The Buffaloes exceeded expectations early on, winning their first five games of the season and appearing like a team well on their way to a bowl game. Somehow, they are on the wrong end of a four-game losing streak with all eyes on head coach Mike MacIntyre, wondering how the team will respond, or if they will be on the wrong side of history – somehow winning their first five games and not making a bowl game. Without many more opportunities to win, the Buffaloes will have to find a way to win this one.

Washington State is the No. 10 ranked team in the country, so they’ll face a steep challenge on Saturday afternoon. The Buffs will have to bring their best game and get it done on both sides of the ball if they plan on bouncing back and toppling the Cougars.

Desperation Mode

Both teams are desperate, but for very different reasons.

For the Buffaloes, they sit at 5-4 on the season and need just one win until they are bowl-eligible. They are on a four-game losing streak after starting out the season 5-0 and were once ranked in the Top 25. They have had players injured, and that has slowed down the Buffaloes’ offense, while the defense has been dominated through the air.

For Washington State, they sit at 8-1 and are very close to a division title. The Cougars control their own destiny, which is a testament to how great of a season they are having, because this was not a team that was picked to win the Pac-12 – yet here they are, a few weeks away from a possible College Football playoff appearance.

They are coming off of a nail-biting, 19-13 finish against California last week in which the offense struggled to get into the end zone after countless red zone visits. It will come down to which team wants it more and who finishes off drives, as both offenses are capable of putting up big numbers.Expect this to be a high-scoring game where both teams come alive and move the ball down the field. The Buffs can salvage their season – and the Cougars can remain a contender – with a win.

Slowing down Gardner Minshew

The Buffaloes are up against the nation’s leading passer in Gardner Minshew, and when looking at the Buffs’ past few games, the defense has been vulnerable to the pass. Minshew is having an incredible season and recently became a semifinalist for the Davey O’Brien Award, which represents the nation’s best passer.

The senior has thrown for 3,517 yards and 27 touchdowns in only nine games. He has thrown seven interceptions on the season, which the Buffs will attempt to capitalize on, but what really stands out is his efficiency. He is completing 70 percent of his passes and throws the ball over 50 times a game. With Minshew taking so many chances, the game can go either one of two ways – either the Buffs give up a ton through the air, they’ll or force turnovers and capitalize on them. Colorado’s defense will have their hands full with a quarterback capable of easily throwing for 400 yards.

Injured offensive players

Injuries have been a major concern for the Buffaloes, and things are only getting worse. Colorado has not been the same team without wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr., who went down with a toe injury three weeks ago. In that time frame, Colorado has gone 0-3 and his status remains day-to-day, but seems a bit more optimistic than it has recently. Shenault made his mark early on the season as he racked up 780 yards and scored six touchdowns on 60 catches. He is the only player in the country that has averaged 10 receptions a game and he’s average 130.0 receiving yards per game, so his presence has surely been missed and having him back will pay dividends to the offense.

The receiving corps is also missing KD Nixon (hip) as well as Jay MacIntyre (concussion). Quarterback Steven Montez will have to get other receivers going. Juwann Winfree and Kabion Ento were the main beneficiaries in their absence, but the offense will have to be at full throttle if they plan on beating a very good Washington State team.