The Colorado Buffaloes (3-2, 0-2 Pac-12) hit the halfway point of the season facing a resilient Arizona Wildcats (2-2, 0-1 Pac-12) team. Both Pac-12 foes are winless in conference play going into Saturday’s meeting. CU fell to No. 7 Washington and UCLA in the past two weeks and No. 23 Utah held off Arizona for the 30-24 win on Oct. 22.
Most people didn’t expect the Buffaloes to get off to this slow of a start. Steven Montez is still trying to find his feet in the offensive game plan while working a great receiving corps into the rotation.
Colorado’s miscues on offense will have to be cleaned up going forward with three of the seven teams remaining teams on the schedule ranked in the Top 25. This is a brief stop home for Buffaloes before heading on the road for back-to-back contests against Oregon State and No. 11 Washington State. Arizona comes to Boulder trying to steal a win in what could be a back-and-forth barn burner.
The Wildcats have run the ball particularly well this year, ranked ninth in the nation while averaging 296 yards per game with a total of 15 touchdowns. It’s in large part due to dual-threat quarterback and leading rusher Brandon Dawkins, who’s accounted for fifty-three percent of Arizona’s total offense with 1,011 total yards and 11 touchdowns (six rushing, five passing). Going back to last year, the Wildcats have rushed for 150 yards or more in ten straight games.
Dawkins has been held under 90 yards rushing just once (26 yards, Sept. 9 vs. Houston). and his 1,498 career rushing yards are the most by any Arizona quarterback since 1958. Dawkins will test CU’s defense’s ability to cover a true dual-threat option So far this season they’ve only allowed a single 100-yard rusher (Washington’s Myles Gaskin). The Buffaloes have faced Dawkins once in his career, when he finished with 76 yards and no touchdowns last year in Tucson. Colorado’s defensive front will need to be concerned with more than Dawkins out of the backfield. J.J. Taylor and Nick Wilson have emerged as supplemental options in Arizona’s rushing attack, combining for 82 carries, 400 yards and two touchdowns.
Two keys for the Buffaloes success against the Wildcats are focused on Dawkins ability to make throws down the field. Applying pressure on Dawkins and forcing him to make ill-advised decisions was an enormous reason why Houston pulled off the victory early in the season at Arizona.
Also, Montez and the offense must do their part to finish out drives with seven points. Colorado has one of the deepest groups of receivers in the nation and should target them more consistently. As of now, Montez has averaged 32.8 passing attempts per game, fifth among Pac-12 quarterbacks.
Colorado welcomes Arizona for family weekend at Folsom Field on Saturday, Oct. 7 (6 p.m. MT/ TV:PAC12N) The Buffaloes can make it two-in-a-row over the Wildcats for the first time since 1985. Prior to 2011, CU’s last home win over Arizona was almost 57 years to the day on Oct. 8, 1960.