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Colorado vs. Washington State Preview: Can the Buffs finally get their fifth win?

Friday night’s game is Coach Prime’s best chance at one final win in 2023.

Colorado v Washington State Photo by William Mancebo/Getty Images

If you would have told me in September that two 4-6 Colorado and Washington State teams would be facing off in Week 11, I probably would have told you that you’re crazy. Yet, here we are. Despite both teams starting the season off strong, the Cougs and Buffs have fallen off a cliff in recent weeks. Now, this week’s game is a must-win game for both squads to keep their bowl hopes alive.

Friday night’s game is Colorado’s best chance to win another game in 2023. The Buffaloes are only 4-point underdogs, which is Colorado’s most favorable spread in five weeks. This Buffs team could very realistically go into Pullman and come away with their second conference win of the season. In order to do that, they’ll need to take care of these three things.

Colorado needs to contain Cameron Ward

Hot damn, Wazzu found themselves a quarterback. Cameron Ward has absolutely balled out for the Cougars in his second season in Pullman. Ward currently has 3,127 passing yards, 20 touchdowns and 5 picks in 2023. That stat line is eerily similar to Shedeur's. Ward was getting some serious Heisman hype in September, but that hype fell out when the Cougs started losing games. Regardless, Ward’s extremely dangerous and something Colorado’s defense is going to need to address.

Thankfully, this won’t be the first time that the Buffs are facing off against a great quarterback. Charles Kelly and Colorado have had to deal with Caleb Williams, Bo Nix and Jeff Sims already so far this year, so they have the experience. Washington State’s offense is almost entirely reliant on the pass, much like CU’s. If the Buffs can find a way to stop Ward, Wazzu’s offense will completely stall out. Travis Hunter, Shilo Sanders and Colorado’s secondary have their work cut out for them this week.

The Buffs need to run the ball better than the Cougars

It may sound crazy to suggest that the Buffs can actually run the ball better than any team after their struggles on the ground, but it’s actually possible this week. Both of these teams are about equally as bad at running the rock. Both teams have less than a thousand rushing yards on the season, with Wazzu holding a slight 133 yard lead over CU. This week could turn into a masterclass of trying and failing to establish a run game, but it’s a battle the Buffs must win. Shedeur Sanders has taken a beating this season and having some help the ground would go a long way to help Colorado’s offense.

Wazzu’s run defense has been very streaky so far in 2023. Some weeks, the Cougars are like a brick wall up front, like last week when they held Cal’s prolific rushing attack to only 177 yards. Other weeks, WSU struggles to contain the run, like when the let Arizona State run for 235 yards. It’s a flip of the coin for which one of these run defenses Colorado is going to face, but let’s hope Wazzu is off their game this week to make life easier on Shedeur.

CU needs to keep up with Wazzu’s scoring

Last week, the Buffs snapped a scoring drought when they put up more than 20 points for the first time in two weeks. Colorado is going to need to keep that up this week in Pullman. The Cougars have proven they are fully capable of putting up points this season, like when they put up 39 points last week at Cal and hung 38 points on Oregon State. While Washington State has had some scoring droughts themselves, it’s best to assume that they’ll be on their A-game against Colorado.

The Buffs need to prepare to leave no score unanswered. Colorado’s defense proved that they just can’t bare the entire weight of the game themselves last week against Arizona, so the Buffs’ offense can’t put them in that position again. If CU can score more than 30 points, there’s a really good chance that they can pull off this upset. Let’s see if Pat Shurmur and his offense can keep their momentum from last week rolling in Pullman.

Next week, the Buffs have to go and play a ranked Utah team. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that I don’t think that’s a winnable game for Coach Prime and Colorado. This means that if the Buffs want to send the 2023 away on a semi-high note, they need to win this week in Pullman. Washington State is gearing up for a crazy game next week for the final Apple Cup game against Washington, so hopefully the Cougars aren’t fully locked in and focused on CU this week. Colorado’s bowl hopes are technically still alive, but they’ll need to win out to become eligible. Fans can watch the game Friday night at 8:30 pm on Fox Sports 1.