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Colorado Buffaloes vs. California Golden Bears: Week 9 Preview

The Buffs ride into homecoming to try and tame the Golden Bears for No. 700.

Colorado v California Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The California Golden Bears (4-4, 1-4 Pac-12) and Colorado Buffaloes (4-4, 1-4 Pac-12) are two teams with identical records and but different results and satisfaction with the current season through the past eight weeks. Both are currently sitting at .500 needing a win on Saturday to move within one victory of a potential bowl berth.

It’s been three years since Colorado and Cal last met on Sept. 27, 2014. The Buffs came up short in a 59-56 double overtime barn burner with Sefo Liufau and Jared Goff throwing for a combined 913 yards and 14 touchdowns. That game started an eight-game losing streak for the Buffaloes and ended with the worst conference record in Coach Mike MacIntyre’s tenure.

Colorado has failed to meet expectations so far this season with one conference win in a lackluster defense of their Pac-12 South title. Last Saturday’s 28-0 shutout loss at No. 15 Washington State was the first time CU has been held scoreless in a contest in five years, prompting a possible change at quarterback. Steven Montez and Sam Noyer are competing for the starting job this week with a decision between either quarterback coming prior to Saturday.

The Buffaloes offense has failed to achieve consistency from week-to-week, with an average of 22 points over the last five games. Montez has taken care of the ball by throwing 108 pass attempts without an interception, but has six touchdowns during that span. It’s the ninth time in CU history a quarterback has over 100 attempts without a pick.

Phillip Lindsay’s production out of the backfield has been the only thing consistently working for the offense, with the back rushing for 1,093 yards and 10 touchdowns. CU’s all-purpose leader became the only running back in school history to accumulate back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. For what it’s worth, the Buffs offense needs to get back on track against the Bears defense, who’s ranked 116th in the nation and allowing 28.4 points per game. In fact, the Bears haven’t ranked above 100 in total defense since 2012.

California has given up yards and points, but a strong suit is their ability to force turnovers and create pressure for sacks— something Colorado’s offensive line has yet to protect against with 23 sacks against them. The Bears are without their best defender Devante Downs, who is out for the rest of the season after suffering a lower body injury two weeks ago vs. Washington State. He led the team through seven games with 65 tackles, two interceptions, three sacks, and two forced fumbles both recovered.

On the other side, the Bears offense is coming off one of their best showings this season in the 45-44 double overtime loss to Arizona. Much like Colorado earlier in the season, Cal couldn’t find an answer to defend the dual-threat ability of Khalil Tate. Over the past two games Ross Bowers has put together quality some stats, going 50-of-87 for 560 yards and three touchdowns. The pro-style quarterback has thrown two or more interceptions in four games this season.

Despite a non-existent pass rush from Colorado in a majority of games this season, the Buffs can strike gold on Saturday by exploiting a weakened Bears offense front. It will take a better effort for CU than the three total sacks against conference opponents —the same amount the Bears surrenders per game with an average of 3.25. It’s on CU’s coaching staff to show signs of improvement, especially a week after one of the worst losses in recent history.

Colorado welcomes California to Folsom Field for Homecoming on Saturday, Oct. 28 at Noon MT. The Buffs will be retiring the No. 19 of Rashaan Salaam at halftime in a ceremony honoring the late running back. CU comes into the game favored by 3.5 points, according to most Las Vegas sports books. One more win and the Buffaloes will be the 25th school all-time to reach 700 wins, currently holding a record of 699-497-36. TV: Pac-12 Network, Streaming: Pac-12 Now, Radio: 850 KOA.