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Colorado has no room for error against Oregon

Previewing the Buffs-Ducks game

NCAA Football: Colorado at Oregon Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

The Buffs have the opportunity to silence even more of their doubters this Saturday, as the team makes their way to Eugene to face off against the 10th ranked Oregon Ducks. Both teams have a perfect 3-0 record but Colorado is currently pegged as 21-point underdogs. It’s hard not to think of the Buffs as underdogs after CSU gave the team a run for their money last week in Folsom Field, but that’s water under the bridge now. This week’s game is going to be a really tough test for Coach Prime and his team, but they appear to be up for the challenge.

The Buffs are going to have to play a complete game on both sides of the ball in order to win this game. Colorado has yet to play a complete game, as at least one side of the ball has had a rough showing in each of their three wins. The defense was a disaster against TCU, then the offense was slow to get going against the Huskers and Rams. If the Buffs have any chance in this game, they have to start strong on both sides of the ball. Coach Prime seems to think the same thing, as he touched on the topic in his presser this week.

“We have not played a complete game. We have not played a game where the offense, defense, as well as special teams have shown up in the same manner,” said Coach Prime. “We’ve got to put it all together to be able to defeat a team like Oregon.”

For Colorado’s defense, a complete game isn’t going to be enough. They’re going to need to play nearly perfect. Oregon is unbelievably consistent on offense. Quarterback Bo Nix and company rarely make any mistakes. The Ducks have yet to turn the ball over through three games. Colorado has forced eight turnovers in their last two games, which have proved to be a catalyst in their wins over Nebraska and CSU. The Buffs’ defense is going to need to find a way to take the ball away from Oregon and Nix, which is no small task.

The Buffs are already going to be fighting an uphill battle this week, as star corner Travis Hunter will miss the game due to a lacerated liver. It’s still uncertain who is going to start in place of Hunter, as Coach Prime wouldn’t name what specific player would fill in. Instead, Prime said that the “cornerback committee” would step up to help replace Hunter. This seems to suggest that CU will be utilizing a rotating selection of corners throughout the game, but this is mere speculation. Hopefully, cornerback Travis Jay will be able to see the field for the first time this season. Jay is fighting through a nagging leg injury, but Coach Prime said that Jay had some really good practices this week. While he won’t be Travis, maybe the Buffs have another Omarion Cooper-level starter out there.

As for the CU offense, it’s going to be an interesting week. Some aspects of the Ducks’ defense look very favorable for Colorado, yet others are a major cause for concern. As for the favorable aspects, quarterback Shedeur Sanders should get plenty of time in the pocket this week. Oregon doesn’t excel in the pass rush, as they currently rank as the 65th best team in college football in total sacks. The Ducks also seem to have trouble getting behind in general, as they rank 92nd in tackles for losses. Colorado’s struggling offensive line needs to take advantage of this weakness and keep Oregon out of the backfield if they want to come away with a win.

As for the unfavorable aspects for CU’s offense, Oregon has a phenomenal secondary. The Ducks have the potential to lock the Buffs’ receivers down, as they rank as the 15th best pass defense in the country. Shedeur’s ball placement is going to need to be nothing less than elite this week. Thankfully, Shedeur has shown that he has the ability to thread the needle into tight spaces so far this season.

Those tight throws might be necessary against a strong Oregon secondary led by Khyree Jackson. Colorado receivers Xavier Weaver and Jimmy Horn Jr. have been superb all season, but Travis Hunter won’t be there to open things up for them. Those two will be tested on Saturday. It will also be a chance for Tar’Varish Dawson and Mikey Harrison to prove that they hang with the big guns, as Sanders might rely on them if his top options are blanketed.

The Buffs have to be great in every phase to be able to upset a really good Ducks team in Eugene. Any inadequacy or underperformance could prove lethal to Colorado’s chances to come away with a win. A Colorado victory isn’t impossible however, just improbable. The good news is that the Buffs have been living somewhere in the space between improbable and impossible all season thus far, so don’t count them out. Fans can tune into ABC to watch CU try to defy the odds once again on Sept. 23 at 1:30 p.m. MT at Autzen Stadium.