Thank god for the Dolphins. What was shaping up to be a painfully long week of conversation about the Buffs’ blowout loss to a much better team will now be a painfully long week of conversation about the Broncos’ blowout loss to a much better team.
Going into Saturday’s game, I had Three Big Questions which I thought were worth keeping tabs on throughout the afternoon. Assuming you did in fact keep tabs on them, we can dive in and see if we got some answers:
1. How bad of a day is the run defense about to have?
In short? Pretty bad! The overall numbers are rough, if not a bit predictable: the Ducks had 240 net yards on 38 attempts (6.3 YPC) and three scores. They were relentless, too – they ran it more than they threw it, and their longest run of the day was “only” 28 yards. Outside of Bo Nix, each Oregon player with at least five attempts averaged over five yards per carry. Some second half garbage-time offense is the only reason the two team’s final time of possession are even sorta close to one another.
At halftime, when it was 35-0, Oregon’s offense had already run the ball 23 times and was on the field for 21 minutes of game clock. It doesn’t help that the Ducks’ offensive line came into the game without allowing either a sack OR a QB hit, but still – it was bad. It wasn’t the first time that CU’s talent deficiency on the line kinda jumped off the screen, but, you know, Colorado State’s not Oregon. Despite the numbers, I’d argue being that outmatched wasn’t the most disastrous part of CU’s day, if only because everyone saw it coming.
2. What does losing Travis Hunter really look like?
Speaking of the most disastrous part of CU’s day, y-i-k-e-s. There’s probably not a lot from Shedeur Sanders’ 23 completions, 159 yards, and one touchdown going on his Heisman reel, but the seven more sacks has me slightly worried. The sacks weren’t so much Hunter’s fault as much as an indication of just how important he is to the offense (analysis!). The Buffs still have plenty of Guys, but if 1.75 games are any indication, this offense really isn’t the same without the two-way star.
Xavier Weaver had a decent, albeit unspectacular game (nine catches, 75 yards). Jimmy Horn Jr. was nonexistent. It’s pretty clear by now that this team is going to live and die as a passing offense, but it’s going to be awfully hard to keep up with the Pac-12 if their three- or four-deep wide receiver room is that heavily a product of Hunter being on the field. His absence was obviously also felt in the secondary, but only putting up six points without him felt like the bigger deal – at least for one week.
3. Are the Buffs ever getting a running back breakout game?
I’m starting to think no? There was much talk in the lead up to kickoff was about how Houston transfer Alton McCaskill finally shed the non-contact jersey in practice and was more-than-likely making his debut. In his defense, McCaskill did get on the field – five carries for 17 yards, to be exact. It wasn’t quite as good as Dylan Edwards’ 21 yards, which weren’t quite as good as Anthony Hankerson’s 31 yards. The secret’s out: the Buffs may not be able to run the ball.
In his postgame presser, Oregon coach Dan Lanning openly talked about how the Ducks knew it wasn’t going to be a factor. And at the risk of sounding repetitive or reductive, it does feel like so much of the Buffs’ issues come back to line play. It’s hard not to buy in on the talent of the RB room – it’s a group of players who have been plenty productive at other schools, and you can see the skill there. Edwards, especially, is a guy who clearly has a major role in this offense when utilized correctly. But they’re getting nothing right now, and if that continues, there may be a few more 42-6’s in their immediate future.