On Sunday, the college football season will be one-third of the way over and teams will have a good idea if will be holding onto postseason hopes at the end of the year.
The Colorado Buffaloes (2-1, 0-0 Pac-12) are hoping to come out of "Niketown, USA" aka Eugene, Ore, doing something a Buffs teams hasn’t accomplished in 49 years— win a football game at Autzen Stadium. The last time CU defeated the Oregon Ducks (2-1, 0-0 Pac-12) on the road was Sept. 23, 1967 and was the first game played at Autzen.
The crowd of 27,500 watched the ninth-ranked Buffs, led by quarterback Bobby Anderson spoil the opener with a 17-13 win over the Ducks. Prior to the 1967 season, Oregon split designated home games between Portland and Eugene. With the emergence of Nike, the Ducks’ athletic facilities have come a long way since the 1960’s-70’s.
Past and present
Who could forget last year’s game at Folsom Field. The kickoff for ‘Pac-12 after dark’ was moved back two hours due to severe weather and despite soggy conditions, the score was tied at 17 going into halftime. When all was said and done, the time was almost 3 a.m. MT with the clock expiring on the Buffs’ 41-24 loss to the Ducks.
After leading throughout most of the first half, the Buffs lost their first game of the season, 45-28 last week against the No. 4 Michigan Wolverines. The early 21 points the Buffs scored was the most points that Michigan has allowed in a first quarter of a game at home. In a close back-and-forth contest, the No. 22 Ducks were defeated with a late touchdown from Nebraska Cornhuskers quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr., sealing the blackshirts 35-32 victory.
Colorado and Oregon are both shaken up with significant injuries to key players following last week’s contests. The Buffs lost linebacker Derek McCartney (torn ACL) and kicker Diego Gonzalez (achilles) with season-ending injuries vs. Michigan. Quarterback Sefo Liufau left the game due to injury and his status is expected to be a game-time decision.
The Ducks had the same misfortune against Nebraska with wide receiver & Olympian Devon Allen (torn ACL) and offensive lineman Tyrell Crosby (broken foot) being ruled out for the season. The Ducks’ leading rusher Royce Freeman and safety Brenden Schooler were hurt as well, no word if either player will be out against the Buffs.
What to expect for Colorado’s Offense
Saturday’s matchup marks the second consecutive year Colorado faces Oregon to open their Pac-12 schedule. The Buffs rank seventh in the nation for offensive efficiency with Sefo Liufau (6 TD, 0 INT) completing 71.1 % of his passes for 768 yards. Taking Liufau out of the equation is an unknown factor for the Buffs.
Backup quarterback, redshirt freshman Steven Montez, took most of the starting reps in camp leading up to the season while Liufau recovered from a broken lisfranc (Foot). Montez played most of the second half against Michigan and didn’t complete a pass finishing 0-for-7.
What to expect for Colorado’s Defense
CU’s defense is tops in the Pac-12 in pass coverage and ranked fifth nationally (117.7 YPG/Avg). The secondary of Chidobe Auwzie, Ahkello Witherspoon, Tedric Thompson, Afolabi Lauguda and Ryan Moeller will be biggest test for Oregon’s offense and quarterback Dakota Prukop, so far this season. Overall, the Buffs are ranked seventh in the nation for defensive efficiency (2nd in Pac-12, No. 6 Washington), minus the inconsistencies on special teams, the Buffs could be in the top 3.
What to expect for Oregon’s Offense
Prukop and Freeman lead another high-flying offense in Oregon, with the Ducks leading the Pac-12 in most category. Oregon ranks sixth in the nation in offensive efficiency, averaging 43.0 PPG and 545.3 YPG this season. Without Freeman in the game last week, Oregon still burned Nebraska for 336 yards and all five of the Ducks touchdowns came on the ground.
In order to shutdown the Ducks, CU must be successful at stopping Oregon’s rushing attack. Without Crosby, Oregon’s could have problems on offense with an inexperienced offensive line of four freshmen and one senior.
What to expect from Oregon’s Defense
New defensive coordinator Brady Hoke brings a 4-3 scheme to Eugene, in hopes of revitalize the Ducks on defense. The former Michigan head coach has an aggressive style of game planning with heavy blitzing and an "all or nothing" secondary. While the "old-school" method looks good on paper, it still needs some adjustments on the field. The Ducks are ranked 85th in total defense, allowing an average of 29.7 PPG this season. Oregon is spread too thin for a true 4-3 scheme and it could take years of recruiting the right type of players to turnaround the problems that Hoke inherited.
An eight-man front forces the Ducks secondary of Schooler, Tyree Robinson, Khalil Oliver and Arrion Springs into single coverage matchups. The only problem is Oregon’s secondary relies on speed, instead of physical presence and will often fail at holding up their end of the bargain.
Liufau became the first Colorado quarterback to surpass 8,000 passing yards. He continues to re-write the record books and currently has set or tied 78 school records.
Per Colorado’s athletic department, here are two records Sefo is close to breaking.
Needs 5 TD’s - Touchdowns Responsible For, Career (62); Record: 67, Cody Hawkins, 2007-10 (60 pass, 7 rush).
Needs 38 points- Points Responsible For, Career (370)—408, Cody Hawkins, 2007-10 (67 TD, 3 2Pt.-PAT)
Odds and ends
Colorado’s defense managed to extend the nation’s longest consecutive streak of forcing a turnover to 16 games (McCartney’s fumble recovery for TD). CU was tied with North Carolina, who’s streak came to an end at 15 games last Saturday.
Prukop and Oregon’s offense failed to throw a touchdown last week, snapping the Ducks’ nation-leading 82-game streak of at least one TD pass per contest.
The Buffaloes are 10.5 point underdogs going into Oregon, according to all of the major sports books in Las Vegas.
Colorado and Oregon meet at Autzen Stadium on Saturday (9/24). A slightly under capacity crowd of about 52,000 is expected for the 3:30 p.m. MT kickoff.
Weather forecast: 74°, Sunny with scattered clouds. TV: Pac-12N, Radio: 850 AM KOA (Colorado) 750 AM The Game (Oregon).