Colorado just played it's sloppiest game of the year and still beat the Pac-12 preseason favorite on the road. Thanks to the defense and Phillip Lindsay, the Buffs beat Stanford 10-5 and became bowl eligible for the first time since 2007. And with that win, the Buffs are overwhelming favorites to win the Pac-12 South and play for the conference championship.
With eight games down and six still to play, it’s time to look at Colorado’s stats, team-wide and player specific.
According to ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI), Colorado is the 13th best team in the country. The offense, by those same metrics, is rated as the 9th most efficient. Colorado is averaging 280 passing yards and 218 rushing yards per game, and they’ve done it against some very stout defenses like Michigan, USC, Stanford and (to a lesser extent) Arizona State.
CU’s defense, which almost single-handedly beat Stanford and nearly beat USC, is ranked as the 7th most efficient defense in all the land. The defense is allowing only 307 yards per game. For comparison, Oregon’s State offense — the 100th most efficient in the country — is averaging 347 yards per game. Colorado’s defense has essentially turned their opposition into Oregon State, but even worse.
Colorado and Michigan are the only two teams in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency. A Rose Bowl rematch would be fun.— RalphieReport (@RalphieReport) October 23, 2016
Part of why the defense has been so incredible is because they create mayhem all levels of the field. According to S&P+, they rate as 24th in the country in havoc rate, a stat that includes tackles for loss, forced fumbles, pass deflections and interceptions. They’ve used this chaos to force turnovers in 21 straight games, best in the NCAA. And combined with their efficient offense, the Buffs have the highest expected turnover margin in college football.
Player Stats - Offense
Sefo Liufau is coming off arguably his worst game of the year (it wasn’t even that bad), but his season has still been damn fine. In just five and half games, Liufau has 1,179 yards and 7 touchdowns on an incredible 157.9 passing efficiency, which is 14th in the country. If that wasn’t enough, he’s also rushed for 202 yards and 2 touchdowns. Led by Liufau, Colorado has the 4th best air attack in the nation, per S&P+.
Phillip Lindsay has been on fire lately. He banged up his ankle against Stanford (he should be fine), but he still managed to pick up 131 rushing yards on only 12 carries (!). After he trashed Arizona State’s fifth-ranked rush defense last week, Lindsay now has 350 yards just in the past two weeks, and he’s averaging over 9 yards per carry in that span. Lindsay has an active streak of five games with at least 100 yards from scrimmage. In total, Lindsay has 745 rushing yards, 227 receiving yards and 10 total touchdowns, truly a magnificent season. Also by S&P+, this rushing attack is 23rd in the country.
Bryce Bobo, Shay Fields and Devin Ross continue to be one of the best receiving trios in the country. They have combined for 108 catches, 1,522 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns. It seems that they thrive off of each other’s performances and are always trying to be the best receiver out there. If Bryce Bobo continues catching everything, Shay Fields keeps outrunning entire defenses and Devin Ross does everything in between, this could go down as one of CU’s all-time best receiving corps.
Player Stats - Defense
The defensive line this year has been incredible. With Josh Tupou returning this season, the Buffs’ d-line is oozing strength and tenacity. Add in Samson Kafovalu and Jordan Carrell clogging up holes and Jimmie Gilbert coming off the edge to pick up 7 sacks (11th in the country) and force five fumbles (2nd in the country) and you have a ferocious front seven. N.J. Falo, filling in for the injured Derek McCartney, has been wonderful on his own.
With the big hosses up front mauling blockers, the linebackers have been able to roam the field making play after play. As a whole, the linebacking corps is causing the 9th highest havoc rate.
Kenneth Olugbode has turned into an invaluable playmaker as he’s firstin the Pac-12 in tackles (65 total, 45 solo), second in tackles for loss (4) and third in sacks (2). Addison Gillam, a Freshman All-American who has struggled with injuries and consistency in the two years between then and now, has found himself making all kinds of plays everywhere on the field. He and Rick Gamboa have alternated at inside linebacker and have payed admirably.
As good as the defensive line and linebackers have played, they aren’t even close to being CU’s best defensive group. That would be the secondary, who may be the best in the conference, maybe even in all of college football. Their havoc rate, possibly the telling for a secondary, is 7th in the country.
Cornerbacks Chidobe Awuzie, Ahkello Witherspoon and Isaiah Oliver have so much length and athleticism that it’s nearly impossible to pass on them. Awuzie is so good and such a fearsome tackler that the opposition has virtually stopped throwing to his side of the field. The problem with that strategy is that the opposition have to throw on Witherspoon’s side. His 10 pass breakups are 3rd in the country and his game-sealing interception at Oregon will always be an iconic moment for the program. According to Pro Football Focus, they’ve been the best tandem in college football.
Top-graded Pac-12 cornerbacks— PFF College Football (@PFF_College) October 24, 2016
Ahkello Witherspoon, CU, 85.8
Sidney Jones, UW, 85.3
Quenton Meeks, STAN 84.2
Chidobe Awuzie, CU, 83.9
The safeties, meanwhile, have also been incredible. Tedric Thompson is everywhere — he’s in the backfield making huge hits, he’s in the secondary picking off passes, he’s even in your house setting up your cable and wifi. Against Stanford alone, he had a diving interception to end the half, another interception — his 4th of the year, which is third in the country — to put CU in position to score, and he also played a crucial role in containing Christian McCaffrey. Afolabi Laguda and Ryan Moeller have also been great, as they’ve flown around the field making plays wherever they’re needed.
Player Stats - Special Teams
Alex Kinney had a beautiful 59-yard punt against Stanford. That was good.