“T.I.P.S.” for Colorado v. UCLA

After a week of national scorn and ridicule, the Colorado Buffs rose from the ashes of the Fresno State flameout to upset Washington State in Pullman. Colorado put together an offensive attack which netted 531 yards, almost 250 yards more than the Buffs had averaged over the first three games of the season.

An inspirational video, featuring a number of former players and coaches, was shown to the team on Friday night. The Buff players then fed off of that inspiration, and earned the right to sing the CU fight song in the locker room for the first time in 2012.

Can the Buffs play with equal inspiration back home in Folsom Field? Can the Colorado defense keep up with one of the most explosive offenses in the nation, while finding a way to produce points against an equally successful defense?

Buff fans, along with a national audience on the Pac-12 Networks, will have to wait until 4:00 p.m (MT) on Saturday to find out.

Here are this week’s “T.I.P.S.” for Colorado/UCLA

T – Talent

Holy stats sheet, Batman!

We knew that the Buffs would be facing some nationally-rated skill position players in October, when the Buffs take the field against USC and Oregon.


Against a team which went 6-8 in 2011? Against a team which lost its regular season finale 50-0 to USC? Against a team which lost its bowl game to an Illinois team which had lost six games in a row coming into the post-season?

Yup. Those same Bruins are looking like world-beaters now (or at least they did until they stumbled at home against Oregon State last weekend, falling 27-20).

Let’s start with quarterback Brett Hundley. The red-shirt freshmen beat out two seniors, both of whom had extensive starting experience, for the starting position. Hundley has made first year head coach Jim Mora, Jr., look like a genius, as Hundley is 10th in the nation in total offense, with 337.5 yards per game, and is 16th in the nation completions per game, with 24. Hundley is the first Bruin in school history to throw for 300 yards in three straight games, and has already tied the total of 300-yard games in a season thrown by one Troy Aikman (1988).

So, that means that UCLA is a passing offense, like Washington State. One dimensional. Right?

Uh … no.

UCLA has one Johnathan Franklin carrying the ball. Through the first three weeks of the season, Franklin was leading the nation in rushing. Franklin was held to 45 yards on 12 carries by Oregon State last weekend, but still is fourth in the nation with 146.50 yards per game average. Franklin has already rushed for over 200 yards twice, and is seventh in the nation in all-purpose yardage. Against the Blackshirts of Nebraska, Franklin went for 217 yards on 26 carries, a nifty 8.3 yards per carry average.

Ready to reach for the Pepto-Bismal yet?

Okay, how’s about the best receiver on the Bruins having a name scattered throughout the CU record books? Senior Joseph Fauria is on the Mackey and Lombardi Awards lists, and has three touchdowns in four games, including two against Nebraska. Fauria is nephew of former CU great Christian Fauria. Junior Shaquelle Evans had six catches for 148 yards last weekend against Oregon State, while red-shirt freshman Devin Lucien (a name familiar to Buff fanatics as a recruit that got away) is averaging over 20 yards per reception.

Suffice it to say that UCLA, which is averaging over 35 points per game, is going to be hard to contain.

So, can the Buffs score on the UCLA defense, and keep the game interesting?


UCLA has utilized a “bend but don’t break” defense through the first third of the 2012 season. The Bruins are ranked in the 80’s nationally in rushing defense, pass defense, and total defense, but 45th in scoring defense, giving up only 22 points per game. UCLA has played three teams ranked in the top 32 in total offense in its first four games, beating each one (yet lost to Oregon State, which is not ranked as high in total offense … go figure).

One way the Bruins have kept the opposition from scoring is turnovers, as UCLA leads the Pac-12 with 12 turnovers forced. The UCLA defense has also helped the team by scoring in each of the team’s first three games (two fumbles returned for a touchdown and a safety).

Junior linebacker Anthony Barr, playing his first season on defense (a converted running back) is tied for tenth in the nation in sacks with five, while senior cornerback Sheldon Price leads the nation in interceptions, with four.

And it’s not as if Jim Mora, Jr., is taking Rick Neuheisel’s team and making it all work for him. Colorado brags about how many true freshmen have already seen action – 13 – and also uses it to explain away some of the Buffs’ mistakes on the field. UCLA, though, in climbing to No. 16 in the polls (before losing to Oregon State), has already played … 11 true freshmen.

I – Intangibles

Does Colorado have an edge here?

The Buffs are 1-2 against first-year head coaches so far in 2012, so having Jim Mora, Jr., across the field on the opposite sideline is not an immediate advantage.

So, how’s about this … for the first time in some time, the Buff players might come into the game with a little bit of a swagger.

Last week, Colorado had its largest come-from-behind fourth quarter road victory in its history. A week after Buff fans had been reminded of grim statistics from the past, it was heartening to be able to print that this band of Buffs, on the road and a week removed from a 69-14 blowout loss, overcame a 17-point fourth quarter deficit on the road – a feat never before accomplished in 123 years of Colorado football.

While past success at recovering from a deficit is no guarantee of future results, it may give the Buff players a little extra confidence when the opposition takes a lead … been there, done that, got to sing the fight song.

There might be an extra advantage coming this Thursday. The first annual Parade of Buffs will take place, and the team will be there. Kordell Stewart and Michael Westbrook, who teamed up for the Miracle In Michigan, will be on hand, as will be Bill McCartney and Matt Russell (as well as his wife, Sonja Russell, who played volleyball for the Buffs). Other commitments include men’s basketball coach Tad Boyle, Olympian Emma Coburn and a ton of former greats including Cliff Meely, Cliff Branch, Bridget Turner, Alfred Williams and many more.

An inspirational video from former Buffs, talking about what it meant to be a Buff, and what it meant to sing the CU fight song, helped the Buffs take down Washington State on the road.

(Here is Charles Johnson’s contribution to the video, which will be shown to the public Thursday night:

Can the Buffs draw similar inspiration from the activities and speeches on Thursday night?

One last straw to grasp at … UCLA is on the quarter system. While Buff players have been in class since the week before the season opener, UCLA players have had the luxury of being able to devote all of their time and energy on football. Classes in Westwood, though, started this week. Previously, the Bruins practiced in late afternoon. This week, they have been practicing at 7 a.m. Perhaps the change in routine, coupled with the distractions of the first week of class, will have an effect on Bruin performance on Saturday …

P – Preparation/Schedule

Colorado should have the advantage here.

UCLA played at home last weekend, and lost. Colorado was on the road for its Pac-12 opener, but won.

Next weekend, the Bruins will be on the road again, heading up to Berkeley to take on Cal.

Meanwhile, next weekend Colorado will be at home again, taking on … bye week.

The Buffs’ next game will not be until October 11th, when Colorado faces Arizona State before a national television audience on ESPN. While what will likely be a “black out” game has much to offer in terms of the players’ attentions, that game will be 12 days after the UCLA contest. There should be nothing to distract the Buffs from the task at hand this Saturday. The Bruins, meanwhile, 0-1 in Pac-12 play, are looking at a schedule in which they will play three of the next four games on the road … after playing their last three games at home.

Then there is, of course, the fact that UCLA hasn’t won a game in Boulder since 1984. (Okay, the Bruins have only been to Folsom Field once since, in 2003. In that game, a 16-14 Colorado victory, Jon Embree and Eric Bieniemy were on the opposition sidelines as assistant coaches for UCLA).

S – Statistics

The bask of the glow from the Washington State victory is still warm … do we have to do this?

How can you spin these numbers? … Colorado is averaging 350 yards of total offense per game, while giving up 470. The Buffs are scoring 23.3 points per game, but surrendering 38.8. Only 18 teams in the 120-team FBS are giving up more yards per game; only six giving up more points.

Still, we’ve got to grade on improvement, and the Buffs did put together a more complete game last weekend. The Colorado offense, despite playing with a make-shift offensive line, was in sync for much of the game, putting up 531 yards of total offense. The defense, while giving up 34 points, cut down on the “explosion” plays, giving up only one long touchdown pass during the afternoon.

So, what areas favor the Buffs on the stats sheet?

UCLA, as noted, does give up its fair share of yards. The Bruins are 82nd in rushing defense, 89th in passing defense, and 85th in total defense … but are giving up only 21.8 points per game. The Colorado offense will have opportunities, but will need to exploit them.

When UCLA has the ball, the Colorado defense will have to absorb some blows, but try not to surrender the big play. The Bruins are in the top 15 nationally in the major offensive statistical categories, but there are weaknesses. UCLA has surrendered ten sacks so far this season, and is 115th in the nation in third down conversions. Translation: put red-shirt freshman quarterback Brett Hundley in pressure situations, and the Buffs’ chances for success improve. Hundley has one road game under his belt, but that was in front of 23,105 mostly passive Rice Owl fans in Houston. If the Folsom Field crowd can get loud, the Buff Nation can have an impact on the outcome of the game.

Colorado is a three-touchdown underdog this weekend … again.

The Bruins played very well in upsetting No. 17 Nebraska three weeks ago, taking down the Cornhuskers, 36-30 in the Rose Bowl. Otherwise, victories over Rice and Houston (a combined 1-6 on the season) and a loss to Oregon State would place UCLA in a good, but not great, category.

Colorado will play with more resolve and more confidence this week, but will it be enough to carry the day? Probably not.

The good news is: A week ago, resolve and confidence were not words associated with the Colorado football program.

UCLA 35, Colorado 24.

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