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Buffs and Wildcats searching for a Pac-12 win: Week five preview

Colorado’s pain might get deeper in the desert on Saturday night

NCAA Football: Arizona at Colorado Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

There’s no sugar coating anything for the Colorado Buffaloes (0-4, 0-1 Pac-12) from here on out. We may be witnessing the worst season in school history.

All four of the Buffs losses (TCU, Minnesota, Air Force and UCLA) have come by 25+ points. They are the first Power Five school in 65 years to suffer a margin of defeat that significant, according to Brian Howell.

As for this week’s opponent, a nice turnaround is finally coming together for the Arizona Wildcats (2-2, 0-1, Pac-12). Jedd Fisch’s second year in the desert is going better than his first after posting a 1-11 record in 2021. His complete overhaul has been defense focused after Kevin Sumlin neglected that side of the ball for years.

Arizona’s offense has held up through tough moments behind QB Jayden de Laura. The Hawaiian sophomore threw for a career high 401 yards along with two touchdowns and two picks in the loss at Cal last week. De Laura has looked sharp after another season coached by longtime QB whispered Fisch, as well as assistant coach Jimmie Dougherty. The Washington State transfer has thrown for 1,149 yards and eight touchdowns to six interceptions.

With memories of Khalil Tate and Kadeem Carey still in mind, the Cats might not have to pass much on Saturday. The Buffaloes have given up an average of 323.3 rushing yards per game, which is dead last among FBS teams by a wide margin. Hawaii is the next up with an average of 260.8 yards per contest. Arizona averages close to 120 yards per game on the ground behind leading rusher Michael Wiley, who has run for 210 total yards and has scored in each of the last three games.

If there is a bright side for the Buffs, it has been outstanding play on paper from their secondary, allowing an average of 144.5 yards per game (7th, FBS). The QB’s Colorado has faced have gone a combined 50-of-77 (64.9%) for 578 yards with six TDs to one interception. This comes with the sizable caveat that raw numbers might not capture much of anything, since CU opponents haven’t had to throw the ball.

Colorado QB Owen McCown was just the seventh true freshman to start in school history last week vs. UCLA. The son of former NFL passer Josh McCown completed 26-of-42 passes for 258 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He’ll be starting once again this week with lots of room for improvements, but shows a bit more consistency than JT Shrout or Brendon Lewis.

What’s on the line

Arizona could pick up win No. 3 on the season. Vegas projections 2-10 to start the season.

Karl Dorrell is in jeopardy of losing seven of the last nine games going back the end of last season. This might be CU’s best chance to win a game this season.

From the desk of Dave Plati

Stat of the week: “Through four games, 18 different players have caught a pass for the Buffaloes – 10 wide receivers, four running backs and four tight ends. The school record in a season is 19, set in 1999 and matched in 2004. Thirteen of the players have caught at least two passes, but just WR Daniel Arias has more than 10 (13). In both ’99 and ’04, 14 players caught two or more throws with eight hauling in 10 or more; the ’99 team had five players with 20 or more, the ’04 squad a record seven with 20-plus.”

Obscure note of the week: “Three True Freshmen Starters On Offense In Same Game. With QB Owen McCown, WR Chase Sowell and OG Van Wells starting on offense against UCLA, it was the first time three true freshmen started the same game on offense since a 28-24 win over Iowa State in Boulder on Nov. 8, 2008 (TE Ryan Deehan, QB Tyler Hansen and TB Darrell Scott started that day).”

Game Info

Colorado hits the road to meet Arizona. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. MT. Both teams are looking for their first Pac-12 win. The Buffs hold the all-time series lead by a 16-8 count with two straight wins. Arizona owns a 7-4 edge since CU joined the Pac-12.

TV: Pac-12 Network (National)

Radio: 850 KOA (Mark Johnson and Gary Barnett)

Weather forecast: 81° Dusk, partly cloudly

Odds: -16.5 Arizona