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Colorado Buffaloes vs. San Diego State Aztecs: Week 3 Preview

The Aztecs step in after USC was unable to play.

Colorado v Stanford Photo by David Madison/Getty Images

The Colorado Buffaloes (2-0) were hoping to do something they’ve never done before in the football program’s 131-year history this week— beat the USC Trojans. But a COVID-19 outbreak at Southern Cal stopped that from being a possibility.

A Thanksgiving weekend meeting between the Buffs and San Diego State Aztecs (3-2) will likely be Colorado’s only non-conference game of the shortened season (3:30 p.m. MT/ TV: PACN)

ABC was scheduled to air the CU-USC game on Saturday, but declined an option to carry the replacement match-up. Instead, the Pac-12 Network agreed to run San Diego State at Colorado, making it the first non-conference football game for any Pac-12 school this season.

As crazy as 2020 has been for both Colorado and 18th-ranked USC, they’re two of the three remaining undefeated Pac-12 teams in the final weeks of the season. There’s no word yet if the game between the Buffs and Trojans will be rescheduled. If so, the contest may be moved from Los Angeles to Boulder after the city issued a three-week stay-at-home order this past Friday.

The Pac-12 originally nixed the idea of allowing teams to schedule those outside the conference due to COVID-19 contact tracing, but reconsidered after several football game have been canceled. Being proactive since the previous game vs. Arizona State was canceled, CU athletics agreed to a contingency plan earlier in the week for San Diego State to visit Boulder in the event USC was unable to participate.

“It is unfortunate that our game at Southern California had to be canceled, but as we all continue to maintain, the most important concern we all have is the health and safety of our student-athletes, coaches and staff,” CU athletic director Rick George said in a statement. “After the Pac-12 CEO’s created some requirements for possible non-conference opponents to fill any vacancies created by cancellations, we moved earlier this week to find a possible opponent to replace the Trojans. When San Diego State’s game at Fresno State was canceled for similar reasons, I spoke with SDSU AD John David Wicker and we put an agreement in place if USC could not play.”

Colorado started the season with Sam Noyer leading the Buffs at quarterback. The fifth-year senior has become a viable dual-threat option, throwing for 512 yards with six total touchdowns (3 Pass, 3 rush) to one interception in the first two games. He has done so without CU’s top receiver K.D. Nixon in the lineup and Dimitri Stanley stepping into the top go-to role.

The Buffs rushing attack has been a solid component to their success as well. Jarek Broussard has excelled with an average of 154 yards per game and 5.3 yards per carry, which is 2nd in the Pac-12 (50 attempts min.). The Dallas, Texas native earned Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week honors with 187 yards and three touchdowns vs. UCLA in the season opener. He became the 19th player since 1956 to gain 100+ yards in a first start at tailback, gaining the third-most in the process.

One of the key components for the Buffs offense has been clock management. A breakdown of their drives through the first two games shows a strong game plan being executed by Karl Dorrell and his staff.

The defense has won the turnover battle each week with a total of five (4 fumbles, 1 INT), while forcing eight punts and three turnovers on downs. Nate Landman leads the team with 20 total tackles, but is still looking for his first sack of the season. He, along with Akil Jones, Carson Wells and Mustafa Johnson are a major reason why the Buffs are 3rd-best in the Pac-12 against the run (122.5 YPG Avg.).

CU’s defense will need to keep up the same momentum against the San Diego State offense, who averages 28.8 point per game behind the one-two rushing attack of Greg Bell and Chance Bell. The duo has combined to get 138 carries for 810 yards and ten total touchdowns in five games. Greg Bell is the main catalyst for the Aztecs with four 100-yard games this season. On the other hand, SDSU quarterback Carson Baker has completed 55-of-95 (57.9%) of his passes for 591 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions.

One matchup to watch will be Colorado’s offense against San Diego State’s defense. The Aztecs tout one of the best defensive cores in the Mountain West Conference with seven players registering a sack thus far. Linebacker Caden McDonald leads the team with 4.5 sacks (3rd, MWC), along with 24 tackles. SDSU’s defense as a whole allows an average of 15.4 points per game (8th, FBS), and 269.4 yard per game (3rd, FBS). A majority of strength has been the ability to stop the run, allowing opponents two rushing touchdowns and an average of 90.0 rushing yards per contest.

From the desk of Dave Plati:

This will be only the second meeting between Colorado and San Diego State. The Buffs won a previous game over the Aztecs in 2002 by a 34-14 score in Boulder. It will be CU’s latest game against a non-conference opponent outside of the state of Colorado in school history. “The latest was on Dec. 7, 1963, when the Buffaloes lost 17-14 at Air Force in a game delayed by JFK’s assassination.”

As it stands right now, Colorado will resume Pac-12 play on Dec. 5 at Arizona before the season finale at home against Utah on Friday, Dec. 11.

TV: PAC12N

Radio: 850 KOA (Mark Johnson, Gary Barnett)

Odds: -2.5 Colorado

Weather: 55° Sunny at kickoff