Colorado v. Washington – Preview
Against Arizona last weekend, Colorado took its first lead in almost a month, and held its first lead at the end of a quarter since the third quarter of game two against Sacramento State. The 10-7 lead at the end of the first quarter, though, did not hold up, as Arizona went on a seven touchdowns in seven drives barrage to take out the Buffs, 56-31.
So, can Colorado keep it together for more than a quarter against Washington? Will playing at home before 43,000 or so hopeful fans help keep the Buffs’ spirits up? Will the Washington offense, which has broken the 21-point barrier only twice this season, be held in check?
Let’s turn to this week’s “T.I.P.S.” for answers …
T – Talent
That gasping noise you heard emanating from the Pacific Northwest last Sunday was the sound of Washington running back Bishop Sankey watching the film of the Colorado/Arizona game.
A decent, but by no means record-worthy, running back by the name of Ka’Deem Carey found his way into the annals of Arizona, Colorado and Pac-12 history in gashing the Colorado defense for 366 yards on only 25 carries. Now it’s Washington sophomore running back Bishop Sankey’s turn.
Last weekend, in a 34-15 victory over Utah, Sankey rushed for 156 yards, his fifth 100-yard game of the season. Sankey is already over 1,000 yards for the season, marking the fourth year in four years under head coach Steve Sarkisian that a Washington back has surpassed 1,000 yards. Sankey is not only good for yards, but he has a nose for the endzone. Sankey’s 13 rushing touchdowns this season already rank 5th on the all-time list at U-Dub.
This is not to say that Sankey is the only weapon the Buffs must face. Junior quarterback Keith Price had his best game of the season last week against Utah, completing 24-of-33 passes for 277 yards and two touchdowns and no interceptions. For the year, Price has passed for over 2,000 yards, with 19 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Price holds the career completion percentage record at Washington, and already has more touchdown passes than any other Husky quarterback.
Price’s primary weapon is a large tight end (uh-oh – where have we seen that before?). Austin Seferian-Jenkins, all 6’6″, 266 pounds of him, has 96 career receptions for 1,267 yards, both school records … and he is only a sophomore. Seferin-Jenkins’ 55 receptions for the year are a school record for the position, and the most for any tight end in the country this fall (seven more catches than the next tight end on the list).
On defense, the Huskies are a study in contrasts. If you want to be successful against Washington, you need to be able to run the ball. Led by senior cornerback Desmond Trufant (younger brother of Seahawks CB Marcus Trufant and Jets CB Isaiah Trufant), Washington is 18th in the nation in pass defense. At the same time, the Huskies are 90th in rushing defense.
Simply put, it doesn’t matter as much who is quarterback for Colorado this weekend as it does that Christian Powell and or Donta Abron have huge days carrying the ball.
I – Intangibles
Three games ago, Washington suffered a 52-17 defeat at the hands of the Arizona Wildcats in Tucson. The embarrassing loss was not dissimilar in outcome to the 56-31 score put on the Buffs.
So, Washington and Colorado are similar teams?
Thing is, that 35-point loss by Washington was so three weeks ago for the Huskies. Since then, Washington has won three straight games – a 20-17 upset of then No. 7 Oregon State, a 21-13 road victory over Cal, and a dominating 34-15 win over Utah.
Washington is now 6-4, bowl-eligible and on a roll. With two games left in the regular schedule, against 1-9 Colorado and 2-8 Washington State, the Huskies are looking for an 8-4 regular season, which would be the most wins for the Huskies in the Sarkisian era. There are already seven Pac-12 teams – Oregon, Stanford, UCLA, Oregon State, USC, Arizona and Washington – who are already bowl-eligible, with Arizona State and Utah also hoping to join the party.
As a result, any hopes Buff fans might have had that the Huskies would be satisified with merely getting to the six win mark would be misplaced … Washington still has a great deal to play for.
But does Colorado?
The 1-9 Buffs have two chances left to avoid becoming the first Colorado team since 1920 to not win a home game.
The 1-9 Buffs have two chances left to avoid becoming the first Colorado team in history to lose 11 games in a season.
Two weeks ago, none of the players questioned after the shutout loss to Stanford were aware that it had been over a quarter of a century – and 150 games – since Colorado had suffered a shut out home loss.
The Buff players may be more aware of the above inglorious records than they were of the shutout avoidance streak …
… but that doesn’t mean they will have any more motivation to avoid posting those records.
P – Preparation / Schedule
Washington is only 6-4 on the season, but that has come against the fourth-toughest schedule in the nation. The Husky losses have come against LSU, Oregon, and USC – three teams which have spent all or some of the season in the top ten in the nation – and against Arizona on the road.
One advantage the Buffs may have in the scheduling is the timing, both of this game and the next.
The kickoff for the Colorado/Washington game is 11:30 a.m., the same time as the Buffs’ kickoff last weekend. For the Huskies, though, the kickoff will be, in essence, 10:30 a.m. Pacific time. Colorado actually played well in the first quarter against Arizona, holding the ball for 11:19 of the first quarter, out-scoring the Wildcats 10-7.
If – a big if – Colorado can put together a similar performance early on against Washington (recall that the Buff defense played well in the first quarter against Stanford), the Buffs might be able to get an otherwise skeptical crowd to cheer on the home team.
There is also the matter of next week’s game. Washington is done with home games for the season, having to travel to Pullman next Friday for the Apple Cup. Meanwhile, Colorado will stay at home for a Senior Day game against Utah.
Two home games for Colorado; two road games for Washington.
Slight edge in scheduling and preparation for the Buffs.
S – Statistics
The 2012 season will be a record-breaker for the University of Colorado … for all the wrong reasons.
The NCAA tracks 17 major statistical team categories, and Colorado ranks 90th or worse in the nation in 14 of those. Only in net punting (CU ranks 27th nationally), tackles for loss (59th), and sacks (78th) is Colorado inside of the bottom quarter nationally.
In some categories, Colorado is at or near the bottom. The Buffs are dead last (120th) nationally in scoring defense and pass efficiency defense, are second to last in sacks allowed, and third to last in total defense. (The Buffs’ 31-point outburst against Arizona allowed Colorado to move from 119th in the nation to 115th in scoring offense).
Okay, we know all about Colorado … what about Washington?
Well, as noted above, despite having talented skill position players, the Huskies have not been especially prolific on offense. In the major offensive categories – rushing offense, passing offense, total offense and scoring offense – Washington ranks between 85th and 99th nationally. The Huskies hit triple digits when it comes to passing efficiency and sacks allowed.
What has allowed Washington to get to a winning record against a tough schedule, then, has been its defense. Washington is giving up only 372 yards per game (40th nationally), and only 25 points per game (53rd). Since giving up 52 points to Arizona, the Huskies have given up only 45 points – total – to Oregon State, Cal, and Utah.
It’s going to be tough for Colorado to defeat Washington without some breaks (not much help here, Washington is tied for 52nd nationally in turnover margin, while Colorado is 110th). There doesn’t appear to be any help from the weather (forecast of 53 degrees and no chance of rain) – a forecast good for the fans in the stands, but not so good for fans hoping for a blizzard to help level the playing field.
Not a surprise here, the numbers just don’t add up to a Colorado victory.
Some spirited play, and perhaps more consistency, can be hoped for … but a win would be a significant upset.
Washington 35, Colorado 17.