One thing has already become clear through four weeks of the 2015 college football season... these are not the same Ducks that we have seen the last five years. Does that mean the Buffaloes will pull off an upset Saturday night? That remains to be seen.
To find out more about what's ailing the Ducks we sat down with Sean Larson of Addicted to Quack. You can see our answers to his questions here.
One of the big stories this week is the surprising betting line. Oregon is currently only favored by 7.5 points. Is this an overreaction to Oregon’s poor performance against Utah, CU’s 3-1 record, both, or is it right where it should be?
I think it's a mix. Mostly, I think it's driven by the fact that Oregon is coming off their worst loss in over a decade and as a result, so many people are predicting a close game. I don't think it'll be as close as the line suggests, but this certainly won't be as lopsided as it has been in recent years. Colorado is more than capable of pulling the upset. This isn't the same Oregon team as it has been in years past, and if the Ducks aren't careful, they could find themselves dealing with another head-scratching performance.
Oregon is just as tight-lipped as the Buffs with their injuries, maybe even more so. Who are the Ducks going to miss on their trip to Boulder?
It's been a rough year so far for the Ducks. In the past two days, they lost wide receiver Byron Marshall for the year with an ankle injury and just lost defensive back Chris Seisay for the year as well. Marshall was Oregon's leading receiver in 2014 and a vital asset on special teams as well. His 27.5 yards per kickoff return led the Pac-12. Seisay had valuable experience from late last season in the Rose Bowl and the National Championship. Oregon's defense has struggled this year, especially in the secondary. The Ducks are giving up 301.3 yards per game through the air, ranked 114th out of 127th in the FBS. It's just one of those seasons so far where everything that could go wrong, has gone wrong.
It seems like Utah’s gameplan worked against Oregon. What should the Buffs do to have similar success?
Utah really made the Oregon secondary look silly and there were a lot of issues with pass coverage. I think part of that problem lies with young, inexperienced defenders while another part lies with poor coaching. I can't tell you how many people were calling for Don Pellum to be fired after the Utah loss. This week, Pellum said Oregon is going to simplify their schemes on defense, so hopefully that helps this weekend. If Sefo Liufau and Nelson Spruce are on the same page Saturday, it could spell disaster for the Ducks once again. I've said it all year long...exploit Oregon's inexperienced secondary, and you're going to put up some points, maybe enough through the air alone to win the game.
Who’s one player to watch on offense? Defense?
Since the quarterback situation is officially a mess (Vernon Adams is a game-time decision for Saturday), Colorado should focus on shutting down Royce Freeman. He's averaging 112.5 yards per game this year and has five touchdowns in four games. The passing game has struggled more than most people expected, but Freeman is a bright spot on offense for the Ducks and will need to keep up his production with the quarterbacks struggling.
On defense, DeForest Buckner is the defensive leader. Buckner has 21 tackles this season and his 4.0 tackles for a loss lead the team. Buckner is now ranked as the No. 9 overall prospect on Mel Kiper's 2016 NFL Draft board. Oregon needs to do a better job at putting pressure on the quarterback and getting guys in the backfield. That all starts around Buckner on the defensive line.
How do you see this game playing out?
Like I said earlier, it'll be much closer than in years past. Do I think it'll end up being a one score game? Probably not. Colorado is off to a great start this year, but they haven't had a true test yet. This will be that test. I'm curious to see how Oregon responds after such a humiliating loss last weekend. I say the final score will be Oregon 45, Colorado 27. I think Colorado keeps it close in the first half before the Ducks make some adjustments and pull away in the end, but this will certainly be a game worth watching.
Advanced Stat Matchups- Three Key Stats
S+P Rank: Oregon- 52 Colorado-88
Finishing Drives (points per trip within 40): Oregon Offense- ranked 39th. Colorado Defense- ranked 21st.
Rushing S+P: Oregon Offense- ranked 12th. Colorado Defense- ranked 101st.
Passing Success Rate: Colorado Offense- 39.1%, ranked 84th. Oregon Defense- 47.7%, ranked 110th.
Basically, this paints a picture of an inept Oregon D, a great Duck rushing attack against a not-great rushing defense, and a Colorado passing attack that HAS to take advantage of an ailing secondary. The only real advantage the Buffs have in this game is Spruce and company against this green secondary. Control the clock, get some play-action going, and let's bring back Folsom Magic.