The Buffaloes redemption season moves to the desert of Tucson on Saturday night, when the No. 12 Colorado Buffaloes (7-2, 5-1 Pac-12) take on the Arizona Wildcats (2-7, 0-6 Pac-12). The seventh conference game for both teams breaks down as a favorable road matchup for the Buffs, but stranger things have happened, especially in Arizona at night.
Arizona has dominated Colorado since joining the Pac-12, winning the last four contests by a combined score of 176-102. Last year’s meeting in Boulder, the Buffs took a 24-17 lead going into the fourth quarter, but failed to hold off a late surge with two scores from Wildcat’s running back Jared Baker, on the way to a 38-31 loss.
There’s significant differences with both teams this season. Colorado has defied the low expectations set by critics at the start of the season and has become a successful football program again. Arizona’s currently in the throes with one of the worst seasons for coach Rich Rodriguez in his five year tenure in Tucson.
Colorado offense vs. Arizona’s defense
Now isn’t the time for quarterback Sefo Liufau and the rest of the Buffaloes offense to have a major let down. Colorado controls their own destiny in the Pac-12 as the leader of the South Division with three games remaining in the regular season. Utah and USC remain one game behind in the standings but the Trojans do own a head-to-head tiebreaker.
The Buffaloes need a statement game after a woeful showing against UCLA, surrendering four turnovers to the Bruins in a 20-10 victory. CU’s defense has stood tall this season and the offense needs to show the same strength. This matchup should be one of the more well-rounded games for the Buffs on both sides of the ball.
Arizona ranks 111th in the nation in total defense, allowing an average of 475.2 total yards per game. Liufau should be able to find open receivers and move the ball effectively down the field. He’s averaging eight yards per completion along with being a rushing threat.
Keep an eye on Shay fields in this matchup. Two of best games for the receiver’s career have come against Arizona. Before thrashing Oregon State earlier this season, Fields had 168 yards against the Wildcats last season for the most yards in a game.
If CU’s offense can find a rhythm early Arizona will be playing catch-up right out of the gate. Liufau will try to establish a "deep route game" with Fields, Bryce Bobo and Devin Ross, but don’t count out a strong rushing attack from the Buffs as well. Arizona has surrendered the third most rushing touchdowns among conference teams this season, with an average of over two per game.
Arizona’s offense vs. Colorado’s defense
The Wildcats offense has struggled in the past three games, scoring a combined 31 points with a turnover margin of 10 to 1 favoring their opponents. Arizona remains last in the South Division and they are still searching for their first conference win of the season.
Quarterback Brandon Dawkins has thrown for 1,055 yards, six touchdowns and five interceptions so far and is the definition of a dual-threat passer, carrying Arizona throughout this season. He also leads the Wildcats with 597 yards and eight TD’s. Colorado defense meets Dawkins for the first time, after he took over full-time duties under center from Anu Solomon.
Dawkins and the Wildcat offense has the daunting task of trying to breakdown one of the nation’s best defenses. Colorado’s a very stingy unit that's giveing up an average of 297 total yards per game along with 17.2 points. The Buffs continue to lead the nation with the most consecutive games forcing a turnover at 22 and tied for 16th in overall turnover margin against opponents with +7.
Odds and ends
Las Vegas oddsmakers love the Buffs this season and are 8-1 against the spread. Colorado’s favored by 16 points against Arizona, according to all major sports books.
The No. 12 Buffaloes head south for a division matchup with the Wildcats. Kickoff from the desert for #Pac12AfterDark is scheduled at 8 p.m. MT on Saturday (11/12) There’s no time difference due to the state of Arizona’s non-observance of daylight savings.
TV: Fox Sports 1 (National) Radio: 850 AM KOA (Colorado), 1290 AM KCUB (Arizona) & XM (203), SIRIUS (112).
Weather Forecast: 79° with clear skies and light winds.