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Colorado Buffaloes vs. UCLA Bruins: Week 5 Preview

Colorado looks to get back on a winning streak

NCAA Football: UCLA at Colorado Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

It was a long week for the Colorado Buffaloes (3-1, 0-1 Pac-12) after a 37-10 loss at the hands of the No. 7 Washington Huskies. As much as the season’s first defeat was expected against a high-caliber championship contender, it also gave a perspective on the current state of CU football — a team still in the process of ‘The Rise’.

Now the Buffaloes west to Pasadena for the season’s first game outside the state of Colorado against the UCLA Bruins (3-1, 2-2 Pac-12). Both Colorado and UCLA are seeking their first conference victory following a 58-34 Stanford Cardinal beat down and the loss to the Huskies.

Despite Josh Rosen putting forth his best effort, UCLA has dropped two straight games on the road. The prolific passer, who’s been touted as one of the best quarterbacks in the country since 2015, completed 74-of-116 throws for 943 yards, seven touchdowns and four interceptions against Memphis and Stanford. Rosen didn’t do himself any favors during the offseason by making comments about the difficulties of being a student-athlete. In Q&A interview with Bleacher Report, He said,

Texas A&M v UCLA Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Rosen has tried to move past the comments by shifting the focus to a Bruins offense that’s currently ranked fourth in the nation. He leads all FBS passers with 1,763 yards and 16 touchdowns. He’s had a good start in the first four games and is likely to enter the NFL Draft at the season’s end. He along with receivers Darren Andrews, Caleb Wilson, Jordan Lasley and Theo Howard have picked up the slack for a defense that is struggling. The Bruins are one of the nation’s worst in overall defense (125th) and dead last (130th) for rushing yards allowed with an average of 307.5 yards per contest.

It’s a weakness the Buffaloes are hoping to exploit with Phillip Lindsay and in a designed run set for Steven Montez. On the other side of the ball, Colorado’s defense, especially the secondary of Isaiah Oliver, Trey Udoffia, Ryan Moeller and Afolabi Laguda, will be tested early and often on Saturday night. Rosen has attempted a minimum of 55 passes three times thus far in the season, the most by any opposing quarterback vs. CU, and is good for second-best in the nation (131-of-200) with a QBR of 139.7.

The Buffs are looking to make it two-in-a-row over the Bruins. Oliver’s 68-yard punt return for a touchdown helped the Buffaloes edge UCLA, 20-10, in a back-and-forth contest for Colorado last year. It was a game riddled with miscues— both teams combined for 25 penalties totaling 224 yards, 10 punts and five turnovers. Rosen was sidelined with an injury (shoulder) for a majority of 2016, including the Nov. 3 matchup in Boulder. UCLA escaped with a 35-31 win over Colorado at the Rose Bowl two years ago. In that game, Rosen threw for 262 yards and a touchdown— the only meeting with the Buffaloes of his career.

Chris Brown #22 running back of Colorado scores hs team's final touchdown Getty Images

CU’s last victory at the Rose Bowl was 15 years ago. On Sept. 21, 2002, Gary Barnett’s Buffaloes beat the Bruins 31-17, led by Chris Brown’s 188 rushing yards and three touchdowns. The non-conference game was the second Big 12/Pac-10 meeting on CU’s schedule that year after they lost 40-3 to USC the week prior. Barnett said after the game, “At least this week, I'm not going to go home and kick my dog.”

Colorado is going back, back to Cali, Cali for the latest installment of ‘Pac-12 After Dark’ against UCLA on Saturday, Sept. 30 (8:30 p.m. MT, TV: ESPN2). It’s a homecoming for twenty-one Buffs on the roster from SoCal, including the elusive receiving trio of Shay Fields, Bryce Bobo and Devin Ross. The Bruins hold a 9-3 advantage in series dating back to 1980.