No. 2 Oregon at Colorado Preview – “T.I.P.S.”
Is there any real reason to play this game?
In the second half of the Oregon State game, Colorado showed signs of slipping back into 2012 form … and that’s not a good thing.
Meanwhile, Oregon has been, well, Oregon. The Ducks have been biding their time so far this fall, toying with inferior opponents until games against Washington, Stanford, UCLA and perhaps Alabama ultimately decide their season.
The Ducks are five-touchdown favorites against the Buffs, and that actually might be kind. Oregon has scored over 50 points on every opponent this season, while the Colorado loss to Oregon State has demonstrated that a good defense can stymie the Buffs’ nascent offensive schemes.
It’s not a good formula for success for the Buffs.
Last season, Oregon raced out to a 56-0 halftime lead over Colorado in Eugene, coasting to a 70-14 rout.
In 2011, the Buffs used their “homefield advantage” to “hold” the Ducks to 45 points in a 45-2 embarrassment.
That’s 115-16 in two Pac-12 contests.
The only real question worthy of debate, it would seem, is whether former CU assistant coach Mark Helfrich, in his first season as the head coach at Oregon, will take pity on his former team …
… or take no prisoners.
The thing is, while the scoreboard at Folsom Field may get ugly this weekend, the Buffs still have a great deal to play for … and to prove.
Here are this week’s “T.I.P.S.” for the Colorado home game against Oregon (4:00 p.m., MT, Pac-12 Networks):
T – Talent
Last weekend, Oregon State’s quarterback, Sean Mannion, looked like a Heisman trophy candidate against the Buffs. Mannion, who already has over 2,000 yards passing this season (no other quarterback in the country has more than 1,650), passed for 414 yards and a school-record six touchdowns against Colorado.
And Oregon’s Marcus Mariota is better than Mannion.
Mariota is “only” 42nd in the nation in passing, with over 1,000 yards passing, nine touchdowns, and no interceptions. But what Mariota can do running the ball is what makes him a leading candidate for the Heisman. Mariota has added another 295 yards rushing in the first four games of the season, with another five touchdowns (not great? Compare: The Buffs’ leading rusher so far this season …. Tony Jones, with 107 yards and no touchdowns).
The Ducks are very democratic is spreading around the offensive wealth. The four top rushers, led by De’Anthony Thomas (338 yards, six touchdowns), all have at least 174 yards rushing and at least four touchdowns (so don’t get too excited that Thomas has a sprained ankle, and won’t be available for the CU game – the Ducks have plenty of weapons in their arsenal). The four top receivers, led by Josh Huff (16 catches for 342 yards), all have two touchdowns apiece.
In all, six different rushers have scored touchdowns for Oregon, while six different receivers have also scored.
Oregon is leading the nation in rushing, with 332.5 yards per game on the ground, and second in the nation in scoring, at 59.8 points per game.
This just in … Oregon is going to score against the Colorado defense.
How bad will it be?
After watching yet another quarterback set a school record for touchdown passes last Saturday, would it be fair to invoke comparisons to the infamous 2012 campaign?
Not so fast, says CU senior linebacker – and captain – Derrick Webb.
“That’s what really upset me more than anything in the Oregon State game,” said Webb. “You look at the score at the end of the game and it looks like, OK, these are the same Buffaloes as last year. I know that’s not the case.
“We’re not the same football team, we’re not the same defense as last year. You can pull up whatever stats, turnovers – we’re better there – we’re better on third down, we’re better stopping the run. After those three (games) we’re just a lot better on defense”.
Well, the defense will have to be a lot lot better to keep up with the Ducks.
How much the Ducks will score depends in part on the Buffs’ improved defense, in part on the pity of the Oregon coaching staff … and in part on the Colorado offense.
The Buffs will have plenty of opportunity to handle the ball – Oregon is 122nd in the nation in time of possession – but what the Buffs do with their 37 minutes of possession time will decide if the game will give Colorado any positive momentum for its upcoming games.
The problem for the Buffs is that the Oregon defense is almost as good as its offense.
Oregon is 23rd in the nation in total defense, and is fourth in the nation in scoring defense, giving up only 10.8 points per game.
So, doing the math, if the Buffs can manage a touchdown and a field goal Saturday, they will be right in line with the rest of Oregon’s vanquished foes.
Oh, and a note to the Buffs’ special teams … on the off chance the Buffs’ offense will be forced into numerous punting situations, keep an eye on Bralon Addison. He just happens to be leading the nation in punt returns, averaging an ungodly 36.5 yards per return on his six punt returns.
Colorado has 34 punt return yards … total.
I – Intangibles
Monday was a good day for the University of Colorado football program.
Two days after being thumped by Oregon State, and five days before facing perhaps the best offensive scheme in college football history, the Buffs were in need of some good news.
And they got it from an unlikely source … from the State of South Carolina.
On Monday, it was announced that Charleston Southern University had agreed to fill the void left by the postponed game against Fresno State. On October 19th, the Buccaneers will become the first team from the state of South Carolina to play a regular season game in Boulder (CU has played Clemson twice in bowl games, but has not played on the road against, nor hosted, a South Carolina team in the regular season).
Why is this good news?
Because the Buffs will be playing a 1-AA team – granted, a decent 1-AA team – and have received a waiver from the NCAA to count the potential victory towards the six wins necessary to qualify for a bowl game this fall.
The signing of an opponent, along with the waiver, place the 2013 season in a whole new light.
Without the game, and the waiver, the Buffs were looking at a bleak October. An almost certain loss to No. 2 Oregon, followed by an almost certain loss at No. 22 Arizona State next weekend, could have placed the season into a tailspin. A potentially winnable game against Arizona would have been overshadowed by the almost certain losses looming on the horizon … road games against UCLA and Washington.
Now, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
Survive against Oregon and Arizona State. Not win, mind you, but survive. Show the Buff Nation and the Pac-12 that, as Derrick Webb put it, this is not the same team as last year. Emerge with some dignity, some positives to build on, some recognition of the Buffs’ ability to play on the same field with the upper echelon of the Pac-12 … and stay injury free.
Next, instead of licking wounds and comparing losing streaks with other teams at the bottom of the league, the Buff should be able to feast upon Charleston-Southern. The Buccaneers are 5-0, but with victories against teams which don’t register in the minds of most football fans. The win over Appalachian State was a good one, but, to give you some perspective on the Charleston Southern program, the victory is being described as the “biggest road win in school history”.
Charleston Southern has never beaten a FBS team. In fact, in their past 11 attempts against the “big boys”, the Buccaneers have never been within 28 points of victory (a 49-21 loss to Kentucky in 2010)
October 19th should be a day for the Buffs to get healthy, both on the stats sheet and in the win column.
Suddenly, then, at the mid-point of the season, the Buffs will be 3-3.
Not a bad start to the Mike MacIntyre era.
Now, the Arizona game will not look so bad. After the UCLA/Washington road trip, there are potentially winnable games against Cal and USC at home, and against Utah on the road. The Buffs will have a chance at being competitive in every one of those last three games, with a bowl bid still in play.
At the very least, the Buffs will be looking to increase their win totals in November, not just end a long losing streak dating all the way back to September.
And, at this stage of the Buffs’ resurrection … that’s huge.
P – Preparation / Schedule
The schedule makers have actually been fairly kind to the Buffs this season, at least in terms of how the schedule affects the Buffs and their upcoming opponent.
The same holds true this week. While the Buffs return home to face a juggernaut in Oregon, the Ducks have little reason to get excited about playing the Buffs. Instead, the Oregon players will be forgiven for looking past Colorado to their next opponent, Washington.
After feasting on unranked teams which do not match up well against them, the Ducks will be heading to Seattle to play in the Huskies’ newly renovated stadium. Washington is ranked 15th in the nation this week, its highest ranking in over ten years. The Ducks have dominated the Huskies of late, and the Huskies would like nothing more than to bring down the Ducks on their new home turf.
Great theater. Perhaps a great game.
The biggest game to date for Mark Helfrich as Oregon’s new head coach.
Looking forward to Washington – and past Colorado – could well have played a role in the decision to sit De’Anthony Thomas this week. The Ducks’ star running back was injured in the opening kickoff against Cal, and did not return.
This is not to say that Thomas would have been able to play this week if the opponent had been the Huskies instead of the Buffs. But, as the services of Thomas will likely not be required in order to subdue Colorado, he sits and rests.
Fear of injury to other star players might also limit playing time for some other Duck starters. While the Oregon second string is also daunting, they are second string for a reason.
And every little bit helps the Buffs.
S – Statistics
Last season, Oregon raced out to a 28-0 first quarter lead against Colorado. I was in Eugene for the game, and it was awful.
Two seasons ago, Oregon raced out to a 29-0 first quarter lead against Colorado. I was in the stands in Folsom, and it was awful.
So, the question is: Can the Buffs manage to keep the game against the Ducks a game … for at least a quarter?
The stats suggest not.
The Buffs have surrendered only ten first quarter points in the first three games of the season. That total, however, might be matched in the Ducks’ first two possessions Saturday, as Oregon has out-scored its opponents in the first quarter, 82-14.
If the old four-corners stall from basketball were available, this would be the game to use it.
Some other ridiculous numbers concerning Oregon:
– Quarterback Marcus Mariota is 16-1 as a starter, and has throwm at least one touchdown pass in every game of his career (and four or more touchdowns four times). In 17 starts, he has been in the game in the fourth quarter only four times (none so far this season). Mariota has yet to throw an interception this season, and is three passes away from breaking the school record for consecutive passes without an interception (178). Just for fun … Mariota is averaging – averaging – 14.05 yards per carry;
– Oregon, in four games, has had six 100-yard rushers … Colorado’s leading rusher, Tony Jones, has 107 yards … in three games;
– Oregon has 33 touchdowns in four games. Colorado had 27 offensive touchdowns … in all of 2012;
– Twenty-six of Oregon’s 31 offensive touchdowns have taken less than two minutes of game time;
– Oregon has won 16 straight road games, the longest such streak in the nation (Northern Illinois is second with 11); and
– Not that they need it, but Oregon is first in the nation in turnover margin (+1.62).
But then there is this …
– Colorado is 9-1 all-time in games played on October 5th. The last time the Buffs played on October 5th was in 2002, when the Buffs upset No. 13 Kansas State, 35-31.
So the Buffs have that going for them … which is nice.
The reality check … There are any number of positives which can come out of the Buffs’ game against the Ducks on Saturday: The offense can show some consistency, and perhaps score in the first half for the first time in three games against the Ducks; the defense can show resilience and resolve, making the Oregon offense work for its points; the special teams can show improvement, period.
Oregon is out-scoring its opponents by an average of 59-10. Coincidentally, that was the final score of the Oregon/Virginia game in week two of the season.
So there is your goal for the weekend … besting that average.