We’re closing in on week four of the college football season and so far we don’t know what to think of the Buffaloes. This Saturday, Colorado will try for the second time in nine months to upset the No. 7 Washington Huskies — this time in a rematch of last season’s Pac-12 Championship that ended in a 41-10 defeat of the Buffaloes.
The last Buffaloes’ win in the series was 21 years ago, when they were led by quarterback Koy Detmer and defeated the Huskies by a score of 33-21 in the Holiday Bowl. Rae Carruth had seven receptions for 162 yards and two scores.
If Colorado can upset Washington in Boulder for the first time since 1990, here’s how that could happen.
5. Jake Browning needs to be forced out of his comfort zone
Washington faces a tougher opponent than they have all season this week in Colorado. The question will be, did the Buffaloes learn enough about Jake Browning after the Pac-12 Championship game? So far this season CU has allowed opposing quarterbacks 212.7 passing yards per game, along with a touchdown. On the other hand, Browning has played near flawless ball, completing 74.4 percent of his passes in the first three games. Will Colorado be able to disrupt Washington’s offense by keeping Browning outside the pocket and applying pressure?
That extremely difficult task might be simplified by forcing throws to receivers other than Dante Pettis or Myles Gaskin out of the backfield. Buff linebackers Ryan Moeller and Nick Fisher can become valuable assets in picking up coverage underneath and keeping Gaskin from becoming an option for Browning in the flat. The Buffaloes 3-4 base should see more of a hybrid look with a 5-2 or 46 defense against Browning to double up on either side of the line.
Jonathan Smith and Matt Lubick, the UW co-offensive coordinators and the masterminds behind UW’s spread offense will rely on a run-first option. Multiple schemes can benefit a solid pass rush and allow Derek McCartney, Leo Jackson III and Rick Gamboa to build on their nine total sacks. Browning is not a dual-threat quarterback and the longer he’s protected in the pocket, the more proficient he becomes. But Washington has a record of 1-4 when Browning throws two or more interceptions in a game...
4. Consistency is a must with Steven Montez and CU’s offense
There’s no mistaking why Washington’s top 25 defense leaves Steven Montez with little to no room for error. Colorado’s sophomore quarterback may have used the first three games to develop further under the Chiaverini-Lindgren pro-style offense, but Washington will be a monumental litmus test. Montez must keep the Buffaloes defense off the field and control the battle for time of possession. The Huskies thrive on the play of their secondary with Taylor Rapp, Byron Murphy, JoJo McIntosh and Jordan Miller. Keeping them on the field is crucial for CU’s game plan. That means Montez distributing the ball efficiently and having the dual-threat awareness to know when to pass or run. If Lindgren and Chiaverini were holding back on allowing Montez to run in the first three games the training wheels will have to be taken off on Saturday.
3. Use the “Mile High” advantage
An opposing team coming into Boulder from the near sea level of Seattle, Wash., should be an advantage for the Buffaloes. Exposure to less oxygen is an element that Colorado should use to help run Washington out of Folsom Field. The 1980’s and 90’s Denver Nuggets prided themselves on running opponents out of McNichols arena, a tactic CU would love to see repeated.
2. Phillip Lindsay can learn from Alabama’s Bo Scarbrough
The Buffaloes could learn something in film study from last year’s Peach Bowl, most notably Alabama’s Bo Scarbrough’s 180 yards and two touchdowns. The same can be done with Phillip Lindsay by racking up the yards after contact. Alabama beat down Washington with a physical old school approach that totaled 50 rushes to 14 passes. Like the beginning of the Pac-12 Championship, Lindsay should be used early and often to sell the run and load up for a big pass. The difference will need to be better protection from Colorado’s offensive line against Vita Vea, Greg Gaines and Jaylen Johnson.
1. Don’t allow UW’s special teams to be a game changer
Dante Pettis has proven his ability to flip scoreboard and field position time and time again. He tied the FBS record for touchdown returns last week vs. Fresno State. The Pac-12 Special Teams Player of the Week should be avoided as much as possible. Taking Pettis out of Washington’s equation in the return game gives CU a longer field to cover on offense. Not to mention, the Huskies have the most efficient special teams unit in the country. Pettis has returned a punt for a touchdown in all three games thus far this season.
Dante Pettis is good at returning punts. pic.twitter.com/f6mNHInfSa— ESPN CollegeFootball (@ESPNCFB) September 17, 2017
The Buffaloes and Huskies meet at Folsom Field this Saturday night (9/23) at 8:00 p.m. MT. TV: Fox Sports 1, Radio: 850 KOA.