The Colorado Buffaloes season is on a downward spiral — losing two straight — after they started the season off 5-0, their best start in twenty years.
Since that historic start, they have taken back-to-back losses to the USC Trojans and also the No. 15 Washington Huskies. Needing only one more win until the Buffs are bowl eligible, they are looking to turn things around; there is no better opportunity than in Boulder Saturday, hosting the Oregon State Beavers.
The Buffs are heavy favorites in the game and should have no problem securing the win; still, here are three things to keep an eye on Saturday at 1 p.m. MT.
Getting back on the right track
The Buffs started out on the right track and even made an appearance as a top 25 team in the AP poll before stumbling in two losses against Washington and USC. They could have won both games and really had a golden opportunity in the Washington game that they just didn’t take advantage of. This is their bounce-back spot; they just have to capitalize. On Saturday, Colorado is up against the worst team in the Pac-12.
Oregon State is 1-6 on the year and are coming off of a 49-7 thumping by the University of California Bears. The Buffs should use this game to get back in the groove before going up against an Arizona team who are not the Wildcats of the past.
Arizona has been having an off year and have one of the worst defenses in the entire Pac-12, setting up a game that should be another road win and will get the Buffs back in the prime position to make a run.
Week 10 is what looks to be their most difficult game left on the schedule. Colorado can use the momentum gained against Oregon State and Arizona to play against Washington State, who just had one of the most impressive first halves of the season in a convincing win against the Oregon Ducks. The Cougars have moved all the way up to No. 14 in the AP Poll and look to be the best team in the Pac-12.
For Colorado to turn things around they have to get things going this week against the Beavers. The offense and the defense have to take this game as a way to tune things up and get back on the right track.
One of the easiest things to look back at last week and attribute to the loss to Washington was Colorado missing their most productive player Laviska Shenault Jr. due to turf toe. Without Shenault against their toughest opponent to date, it was difficult for the offense to get things going which have been struggling for the past two weeks.
Colorado has gone from an offense that put up 37.8 points a game through five weeks to having 20 against USC and only 13 against Washington. Those are two of the conference’s best defenses, leading to part of the reason for Colorado’s struggles. But, this has also not been the same Colorado team lately; the Buffs not having their biggest weapon has been crucial. It hasn’t been determined yet if he will play this week, but it’s expected that Shenault will give it a go.
Although the Beavers have not gotten off to the start they were hoping for, one of the positives on the year has been star running back Jermar Jefferson. Jefferson is leading the Pac-12 in rushing with 899 yards on 132 carries. He is also the conference’s rushing leader in touchdowns by a long shot with 12 TDs on the year. The mid-season freshman All-American was limited to just a couple of touches against Cal because of a hamstring injury. He’s a game-time decision but is expected to give it a go and the Beavers are surely a better team when he is on the field.
Having their best players back will help get both teams back on the right track and be beneficial to both offenses. It will be interesting to see how both teams respond.
QB story to watch
For the Buffs, it’s all about Steven Montez getting back to the quarterback that he was in the first five games of the year. He was patient, effective and efficient.
But as of late, the junior QB has regressed back to the Montez of old that forced passes and is a bit slow on his reads. He is having an up and down year as he has thrown for 1,700 yards, 12 TDs and also has four interceptions. With the Buffs playing a weak opponent, this should be a game that Montez is on the field and attempting to run up the score and get back into the flow of things. Expect a big game out of him.
On the other side of the ball there is areas of concern as quarterback Jake Luton has missed four games nursing a high ankle sprain. Back-up Conor Blount is under the concussion protocol after suffering a head injury last week and third-string QB Jack Colletto didn’t look quite ready to take over the team just yet. With so many injuries to arguably the most important position in football this doesn’t bode well for the Beavers.
There will be growing pains early and it will be expected for the Colorado front seven to get after the quarterback for multiple sacks on Saturday. With a wounded star running back and injured or inexperienced quarterback on the opposite end, this should be a game that the Buffs win big. Plus, the Beavers offensive line has been one of the nation’s worst and has given up the most sacks in the country with 30.
Again, kickoff is set for Saturday at 1 p.m. MT in Boulder.