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Colorado Buffaloes vs. Oregon State Beavers: Keys to the Game

Which important areas will play a role in determining tomorrow's outcome?

Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

Oregon State's defense presents the stiffest test that the Colorado offense will have faced to this point and the Beavers' offense will not be easily stayed after getting shut down last weekend. If the Buffs are to walk off Folsom as victors, it's going to take the complete game they haven't yet been able to put together.

Colorado_mediumShort Yardage Situations

It's the most glaring weakness on offense and something's got to change if this team is going to pull out another couple of wins this season. CU has ran 21 goal to go plays thus far and only 6 have ended in a touchdown celebration. The Buffs have too many weapons to continue failing at this rate. If the offensive line can't enforce their will and get a real push, Mike MacIntyre and Brian Lindgren are going to need to delve deeper into the playbook. Plays similar to the 4th and 3 conversion against Hawaii near midfield, when Kyle Slavin caught a perfectly delivered Sefo Liufau pass over his shoulder after a misdirection, need to be attempted more often. George Frazier continues to be a revelation and I would expect his particular set of skills to be utilized further. Yes, the offensive line should be able to command the line of scrimmage and help pound the ball in but failing that, some creativity is in order and I think we'll see more of it going forward. That botched series in the second overtime cannot be sitting well with this staff.

Colorado_mediumStopping the Run

The Buffaloes are giving up an average of 170 yards on the ground per game. That number probably seems worse than it really is, but the rush defense doomed CU in their loss to CSU and was a major factor in the losses to Arizona State and Cal. Oregon State's offense revolves around the passing game but they have two very capable backs in Storm Words and Terron Ward. Those two weren't able to get anything going against USC but I expect the Beavs to come out and get the ball moving on the ground to try and control the clock and the tempo. If OSU is able to successfully run the ball, Sean Mannion becomes much more dangerous. Colorado's linebackers are going to have to improve their play, taking smarter angles and making the first tackle. Addison Gillam hasn't looked himself for much of this season largely due to injuries. Now would be an opportune time for him to play his best game of the year. He and Kenneth Olugbode will certainly need to be sharper in this one. Containing the run can go a long way towards making Mike Riley's offense more predictable and giving the CU offense more opportunities.

Colorado_mediumBreaking Through

You get the feeling that the Buffs are on the precipice of something. Like they're standing on a rocky outcropping a quarter of the way up the hill, looking up, but the way forward is still shrouded in fog. Oftentimes in sports it seems that a heartbreaking close call precedes a big leap forward, and perhaps this is that scenario. Colorado's offense has begun to look like a real Pac-12 offense, fast, high-flying, and at times even explosive. The defense still has a ways to go, but they've shown glimpses of exceptional playmaking and the young talent is beginning to assert itself. The players themselves have talked about being thisclose to putting together a complete performance and coming away with a statement win. Oregon State's visit to Boulder will prove to be a very timely and significant measurement of how far this team has come through half a season and how far they still have yet to go. A victory would easily be the Buffs' best since joining the Pac-12. Here's to the program taking the next large step forward on Saturday.