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Colorado Buffaloes vs. Michigan Wolverines: Game Preview

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The biggest litmus test for the Colorado Buffaloes in quite a while is finally upon us.

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Colorado Buffaloes (2-0, 0-0) travel outside of their home state for the first time this season when they head to Ann Arbor for a meeting with the No. 4 Michigan Wolverines (2-0, 0-0). The meeting is the first between both schools in nearly two decades.

The Buffs started the season undefeated for the first time since 2013, due in large part to stellar play on both sides of the ball. Quarterback Sefo Liufau continues to lead Colorado after recovering from a Lisfranc (foot) injury late last season heading into the biggest matchup of his college career. The senior has already set or tied 78 school records and will leave Colorado as one of the best to line up under center.

The Wolverines start their 2016 campaign with all the right qualifications to potentially be a part of the college football playoff. A top five ranking, moderate strength of schedule, and solid roster of players could keep Michigan in the conversation. The hardest task for the Jim Harbaugh’s crew remains being undefeated come Dec. 4th.

The 2016 schedule is setup in the Wolverines’ favor and for first time since 2011 the first five games are at home. It’s also the first time since 2007 Michigan has started the season ranked in the top five.

What to expect on offense for Colorado

Liufau’s completing nearly 75% percent of his passes so far, throwing for 522 yards and three touchdown in just five quarters of work (pulled in relief). He’s joined by receivers Shay Fields, Devin Ross and Bryce Bobo, as part of the Buffs uptempo offensive formation under co-offensive coordinators Darrin Chiaverini and Brian Lindgren. The trio of Fields, Ross and Bobo have accounted for roughly one-third (387 yards, 2 TD’s) of CU’s total offense.

Running back Phillip Lindsay leads CU’s rushing attack with four touchdowns behind a much improved offensive line. The Buffs have found success with Liufau as a dual-threat option, he’s currently the second leading rusher averaging 6.0 yards per carry.

What to expect on offense for Michigan

Michigan’s offense, led by Wilton Speight, is high-powered in the passing game. The 6’6", 240 pound quarterback decided not to follow in the footsteps of his father and grandfather (who both played basketball) and is sticking to football. Speight has thrown for 457 yards along with seven touchdowns and 1 INT in both of Michigan’s blowout victories, and has found a favorite target in tight end Jake Butt. The two have hooked up for 105 yards through the air with three touchdowns.

The running game behind Michigan’s stout offensive line is another story. Like Colorado, UM uses a committee style with Chris Evans, De’Veon Smith and Ty Isaac, who still can’t seem to breakout this season. Those struggles could be the X factor to this game, as Harbaugh likes to pull back aspects of his game plan and not be exploited in opponents film study.

What to expect on defense for Colorado

Defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt has prepared his players for this matchup and will use multiple formations to try and confuse Speight. Colorado’s secondary is one of the best in the Pac-12 with hard-hitting safeties Tedric Thompson, Afolabi Lauguda and Ryan Moeller playing over top of cornerbacks Chidobe Auwzie and Ahkello Witherspoon. This will be a statement game for the Buffs defense and pass rushers Derek McCartney and Kenneth Olugbode, who need to apply pressure on Speight and keep Michigan’s running backs at bay.

CU’s defense has forced a turnover in 15 consecutive games and is tied with North Carolina in leading the nation in that category. That's also the number of games Leavitt has been on coach Mike MacIntyre’s staff. Let’s see if the streak continues against a "Power 5" offense.

What to expect on defense for Michigan

The Wolverines are stacked on defense with numerous playmakers. One player to watch is Jabrill Peppers, who plays the game more like a hard hitting safety than a linebacker. His raw athleticism has been proven many times over and is the reason why he was the No. 1 overall recruit in the nation. The redshirt freshman complements new defensive coordinator Don Brown’s system quite well and must be contained for CU’s offense to be productive.

What happened in 1994?

The last time Colorado and Michigan met at the "Big House" was Sept. 24, 1994. CU’s Kordell Stewart pulled off a nearly impossible 64-yard pass to Michael Westbrook in the end zone for a 27-26 last-second win. The "Miracle at Michigan" remains one of the greatest plays in football history.


Vegas odds & game info

According to most of the major sports books in Las Vegas, the Buffaloes are 20 point underdogs going into Michigan. This game will be a litmus test of how much progress MacIntyre has accomplished at CU.

Both schools will send out an honorary captain during the coin toss. Colorado will be represented by legendary coach Bill McCartney and Michigan will have New England Patriots QB and alum Tom Brady.

Final thoughts from CUBuffs.com’s B.G. Brooks

Colorado and Michigan meet at Michigan Stadium on Saturday (9/17). A capacity crowd of 107,000 + is expected for the 1:30 p.m. MT kickoff. TV: BTN, Radio: 850 AM KOA (Colorado) 950 AM WWJ (Michigan).