Colorado could spoil the CFB Playoff hopes for 8th-ranked Oregon with season-best performance in Boulder on Saturday.
The Ducks (7-1, 5-0 Pac-12) are riding high on a seven-game win streak, scoring an average of 45 points per contest in Pac-12 play. It’s now an impressive resume with two wins over ranked teams (No. 12 BYU, No. 9 UCLA), and the only blemish coming with by way of a neutral turf 46-point blowout to open the season against No. 3 Georgia. For all the positives Oregon has accomplished, it’s not unreasonable to believe a second loss can happen in the final stretch of the regular season. But it’s likely not happening to these Buffaloes.
“That’s kind of been our mantra from day one,” Oregon coach Dan Lanning said about being the favorites. “Our guys have done a good job of accepting that.”
On the other hand, the Buffaloes (1-7, 1-4 Pac-12) are a young, fairly inexperienced team with a lot of flashes which has not yielded many points. But they’re still fighting with more grit, and a renewed energy as of late. Many are ranting and raving over interim coach Mike Sanford for all the right reasons. The 40-year-old is pumping life back into a Buffs’ program that was at one of the worst points in school history. Sanford will likely be replaced in a couple months, but this audition period will likely land him a similar position down the road.
This will be the toughest test for Sanford’s Buffs. A team needing a “come together” moment bigger than the overtime win over Cal and an upset over the Pac-12’s best could also be the recruiting boost needed before early Signing Day.
“There’s a quote that I showed our players. It said, ‘If you want to conduct an orchestra, you have to turn your back to the crowd,’” Sanford said earlier this week. “Through adversity, when nobody’s giving you a chance, at some point you have to literally turn your back.”
Sanford is right. However, the odds are stacked against the Buffaloes who have four wins over Top 25 teams as members of the Pac-12.
Oregon doesn’t make many mistake and forcing them to play “Flatirons football” could be the key for CU on Saturday. The problem with making that happe n will be keeping Oregon’s offense on the sidelines after dominating opponents with a 31-minute average time of possession through the first eight games. Colorado will need to beat the Ducks at their own game by keeping the chains moving down the field. As former Denver Nuggets coach Doug Moe used to preach, “Playing at the right pace in that altitude will always bring success.”
If you break down why Georgia was able to trip up Oregon, you’ll see it started early.
Oregon was forced to punt after an 8-play, 33-yard drive on the opening series. The Bulldogs then orchestrated a 12-play, 85-yard touchdown drive, eating up over five minutes off the clock. Stetson Bennett was an important part to Georgia’s early lead, going 7-of-9 for 66 yards and hit five different receivers for Georgia’s initial score. Oregon then traded two picks for another two UGA scores before getting on the board with a 35-yard field goal from Cameron Lewis midway through the second quarter. It was the Ducks only points for the day.
Obviously not saying CU has the same level of talent Georgia does on both sides of the ball, but definitely gives an interesting perspective and a possible blueprint for how the Buffs should open the game. UGA hogged the ball away from Oregon in the first half with three long drives of 75 yards or more.
Oregon, unlike Colorado, is stout on offense behind QB Bo Nix. The Auburn transfer is one of four Pac-12 passers with over 2,000 yards and 20 TDs this season, and is currently tied with UCLA’s Dorian Thompson-Robinson for the highest completion percentage (72.3%). A big kudos is due to the Ducks offensive line for allowing Nix to be sacked just once this season. He plays as a dual-threat and can scramble when needed which is also a factor into the low total. Nix has 60 rushing attempts for 441 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Colorado remains one of the worst overall in FBS. They rank in the bottom ten for total offense and defense. They’re also the only ‘Power 5’ team to allow over an average of 39 points and 480 yards per game this season. One of the worst this year, but not historically. To put this into perspective, CU would need to give up 80 points per game in the next four games to match UMass’ record of 52.9 PPG set in 2019.
Oregon defensive back Christian Gonzalez returns to Boulder after hitting the transfer portal less than a year ago. The former Buffs’ standout has turned into a major contributor for the Ducks’ defense with 32 tackles, seven pass breakups, and an interception. Gonzalez was one of six CU starters from last year to transfer away.
From the desk of Dave Plati:
Obscure stat of the week- “44.25. That’s the average distance of the four touchdowns that WR Jordyn Tyson has scored thus far in his CU career. The four have covered 177 yards, three TD receptions of 23, 8 and 58, and one punt return of 88. The CU season record is held by WR Mike Pritchard (48.8, 11 TDs/537 yards in 1990), with the career mark by the late Charles E. Johnson (43.3, 17 TDs/736 yards, 1990-93). Tyson has a way to go, but he’s so far in pretty rarified air.
Colorado comes home to face Oregon. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. MT from Folsom Field on Saturday, Nov. 5. The Ducks are the first ranked opponent this year. Even though, all but two of CU’s previous or future opponents (Cal & ASU) have either been ranked or received votes in the AP Top 25 poll at some point. The combined record of CU’s 2022 opponents is currently 66-30.
TV: ESPN (National)
Radio: 850 KOA (Mark Johnson and Gary Barnett)
Weather forecast: 54°, cloudy
Odds: -31.5, Oregon