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Colorado Buffaloes vs. Washington Huskies: Keys to the Game

Which three areas of this matchup will be crucial to staving off yet another slim defeat?

Keeping Sefo Liufau on his feet will be priority number one on Saturday.
Keeping Sefo Liufau on his feet will be priority number one on Saturday.
Justin Edmonds

This is the most winnable game left on Colorado's schedule. That in no way means that it won't be wrenching and vexing in new and exciting ways. If the Buffs are to FINALLY get off the schneid and win a conference game in 2014 they're going to need to be successful in the following three areas.

Colorado_mediumPass Protection

The Huskies possess what is likely one of the country's best pass rushes. This is in large part due to senior defensive end Hau'oli Kikaha who currently leads the nation in both sacks (14.5) and tackles for loss (19.5). When he's not the one getting to the quarterback Washington has 6 other guys capable of taking advantage of the chaos he's caused around the edge, most notably Andrew Hudson on the other side and John Timu at the linebacker position. I wrote about this on Wednesday but it will be critical that the Buffalo offensive line at least slow down this push and prevent the Husky defense from getting consistent drive-killing pressure. Sefo Liufau has responded reasonably well when being hurried this season, most of his mistakes have come when he's had plenty of time to make a decision. Nevertheless, the offense will need to limit the amount that he's scrambling and give their receivers time to come out of their breaks. If they can protect Sefo, avoid turnovers, and gas UW's defense by keeping them on the field more often than not, they'll be in good shape.

Colorado_mediumStart Fast

Against both Oregon State and UCLA the Buffaloes spotted their opposition an early double digit lead. The reasons for this are numerous; poor play-calling, ugly and avoidable mistakes, incorrect alignments, and general sluggishness. Obviously this team cannot afford to make their razor thin margin any smaller right from the gun. They've shown that they can fight and have rallied back in each of those games but man, would it be nice to not be playing from behind from the jump. A stop or two and a drive that results in any points in the opening minutes would be enough. If they can get a little wind behind their sails in the 1st quarter and allow themselves some leeway to absorb big plays from the Huskies they'll find themselves in a much better position late in the game.

Colorado_mediumSecondary Play

With Tedric Thompson and Terrel Smith both likely out for this one after suffering head injuries last weekend, Evan White is going to be called upon to step in and play big. He's seen significant game action this season, both in the secondary and on special teams, however his youth is still evident and he's learning on the go. Washington's offense has struggled of late but they'll likely target the middle of the field as an area they can take advantage of. Chidobe Awuzie, Ken Crawley, and Greg Henderson will have to pick up the rest of the slack and help shut off the Husky receivers, giving their defensive line time to get to Cyler Miles, who himself is returning from a concussion. The Buffs were able to slow up the Bruins significantly in the second half and they'd do well to get a few stops in the beginning of this one. UW still has a good deal of talent and playmakers on the offensive side of the ball, CU's defense cannot allow itself to be the spark that gets them going again. Here's to the Buffs finally, finally making that last play and coming out on top.