It’s a Friday Family Night at Folsom Field this week and Stanford’s in town. At the risk of sounding overly confident, this won’t be a competitive game as much as it will be an opportunity for families to lightly bicker in the stands before the parents get cold and go back to their hotel while the kids meet up at The Sink to complain about them.
Stanford is bad — like lose to Sacramento State bad, if you want to remember some guys on the 2012 Buffs. This looks like the proverbial get-right game, which is especially fortunate for the Buffs considering they kind of bungled last week’s get-right game. After this weekend, four of the last five games come against ranked teams, so use this set break to stretch your legs and go get another Liquid Death. Plus, there actually are some intriguing reasons to tune in on Friday night. What are they? Great question!
1. [whispers] Travis Hunter back?
Maybe the biggest news out of Boulder this week was that Travis Hunter returned to practice. Remember him? (I’m joking, stop yelling at me.) He’s been out since lacerating his liver against Colorado State, which is a very weird sentence to type. But he’s back, and while his status for Friday night isn’t super clear yet, he looks ready to play, at least. (Also: Omarion Miller!) Personally, I’d be a tiny bit surprised if he plays – the Buffs are off next week, and I’m no doctor, but it seems like two extra weeks of recovery for a lacerated liver never hurts?
Stanford is averaging less than 200 passing yards per game, so it’s not like the Buffs’ secondary absolutely needs Hunter back. And if you think that’s bad, wait until you hear how many passing yards Stanford’s defense is averaging per game (305!). So the passing game will be fine. Getting him another couple weeks of recovery in time for a brutal stretch run seems like the easy call, but I’m also not a football coach. On the other hand, it is an 8pm kickoff against a one-win team, so we could use all the entertainment we can get.
2. [sighs] Alton McCaskill back?
I am such a sucker. I write about Alton McCaskill every week, and each time I sound more and more like the comment section of a recruiting site. He’s back! He’s going to change the offense! Someone I know heard from someone they know that he took the first-team reps in practice and looked incredible! He’s going to feature in a major way this week! And then the game comes, and McCaskill gets like three carries for 17 yards. Even with the early-season expectations being what they were, I’m not sure anyone thought he’d still be a non-factor by mid-October. And yet, like the sucker I am, I’m falling hook, line, and sinker for what Coach Prime had to say about the talented back this week:
Colorado HC Deion Sanders said it's been tough trying to get touches for all of the talented RBs, including Alton McCaskill, who has six carries this year. But, he said of McCaskill, "You're definitely gonna see him this week." #cubuffs— Brian Howell (@BrianHowell33) October 10, 2023
The run game has been this season’s most maddening mystery – despite what coaches, and basically everyone with eyes, says about the talent in the RB room, they’ve only managed one – *maybe* two – actually-efficient games from that group. At this point, I just want to see what he looks like with a bellcow-light workload. Maybe it’s bad! Maybe the offensive line continues to be underwhelming, and it doesn’t really matter who’s back there. But coming into the season, McCaskill was supposed to be The Guy chewing up yards between the tackles. And I promise that if it’s not happening Friday, I’ll give up this bit for good.
3. Maybe it’s more of a Prove It Game than a Get Right Game?
In the immediate moments after last week’s stress fest in the desert, Coach Prime made it exceedingly clear that he wasn’t happy. His anger in the postgame presser was a new twist, and the message to players wasn’t subtle. This team expects to be much, much better than they probably are, and maybe that’s not a totally realistic goal right now, you can’t exactly blame them either.
In theory, hammering the Pac-12’s worst teams seems like an approachable Year 1 goal. I bet the coaches treated squeaking out a three-point win against Arizona State as a step back and now they’ve got an even worse team coming into their house on Parent’s Weekend. The pressure! Only getting 11 points, at home, against one of the worst teams in FBS feels slightly disrespectful, though it’s not like this team has ever had a motivation problem. If the Buffs actually have that killer instinct in them, this is the week to show people that.