How was your bye week, Buff fans? While it was no football win, both basketball victories were a needed break from all the close calls the football Buffs have put me through. It felt great leaving a CU sporting event knowing that I was happy with what transpired. I do not expect that feeling to continue to this Saturday. Colorado faces a great Oregon team in Eugene, and with the line predicting a 33 point loss for CU, they do not have to do much to exceed expectations. Let's quickly look back at the Arizona game.
November 8th seems like forever ago, but that was the last time the Buffs played, and as such, it belongs in the recap. The game started off with a bang, as Shay Fields finally showed his speed, Sefo Lifau finally showed his deep ball, and they connected on a deep touchdown. As usual with Colorado football this year, they did well for most of the first half, and then something fell apart in the second. This game, it was the turnovers. Sefo had four by himself, and eventually it buried the Buffs. The defense did remarkably well against a potent Arizona offense, but the short field combined with the short turnaround time eventually got the best of the young unit. This game was the final straw for many CU fans calling for Liufau to be replaced. Though he moves the offense very well and no one could ask for a better leader, he did more to lose the game than any other player, and that can be maddening for some people. My thought is, he's the best quarterback on the roster, and what he's done this season is good but not great. He generally has all mental errors, which is both good and bad. This obviously means he has a chance to fix them, and be even better next year. The downside is, if they do not become fixed, they are so much more devastating to a team than physical limitations. Lindgren can scheme around a weak arm or slow legs, but he can't scheme around inconsistent play. Time will tell, as is the case with many aspects of this team.
This is the side of the ball that CU should be the most fearful of. Obviously, it all starts in the back with Marcus Mariota, Heisman hopeful and demi-god in Eugene. He is unequivocally the best player in the country, and Kent Baer and company have their hands full trying to defense him, let alone his weapons. Mariota can and will beat you with his legs, and when he gets bored of that, he will throw circles around you. Make no mistake, this team is a running team through and through. Besides Mariota, there is a stable of backs that would make any Buff fan jealous. Thomas Tyner is a former five star and a classic burner who will beat everyone to the edge. Royce Freeman, my personal favorite, looks like an NFL rookie more than a college freshman, and his skill level is more in line with the NFL, too. He is versatile on the ground, and my Chargers would be absolutely lucky if he was on their team this year. Due to their depth, last year's PAC-12 leading rusher, Byron Marshall, now plays in the slot as a receiver. They have an embarrassment of riches all over the field, but none are more prevalent than the treasure trove at running back. Their receivers have been disappointing to some, but that's because the expectations were so high. After losing potential star Bralon Addison before the year, the team has stepped up in their absence. Devon Allen is a track star and a ridiculous athlete, and he is 3rd on the depth chart. The receivers aren't big names, but they get the job done. Unfortunately for them, Pharaoh Brown, their star tight end suffered a scary injury, so he's down for the count in this game. The biggest question mark on this Oregon offense is the O-line. Due to some shuffling, their former RT, Jake Fisher, is their LT, and all everything center Hroniss Grasu seems to be out for the Colorado game. Simply put, this offense should have their way with the Buffs, and I would want CU to sell out and bring six to Mariota every play. With a suspect offensive line, and with Colorado having almost no safeties, the best way to slow them down is to shorten the amount of time that Mariota has the ball in his hands.
This side of the ball is the better matchup for the Buffs. Up front, the Ducks have disruptive and explosive athletes. Arik Armstead holds the edge well, and name of the year nominee DeForest Buckner is stout at defensive end at 286 pounds. At nose tackle is Alex Balducci, who is the smallest NT the Buffs have faced in a while. The Ducks rotate out a lot of people throughout their defense, and showcase their ridiculous depth. At linebacker, Oregon is experienced and talented. The biggest name is Tony Washington, who may be better known for his excessive celebration penalty rather than his excellent play. Inside, they have Rodney Hardrick and Joe Walker, who do their job well and clean up the rest of the defense's errors. The secondary is the face of Oregon's defense, and the face of the secondary is Ifo Ekpre-Olumu. He is a bit short, but he plays like a junkyard dog, and he has the athleticism to shut Nelson Spruce down. Across from him is a redshirt senior Troy Hill, with another redshirt senior Erick Dargan. Overall, this defense is the biggest no name group Oregon has had in quite some time, but they get the job done. They are the classic bend but don't break defense, and they give up a ton of yards, but not a lot of points. They are opportunistic and will prey on this offense's mistakes. If CU wants to move the ball downfield, the running game has to get going. The Buffs have no chance laterally, so they have to pound the Ducks inside, however unlikely that is.
CU's Oline vs. UO's Dline - Advantage: CU. This offensive line has improved mightily from last year, and they have played well against some great PAC-12 fronts. Oregon has some players, but I think Stephane Nembot and company will largely shut down the defensive line.
UO's Oline vs. CU's Dline - Advantage: Push. This much maligned unit for the Ducks gets to play against the much maligned Buffs defensive line. The Ducks have had to do some shuffling, and while CU has stayed healthy, the talent deficiency is in Oregon's favor. If the Buffs can get some push against the O-line, that greatly improves CU's chances to win.
CU's QB vs. UO's DB's - Advantage: UO. This looks to be a long day for Sefo. He has been turnover prone all year long and Oregon has been forcing turnovers all year long, and we can all extrapolate where this matchup will go. Sefo will have to be on point all game for CU not be blown out, and even then, it's not a sure thing.
UO's QB vs. CU's DB's - Advantage: UO. Mariota is the best player in college football, bar none, and CU's secondary is missing it's top 5 safeties. While Kenneth Crawley and Greg Henderson may hold their own on the outside, Colorado has a weakness over the top and Marcus is smart enough to exploit it. Oregon should have their way with this secondary, and I can't see it ending well for the Buffs.
CU's Skill Players (WR, TE, RB) vs. UO's Back 7 (LB's and DB's) - Advantage: Slightly UO. Nelson Spruce really buoys the Buffs here, but the talent gap is just too big. With Michael Adkins injured and D.D. Goodson coming off a concussion, CU is shorthanded and not fast enough for Oregon.
UO's Skill Players vs. CU's Back 7 - Advantage: UO. Oh boy, this is not fun to write about. The more I think about this, the more depressing it gets. Royce Freeman and Thomas Tyner should have their way, and even on the outside, the Ducks may be too much to handle. This will be a long afternoon.
Special Teams - Advantage: UO. Better athletes, better talent, good coaching. Just like the above categories, it does not end well for the Buffs.
I'll keep this short, as not much needs to be said. CU just needs to come out of this game without being completely embarrassed, and anything on top of that is a huge bonus. Oregon wins by at least 30 and most Buff fans transfer to the CU-Wyoming basketball game by halftime.