Buff Nation is noticeably excited for this 2016 squad, and given how well they have played, the excitement is deserved. However, the fans collectively drew in a sharp breath when Sefo Liufau exited in the third quarter against Michigan, and his injury status is muddled enough that they haven’t quite let out that breath yet. So, given that his status is up in the air, we at Ralphie Report thought it appropriate to float a few questions out to the staff.
Q1: If Sefo can play at a reasonable level this game, can the Buffs pull out the upset?
Jack Barsch: I say yes, and not necessarily because of Sefo. He does a great job orchestrating the offense, but the real masterpiece of this team is the lockdown D. I find it very hard to believe that Oregon can move the ball through the air better than Michigan did, and the Wolverines had little to no success. The secondary is one of the best units in the country, and they should show out again, with or without Sefo. Given how reportedly soft the Ducks’ defense is this year, the offense should move the ball well. Sefo will obviously be a welcome boost to the point total, but if the Buffs can avoid special teams blunders and get anything out of the O, this game will be closer than Oregon fans want it to be.
Sam Metivier: Sefo’s health is obviously the most important part of this Colorado offense. If he can move well enough to avoid the rush (Oregon will likely test his mobility), he should carve up Oregon’s incompetent secondary. If he struggles with his injury, I can see him making some plays to create some points, but I’m a lot less comfortable with the offense scoring enough to win a tough road game.
To me, though, this game isn’t so much about the offense as the defense. Michigan ran around the Colorado defense seemingly at will and made some massive plays. I’m not sure if Oregon is as fast as Michigan, but they’re still Oregon. If the Buffs can seal the edge and get containment on those outside runs — which is much harder to do without Derek McCartney — they can pull off this upset, assuming Sefo’s health.
Matt Reynolds: No doubt. This team was in a position to potentially upset the number four team in the country were it not for Sefo’s injury and Jabrill Peppers. Oregon is definitely inferior to Michigan; so if Sefo can be even a shell of his normal self, we will have a legitimate opportunity to pull off the upset. Sefo should have us rolling against one of the weaker defenses in the conference, but the defense is what could really be the deciding factor in this one. The Ducks will be short an Olympic sprinter at wideout, a first round talent at left tackle, and Royce Freeman’s status is still up in the air. Leavitt and Co. will be licking their chops all game against what will be a super young offensive line for Oregon. I think our defense will ultimately be the difference, and it may put Colorado in a position to win...even without Sefo.
Jeff Hauser: Yes, but Sefo isn’t the only part of this equation. When backup Steven Montez was recruited by CU, I was told by his HS coach Jesse Parales that, "Steven would have been recruited by ever SEC school if he played in Dallas, and not El Paso." If Montez can play up to that level, the Buffs might be in for a surprise. Sefo’s health is important to the game plan that offensive coordinator’s Darrin Chiaverini & Brian Lindgren want to run. If Sefo is healthy, Oregon’s defense will be exploited due to a weak secondary that has allowed opponents an average of nearly 30 points per game. Oregon’s offense has held up the team for the greater part of a decade and will continue to do so this season.
Q2: Say Sefo is injured for Oregon and Oregon State. What is CU’s record in those games?
Jack: 1-1. Oregon State has impressed me with their play thus far, but no Pac-12 team has impressed me more than the Buffs. Okay, maybe Washington, but CU doesn’t play them, so they don’t exist. If Sefo rests these two weeks and heals fully, the Buffs should go .500 and gear up for a brutal following stretch. Oregon will be a tough game with or without Sefo, but the Beavers face CU in Folsom and don’t have the firepower to hang with CU’s defense.
Sam: 1-1 at worst. I say this with love, but Oregon State is bad. I feel bad that it’s the Beavers, but it’s nice to see how the rest of the Pac-12 saw CU for all these years. I agree with Jack that they’ve been impressive, but I don’t see how they can score on the Buffs’ defense without Victor Bolden channeling his inner Brandin Cooks.
Matt: I think CU will be competitive in both, but a win in Eugene is a lot to ask for from a redshirt freshman. The Buffs have struggled in Oregon since joining the Pac 12, and I just have a hard time seeing our offense putting up many points with Montez under center. I do think it would be a close game, but I’ll give the edge to the home team.
As for Oregon State, I don’t think they’ll be much of a problem. They are a bottom tier team in the conference both offensively and defensively. They’ll struggle to keep up, even with Montez at the helm. Colorado would get a much needed conference win, while the Beavers downward spiral would continue. The Buffs would be 1-1, and still in a prime position to win some vital games with a healthy Sefo.
Jeff: 2-0 is not out of reach. Oregon will always play tough, but even last year at Folsom Field the Buffs took the Ducks down to the 4th quarter. Another year with most of the starters returning from last season and the Buffs have a great chance to edge Oregon. Oregon State’s defense has improved, but not enough to consider them competitive against the Buffs, who beat the Beavers on the road last year 17-13. It would give Montez the time to develop and sync with Devin Ross, Bryce Bobo and Shay Fields before taking over full-time next season.
Q3: Given his injury and other season-ending injuries to Diego Gonzalez and Derek McCartney, how do you view CU’s chances this year for a bowl?
Jack: Have you seen this team play? Have you seen them? And, almost more importantly, have you seen the other Pac-12 South teams? The Buffs have been reborn into this mean, aggressive, and big-boy team that I almost don’t recognize. The defensive line is winning the line of scrimmage, the playmakers are making big plays, and there are more athletes on the field than there has been in probably six or eight years. CU certainly looks like a bowl team to me. They also play three of the last four at home, with UCLA being the only truly menacing opponent out of the home slate. It is not hard to imagine six wins on this schedule. At least I think so.
Sam: Looking at the rest of schedule, only the Stanford game is a sure loss, and only the Oregon State game is a sure win (with Sefo, anyway). Everyone in the Pac-12 South looks significantly worse than expected, so with scheduling luck, #pac12afterdark magic and fortunate health, this team could realistically win the division
and get destroyed by Washington. If Liufau, McCartney and Gonzalez prove irreplaceable, there’s a realistic chance of the Buffs finishing 3-9 again. There’s so much room for triumph and heartbreak that it’s impossible to say. That said, I believe in this team more than any I’ve ever watched.
Matt: I still really like their chances. It’s been clear this season that Colorado is the most improved team in the Pac 12. They could potentially win every remaining game at Folsom, and honestly they’ll have opportunities for victory in all road games except for Stanford. Assuming Sefo makes a swift recovery, this team will have a great chance for 6 wins and possibly more. The experience on offense is proving to be crucial, and the defense is full of some legitimate play makers (even with the absence of McCartney). I will admit that special teams could be a wild ride for the remainder of the year. That being said, his team is full of confident coaches, and experienced players who are hungry for wins that haven’t transpired in recent years. I feel great about the overall direction of the program, and I think the Buffs will prove me right over the course of the season.
Jeff: With a win in Eugene, the Buffs would be halfway there. Looking at the rest of the schedule, CU should be favored at home against Oregon State. USC at the Coliseum will be tough. Both of the Trojans losses this season came against teams ranked in the top ten (No. 1 Alabama, No. 7 Stanford). If CU’s defense can stop the Sun Devils offense from exploding, Arizona State is a winnable game at home. Stanford would be a great upset, just not going to happen this year. The Buffs have played UCLA very close and I believe the Buffs can pull of the upset of the Bruins at home. Arizona has been inconsistent the past couple season, but very tough play at home. The Buffs should have no problem with Washington State, who’ve slipped to the bottom of the Pac-12. Utah will be a game that all Buffs fans need to come out to Folsom on Senior night. The Utes have always played CU close and for all intensive purposes the Buffs’ biggest rival in the Pac-12. Overall, CU has the ability to finish 7-5 this season and will be bowl bound.