the run, handing over 300 yards per game.

Owen McCown earns his third start and first of the Sanford era on Saturday. The true freshman QB has completed 44-of-79 passes for 496 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. McCown has 69 fewer yards than all of CU’s rushers combined through the first five games. The Rusk, Texas product is the son of former NFL journeyman QB Josh McCown, who wrapped up his 19-year career with the Houston Texans in 2020.

Cal’s defense is in the top-end amongst the Pac-12, allowing an average of 22 points per game (42nd, FBS), and are second in the conference for yards allowed with an average of 388.8 yards per game. They’re better against the run than defending the pass, but not to the point of it being lopsided. A total of 602 yard on the ground (23rd, FBS) compared to 1,342 yards through the air (69th, FBS).

From the desk of Dave Plati

Stat of the week: “2-3. That’s the CU record under interim head coaches named during the season. With Mike Sanford named the fourth interim head coach in CU history, he will coach the more games than the three before him who held the tag. Mike Hankwitz was 0-1 (lost to Clemson in the 2005 Champ Sports Bowl after replacing Gary Barnett); Brian Cabral was 2-1 over the final three games of the 2010 season subbing for Dan Hawkins (wins over Iowa State and Kansas State and a loss at Nebraska); Kurt Roper was 0-1 in the 2018 finale (a 33-21 loss at California after Mike MacIntyre was dismissed). Sanford will actually be the third CU coach to debut against Cal; in 1982, Bill McCartney’s first game was against the Bears in a rain-soaked 31-17 setback in Boulder.”

Game Info

Colorado returns home to meet Cal for Family Weekend. Kickoff is scheduled for Noon MT. It’s the third time these schools have squared off since 2017 with the victor taking each contest by double-digits.

TV: Pac-12 Network (National)

Radio: 850 KOA (Mark Johnson and Gary Barnett)

Weather forecast: 60°, Sunny

Odds: -15, Cal