“T.I.P.S.” for Colorado v. Washington State
Inconsolable. Despondent. Frustrated. Angry. Upset.
Pick one emotion … Hell, take them all.
University of Colorado fans have run the gauntlet of negative emotions the past few weeks, and that’s not even the worst of it …
… Chances are it is going to get worse before it gets better.
Not lost on Buff fans is the fact that, as poor as the team has played in opening with an 0-3 record, those games were played against the worst three teams on the 2012 calendar.
If Fresno State can score five touchdowns in 18 first quarter offensive plays, what might the Oregon offense do to the Buffs? … Shudder …
Still, the games must be played, and, for what it’s worth, Washington State may just be the only chance Colorado has for a road victory in 2012.
Which leads us to the “T.I.P.S.” for the week …
T – Talent
Both Colorado and Washington State have quarterback issues.
Colorado has the bad kind: three quarterbacks – all ineffective.
Washington State has the good kind: two quarterbacks – both effective.
Last season, starter Jeff Tuel went down early in the season, and was not available for the game in Boulder. This season, Tuel is injured again, but may be available to play against Colorado. In his stead, all Connor Halliday did last week was to earn a nomination for Pac-12 Offensive Player-of-the-Week honors in passing for 378 yards and four touchdowns in a 35-27 victory over UNLV.
This week, Jeff Tuel may be healthy enough to return, but will he be inserted into the starting lineup?
Head coach Mike Leach, who has adopted a policy of not listing an injury report, is not saying. When asked about Tuel’s health in his weekly press conference, Leach sarcastically replied: “He’s ridiculously healthy. He’s one of those guys that Tony the Tiger would be proud of to be in a commercial and have him eat cereal and everything, you know what I mean”, going on to make the following statement about naming a starter: “As always, suspense – why do people watch games? Because of suspense, because they want to know what’s going to happen,” Leach said. “I’m not a guy that tells people the ending to a movie if they haven’t seen it and I’m certainly not going to share that with you. If you want to know how it turns out, you’ve got to come see the movie” …. take that for what it’s worth.
For their part, even the quarterbacks are claiming ignorance as to who will start. “We’re not told much either,” said Halliday. “We’re kind of in the same boat. We just go along and try to have as good a week of practice as you can have to help the decision in your favor.”
Here’s predicting that both will play in what is forecast to be a Washington State rout. An audition, you might say, to the Cougars’ much more significant game next weekend, a matchup against Oregon in Seattle. How is this for enticement: Whichever quarterback throws the most touchdown passes wins the opportunity to take on the Ducks …
Whoever starts, everyone knows that they will be looking for All-Pac-12 candidate Marquess Wilson. The junior wide receiver had an 63-yard touchdown reception in the waning moments of Washington State’s 31-27 comeback win in Boulder last year, and had an 81-yard touchdown reception last weekend against UNLV. In 27 career games, Wilson has posted eight touchdowns of 50-plus yards. Wilson is already ranked third in WSU career receiving touchdowns, third in career receiving yards, and fifth in career receptions.
Think Wilson is excited about playing the Buffs again?
The only aspect on offense in which Washington State is lacking is in rushing offense. The Cougars are ranked 117th nationally in running the ball, but such stats were not unusual for Mike Leach coached teams at Texas Tech, and that pass/rush discrepancy was the case last year for Washington State, when the Cougars were ranked 111th in rushing offense (but 9th in passing offense).
Suffice it to say that if the “Baby Buffs” in the secondary don’t mature quickly, Washington State will be more than content earning its yards in the air (injury update: Senior CU safety Ray Polk will miss his third straight game Saturday, as will senior linebacker Doug Rippy. Sophomore Greg Henderson may return after a two game absence, with freshman defensive back Marques Mosley also expected to be able to play).
On defense, Washington State senior rush end Travis Long is the body the Buffs’ banged up offensive line will have to look out for (injury update: both starting center Gus Handler and his backup at center, Brad Cotner, are questionable – Handler – or out – Cotner. Daniel Munyer will likely have to move over from guard to start at center). Last weekend, Travis Long matched career highs with nine tackles and two sacks against UNLV, and leads the team with four sacks overall. Red-shirt freshman linebacker Darryl Monroe has the second-most tackles on the team (21), while forcing two fumbles and one sack.
If Colorado is to be successful against Washington State, the Buffs must contain the pash rush (Colorado is 115th in the nation in sacks allowed) in order to exploit the Cougars’ 117th-ranked pass defense.
I – Intangibles
Washington State comes into Saturday’s game with a 2-1 record, looking to open Pac-12 conference play 1-0, 3-1 overall. The exact same scenario was in place last year when the Cougars came to Boulder. Washington State was 2-1, and left with a 3-1 record and high hopes for its first bowl bid since 2003. Instead, the Cougars limped to the finish, losing six of their final seven games of the year, costing Paul Wulff his job.
This season, though, there is a resurgence of optimism, as Mike Leach is now in charge. An air of expectation, despite the close victories over Eastern Washington and UNLV, permeates the program. The “mad scientist” did not have a losing season in ten campaigns in Lubbock, and is not about to let the opportunity to continue the streak take a hit by losing the easiest remaining game on the schedule.
On the flip side … Does Colorado have any intangibles going for them?
When you are amongst the worst teams in Division 1-A, it’s slim pickings, but there is this:
Colorado defensive coordinator Greg Brown is no stranger to Mike Leach’s offense. Brown was on the Colorado staff when the Buffs were compiling a 2-0 record against Mike Leach under Dan Hawkins. Colorado took out the Red Raiders in Boulder in 2006, 30-6, in Dan Hawkins’ first victory as head coach (breaking a school-record ten game losing streak), and again in 2007, when the Buffs won 31-26 in Lubbock.
Overall, Colorado is 4-1 against Mike Leach teams, including one victory over Oklahoma in 1999, when Leach was the Sooners’ offensive coordinator.
So the Buffs have that going for them … which is nice.
P - Preparation/Schedule
Washington State owns an advantage in terms of preparation, at least in terms of the calendar. The Cougars played its game against UNLV last weekend on Friday night, earning a day off on Saturday when the Buffs were wilting in the heat of Fresno, California, on Saturday night. Washington State players were able to scout out their next opponent from the comfort of their living rooms, surely gaining confidence with each play, watching the Buffs fall behind 35-0 in the first quarter against the Bulldogs.
Next weekend, both teams will be on the road, even though Washington State will be wearing their home uniforms. The Cougars will be playing a “home game” against Oregon in the home stadium of the Seattle Seahawks. In addition to facing a top three team, the Cougars will also likely be facing a stadium which is half filled with Duck fans.
Will the Cougars be looking past the Buffs to a nationally televised game (either ESPN or ESPN2), togther with a chance for the “mad scientist” to introduce his new team to the nation?
Perhaps, but not likely.
Meanwhile, Colorado has a home game next weekend against No. 22 UCLA. Nothing to look forward to there.
It’s now or never for the Buffs … just like it was last weekend.
S – Statistics
This just in … Colorado is terrible.
On offense, Colorado is ranked 100th or worse in every major statistical category. Colorado can’t run the ball effectively (104th), but can’t pass either (104th).
If Colorado is to have any chance against Washington State, the Buffs will likely have to do it through the air. Washington State, as noted, is ranked 117th against the pass. Whether its Jordan Webb (the named starter), or Connor Wood (who will likely see action in the first quarter, as was the case last weekend), the Colorado quarterback will have to be on top of his game. A controlled passing attack (Washington State is 100th in time of possession) will give the Buffs their best chance at an upset.
While on defense, the “Baby Buffs” will have to perform at a level not seen since senior safety Ray Polk went down in the first half of the first game. Since playing fairly well against Colorado State in the opener, the Buff secondary has gotten progressively worse. Colorado is ranked 104th (there is that number again!) in pass defense, while Washington State is ranked 28th in passing offense. Colorado tried having the freshmen cornerbacks give the opposition a cushion two weeks ago, which resulted in a waaay too easy winning field goal drive to Sacramento State at the end of the game two weeks ago. Last weekend, the Buffs tried having the freshmen cornerbacks play closer to the line of scrimmage … with disasterous results.
Any compromise in the middle? Probably not.
Washington State, regardless of who is playing quarterback, will likely have a field day against the Colorado secondary.
One last statistic … Washington State junior wide receiver Marquess Wilson has 2,612 career receiving yards. The school record, held by Brandon Gibson, is 2,756. That’s a difference of 144 yards.
Wilson and his teammates will be on the road the next two weekends. Think that Wilson would like to set the career receiving record in front of the home crowd?
Think he would like to do it before halftime, when Mike Leach might start pulling starters in order to avoid injuries with the Oregon Ducks next up on the calendar?
I do too.
Washington State 45, Colorado 13.