Colorado v. Oregon – Preview

USC was a 41-point favorite over Colorado last weekend. The Trojans were right on the number, up 47-6, until a late field goal pushed them over the top in a 50-6 romp.

Oregon has been posted as a 45- to 47-point favorite over Colorado this weekend.

Anyone willing to bet the farm that the Buffs will cover?

Thought not.

It’s a strange world where one team has to post six touchdowns just to get within a score of covering the point spread. Then again, we live in a world where Oregon out-scored Colorado 29-0 in the first quarter in Folsom last year. In a world where Oregon out-scored the best defense in the Pac-12, that of Arizona State, 43-7 in the first 20 minutes of last week’s game. In a world in which Colorado is 119th in scoring defense, with only one team in Division 1-A giving up more points per game (any guesses? The Baylor Bears).

Is there any chance of a Colorado victory? Not really.

When asked at the Tuesday press luncheon what his “realistic expectations” were for the Oregon game, Colorado safety Ray Polk hesitated. The question inferred that victory was not an option, and that the real issue was whether the Buffs could even make a respectable showing. Polk, though, didn’t bite. He stuck to the party line. “I think we have a chance to win, I really do,” said Polk. “It’s not rocket science. it’s just football. If we can come together as a team, and do what the coaches are asking of us, we can do some great things with this season.”

Good for Polk. Here’s hoping that the Buff captain, who has played less than a game-and-a-half this season due to a high ankle sprain suffered in the opener, can enjoy the final five games of his collegiate career, and can pick up a win or two along the way.

It just won’t come against Oregon

Here are this week’s “T.I.P.S.” …

T – Talent

Really? We have to do this?

Okay, let’s start with the quarterback, Marcus Mariota. The red-shirt freshman (yes, freshman!) has made the premature loss of 2011 quarterback Darron Thomas to the NFL a non-issue. Mariota running an offense which is averaging over 525 yards per game, with the operative word being “running”. While Mariota has only passed for 1,347 yards (much maligned CU quarterback Jordan Webb has passed for 1,351 yards), the Ducks’ quarterback has also rushed for 356 yards and two touchdowns.

In fact, the high-flying Ducks do most of their damage on the ground. Kenjon Barner is 10th in the nation in rushing, averaging almost 125 yards per game (CU as a team is averaging 110), and has scored 13 touchdowns (the Buffs’ leading scorer is kicker Will Oliver, who has 29 points, followed by Nick Kasa and Christian Powell, with 18 points apiece). After Barner in the Oregon onslaught comes De’Anthony Thomas, who is averaging, between rushing, receiving, and kickoff and punt returns, over 120 yards of offense per game.

With a rushing offense generating 317 yards per outing, passing the ball is not a priority for Oregon, but the Ducks are still averaging 212 yards per game (Colorado, meanwhile, which has to make up yardage through the air, is averaging 221 yards per game passing).

As ridiculous as Oregon’s offense has been, the unit which makes the Ducks a national title contender in 2012 is the defense. This week Oregon defensive end Dion Jordan was named a semi-finalist in the Butkus award voting. Jordan has five sacks on the season, and seven tackles for loss. As a unit, the defense has forced 21 turnovers, fourth highest total in the nation.

And, as if the Ducks needed any more help in stifling the 102nd ranked offense in the country, the suspension of senior defensive lineman Isaac Remington has been lifted. Remington had been suspended after being arrested for DUI on October 12th. Those charges, though, have been dropped after Eugene prosecutors declined to prosecute the case. (Feel free to throw something across the room after reading this – but make sure it’s something soft. Knowing that such a move by a prosecutor hardly ever happens when a CU player is involved doesn’t make this news worth breaking something. Remember, this is a place where driving 113 mph at four in the morning, on a suspended driver’s license, in a car rented out by someone else, with marijuana not being found because “we smoked it all” … gets you a two-game suspension).

I – Intangibles

The only possible upside for Colorado this weekend has to do with the complete disregard, by anyone with a pulse, of the Buffs having a chance to defeat the Ducks.

Even Ted Miller, the ESPN blogger who has been generally more than fair to the Buffs in this year of despair, couldn’t help but weigh in. He put out a poll asking which of the four ranked Pac-12 teams should be on “Upset Alert” this weekend. As to Colorado at Oregon, Miller wrote: “Speaking of that game next week (between USC and Oregon), is Oregon looking too far ahead? And after all Colorado could … I mean it might … ah, heck, we just threw this one up to see if Ducks fans would vote without actually reading the poll (your Pac-12 bloggers can be stealthy like that).”

(At least CU got some sympathy votes. As of this writing, Colorado is given as much chance of defeating Oregon as Washington State is of defeating Stanford. The majority of those casting ballots see USC traveling to Arizona as having the best chance of a game resulting in an upset).

Other than a puncher’s chance – which would only apply if the game was played under a “first team to score wins” rule – it is highly unlikely that Colorado can stay with any high-powered offense for a full sixty minutes.

The best hope? That Oregon head coach Chip Kelly does what he did against Arizona State last weekend. The Ducks blitzed the Sun Devils for 43 points in 20 minutes, but then did not score again the rest of the night. While CU fans cannot hope that the Ducks’ 40-minute scoring drought will last long into Saturday afternoon, it is not unreasonable to hope that the score will not be so lopsided as to be worthy of national news. Fortunately for the Buffs, the computers which are keeping the Ducks from rising higher in the BCS standings do not factor in margin of victory, so Chip Kelly has no extra incentive to run up the score.

Which brings us to ….

P – Preparation/Schedule

Whereas Buff fans knew in August that the three game gauntlet of @USC, @Oregon, and Stanford was not likely to be pretty, the Buff fans also recognized that the Pac-12 Game-of-the-Year, Oregon at USC, would be played the following week after the Buffs visited Eugene.

Will the Ducks look past the Buffs to the point where they are not prepared for the game against CU?

No. Chip Kelly has made a point of playing each game on the schedule equally. The teams are nameless, the opponents’ players faceless. It is the job of the Oregon players to take care of their own business, and not worry about the opponent across from them. It’s a sound strategy, especially when every week you have more talent than the team across the line of scrimmage.

Still, the Oregon players are still 19-22 year olds, and they understand that their road to the BCS championship game in 2012 goes through Los Angeles and the Coliseum. They also know full well that the only thing which stood between them and a possible berth in the national championship game last year was a 38-35 home loss to USC.

Many preseason magazines noted that it would have been an upset for Oregon to be anything but 8-0 to start the season, with the Ducks’ real season coming in November. Oregon plays three of its final four games on the road (at USC, at Cal, at Oregon State), with the only home game a tough contest against Stanford.

There is little doubt that Oregon will conclude October 8-0. But, with four much tougher games on the very near horizon, the Duck coaches may be game-planning for a first quarter romp, then keeping the starters out of the rest of the game, hoping to avoid injuries to any vital players in a “meaningless” run up against Colorado.

Buff fans can only hope that will be the case …

S – Statistics

This is really grotesque.

I won’t dwell on it for long. You know that Colorado is 100th or worse in the nation in almost every important offensive and defensive statistic – rushing offense, total offense, scoring offense, passing defense, total defense, and scoring defense.

Some of the Oregon statistics, though, were a little surprising.

Of course, it is not a surprise that the Ducks are in the top ten nationally in rushing offense, total offense, and scoring offense, though, as noted above, it was a little strange to see that Oregon is fairly mediocre in passing offense (82nd nationally).

On defense, the Oregon numbers are very good, but not as dominating as you would might expect (which I’m sure SEC doubters love to point out). The Ducks are in the 40’s nationally in rushing defense and total defense, and 65th in passing defense. However, it must be understood that many of these yards have come after games were well in hand (but hey, Colorado fans will take any offensive production we can get!).

A few more statistics …. one ugly, one which actually favors the Buffs, and two which you’ll want to tuck away in your memory banks.

First, the ugly. As you know, Colorado made five trips into the red zone against USC, and came away with all of six points (two field goals, two turnovers, and a turnover on downs). Oregon’s red zone defense? Yup. No. 1 in the nation.

Second, a stat which favors the Buffs. Oregon is actually lousy – 119th in the nation in fact – in one statistic … kickoff returns (guess the Ducks don’t get enough practice at it). Before the Buffs can exploit this weakness though, there are a few snags: a) Colorado has to score in order to force more than one kickoff against Oregon; and 2) Colorado is … wait for it … 120th in the nation (dead last) in kickoff return yardage defense.

Finally, two stats to remember. The Colorado/Oregon series is tied at eight games apiece. In the series, the teams have played three games in bowls, with Colorado winning two of those. Ergo, unless someday the Buffs and Ducks meet in a playoff game, the Buffs will always hold an edge in bowl games between the two teams.

Also, one of the Buffs victories over Oregon came in a game played in 1967, an Oregon home game. As it turns out, the 17-14 Buff victory was the first game ever played in the brand new Autzen Stadium. So, Colorado has the distinction of being the first team to record a victory at Autzen … which is nice.

As for the game itself, I’ll be on hand, but I’m not real excited about it. This game has a Vince Young Texas massacre feel to it. Anything better on either side of the scoreboard than that 2005 game will feel like, if not a victory, at least a relief …

Oregon 70, Colorado 3.

Reminder: You can receive “live from the stadium” facts, observations, and complaints this Saturday from Autzen. Click here to follow CU at the Game on Twitter.

6 Replies to “Colorado/Oregon Preview”

  1. We should replace Brown with a real and experienced defensive coordinator. Brown is really not getting the week after week improvement. Bienemy will remain as offensive coordinator for , at least, through next season.

  2. I agree with Clark. I am always uplifted by the stories you post, even when I find it difficult to stay positive. Have a great time in Oregon. I will be in Denver this weekend on business so at least I will get to see the game. (For some reason none of the cable providers here have the Pac 12 network (lol!!!)

  3. Stuart,

    Thank you for all the work you do on this site. There are many many Buffs fans like myself who enjoy reading your previews and updates…hopefully brighter days are ahead for us.

    Quick question: What are the odds Greg Brown is let go after the season? It seems the defense isn’t making any improvements and the players look lost on the field. The excuse “the defense is young” is not acceptable every game.

    Have fun in Eugene this weekend and cheer on the Buffs (as tough as it may be). Fortunately, I will be out of the country this weekend and won’t be able to watch the game…but I’ll be following the game via the Internet.

    Go Buffs!

    1. Hey Clark,

      Thanks for the kind words. Some days it’s hard to get back on the computer to write about the Buffs, so it’s nice to know that there are fellow die hard Buff fans out there!

      As far as Greg Brown (and Eric Bieniemy, for that matter) I think the month of November will be telling. The next five games (at least in terms of current win totals) get progressively easier to close out the season. If the Buffs pick up a win or two, I would guess everyone stays. If the Buffs start showing signs of improvement (no blowout losses after Oregon), then it’s a 50/50 proposition. If CU continues to lose by 20-30 points, and lose by wide margins to teams of comparable talent (Washington, Arizona, Utah), then I see Embree being compelled to make some changes.

      It’s hard when you hire your friends, but CU can’t go into the off-season with a 1-11 record and no indication that anything is going to be different on the sidelines in 2013.

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