The Colorado Buffaloes (1-0) opened the season with a 35-7 win over Northern Colorado last Friday night under the light of a sellout crowd at Folsom Field. As nice as it felt to start the season with a win, it only gets more difficult from here on out for the Buffs.
An old foe comes to Denver looking to keep their perfect record and top-five ranking intact on Saturday. No. 5 Texas A&M might not have much to work on following a 41-10 beat down of Kent State last week, but it’s hard to know what to make of an offense that put up nearly 600 yards after a slow start.
The Aggies (1-0), led by coach Jimbo Fisher, exited the 2020 season on a high note by squeaking out a close win over a massively depleted North Carolina team in the Orange Bowl. They finished the season ranked fourth with a 9-1 record, suffering only one loss (although it was a thorough beatdown) to top-ranked Alabama. It was the best season since Fisher came to College Station in 2018, and the highest final ranking for Texas A&M since 1939.
There’s a lot of history between the Buffs and Aggies as former members of the Big 12 conference. Both schools split one year after the other with CU heading out in 2011, and Texas A&M vacating the following year to the SEC in 2012.
Since 1995, Colorado has led the series with a 6-3 advantage. However, this will be the first time in the history of the matchup where they’re playing on a neutral field. The home-and-home agreement between the schools would’ve had CU playing in the Lone Star State last year, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the game was canceled. Nonetheless, this will be the first meeting between Colorado and Texas A&M since 2009.
The Buffaloes haven’t played a team ranked in the top five since traveling to Ann Arbor to play No. 4 Michigan in the non-conference portion of the 2016 season. They’ve gone 4-11 against ranked opponents since the 45-28 loss to the Wolverines, including upset wins over Utah and Nebraska. To say this will be Colorado’s toughest test over the past decade is an understatement.
Texas A&M’s offense lost senior leadership with Kellen Mond heading to the NFL, but didn’t lose a step with freshman Haynes King making his debut against Kent State. The “long-framed” athletic QB has true dual-threat ability, but stayed relatively steady in the pocket during his first start. King threw for 292 yards, two touchdowns and three INT’s in a so-so outing propped up by the Aggies defense. He’ll be learning as he goes in the early part of this season with a ton of support.
It was a split effort for Texas A&M’s offense against the Golden Flashes with over 300 yards on the ground, mostly by the two-headed machine of Devon Achane and Isaiah Spiller. Expect a similar attack against the Buffs defense who hope to be up for the challenge of keeping King at bay. If Nate Landman and the rest of Buffs linebackers can rattle the freshman passer early, they could present problems for the Aggie offense. However, Achane and Spiller could easily catch fire out of the backfield to keep King from having to do much, other than directing traffic and orchestrating a well-detailed game plan.
Even if Colorado is able to slow down Texas A&M’s offense, the other side of the ball will be the one that matters most. The Buffs offense will need some adjustments in order to be successful against the Aggies defense, and that starts and ends with QB Brendon Lewis being more consistent and fully trusting his abilities as a passer. The Buffaloes didn’t need Lewis to put up 300-plus yards passing against Northern Colorado to win. Mainly because they were heavily reliant on a stable running back committee of Jarek Broussard, Ashaad Clayton, Alex Fontenot, and Deion Smith to keep the sticks moving.
But the jury is still out on Lewis, and this game against one of the nation’s best interior defenses will test his game management skills. He’ll have to hope the offensive line plays mistake-free with no self-inflicted penalties to give the Buffs a shot to keep it close. Even so, more is needed from Lewis, hitting his receivers downfield on a consistent basis will be necessary for CU’s success against the Aggies somewhat questionable secondary.
From the desk of Dave Plati:
“Stat of the week- 93. As in Colorado has played 93 games in Denver with a record of 55-35-3, but the last 19 were against Colorado State in the Rocky Mountain Showdown (1998-2019); the last game in Denver prior had been against the University of Denver in 1947. That game on Nov. 27 of that year was the final conference game for the Buffaloes in the Mountain States Conference (also called the Skyline League); DU won 26-20, as Colorado was off to join the Big Seven Conference in 1948. Denver was a regular Thanksgiving opponent for CU, as many of the 44 games in the series came on Turkey Day; the two never played again and DU dropped the sport in 1961.”
Colorado will host No. 5 Texas A&M at Empower Field at Mile High on Saturday, Sept. 11. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:31 p.m. MT.
Radio: 850 KOA (Mark Johnson & Gary Barnett)
Odds: -17 Texas A&M
Weather: 91°, Partly cloudy