Colorado at No. 17 UCLA – A Preview – “T.I.P.S.”

Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre is frustrated.

“Very disconcerting”, said MacIntyre when asked about CU’s inability to not only to defeat a Pac-12 team, but to even stay in the game for four quarters. “We keep improving, we just got to do it. It’s very disconcerting, we just got to keep fighting and moving forward. It’s disheartening for the kids; they’re battling right there and just a few plays here and there”.

Last weekend, the Buffs were in a position to turn a corner.

At 3-3, CU was taking on, at home, an Arizona team which seemed like a viable candidate for an upset. The Wildcats were good, but one-dimensional. Contain Ka’Deem Carey, it seemed, and the Buffs would have a chance.

Well, as we all know, the Buffs did contain Ka’Deem Carey, holding him some 50 yards under his season average. Problem was, they didn’t contain quarterback B.J. Denker, who became the third opposing quarterback in four Pac-12 games to earn Offensive Player-of-the-Week honors after facing the Colorado defense.

Now, after failing to take down Arizona, the possibility of a bowl bid seems very remote for the 3-4 Buffs.

The Buffs must now go on the road – where they have not played well in recent years – to take on UCLA and Washington, two teams which have spent much of the season in the national rankings.

No. 17 UCLA is a 27-point favorite over Colorado … ’nuff said.

The line has actually moved up from 24 points, indicating that the smart money is favoring a Bruin blowout this Saturday (5:30 p.m., MT, FoxSports).

No wonder Mike MacIntyre is frustrated.

Here are this week’s “T.I.P.S.” for the Buffs’ trip to the Rose Bowl …

T – Talent

Glass half full … UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley, considered a dark horse Heisman trophy candidate earlier this fall, had his worst game of the season last weekend. Hundley went 13-of-19 for only 64 yards, with one touchdown and two interceptions in the Bruins’ 42-14 loss to No. 2 Oregon.

Glass half empty … UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley is still very good … and is likely relishing the opportunity to face the Colorado defense. In their last four Pac-12 games, the Buffs have made award winners out of Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion, Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, and Arizona quarterback B.J. Denker. There is little reason to believe that UCLA head coach Jim Mora won’t want the CU game to be a confidence builder for his sophomore quarterback.

Though he has played in only 21 games as a Bruin, Hundley is already fifth in career passing yards at UCLA. He is also fourth in career touchdown passes and fifth in career total offense … midway through his second season at Westwood.

Last season against Colorado, a 42-14 win in Boulder, Hundley passed for 281 yards, threw for two touchdowns and ran for two more.

Buff fans can probably anticipate similar numbers this weekend.

Despite starting three freshmen along the offensive line against Oregon, the Bruins held their own against the Ducks for a half, with the scored tied 14-14 at the break. On the season, the UCLA offense is very balanced, averaging 267.7 yards per game through the air; 201.4 yards per game on the ground.

The rushing attack is led by red-shirt freshman Paul Perkins. Stepping in after junior Jordan James went down with an injury three weeks ago, Perkins had 93 yards on a career-high 22 carries against Oregon last weekend. Senior Malcolm Jones will also get his share of carries against the Buffs. Jones had 58 yards on 12 carries against the Ducks …

… And don’t forget Hundley when it comes to running the ball (yes, another mobile quarterback). Hundley has 359 yards rushing this season (with a 4.1 yards per carry average) and four rushing touchdowns.

Hundley is very democratic when it comes to passing the ball, as no fewer than nine different UCLA receivers have at least 100 yards receiving this year (Colorado has four … with over 50). One favorite is senior Shaquille Evans has caught at least one pass in each of the last 22 games, and was named to the Biletnikoff Award watch list. This season, Evans has 27 catches for 340 yards and five touchdowns.

On defense, it is likely that senior UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr is looking forward to meeting freshman CU quarterback Sefo Liufau in the Buff backfield Saturday. Barr is a Butkus Award favorite after being named second-team All-American last fall. Barr has at least a 0.5 tackle for loss in every game he has played, and had two sacks last weekend against Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota. Barr is currently is 8th in the nation in sacks/game, and 12th in the nation in tackles for loss.

If the Buffs can find a way to contain Barr, you’ll likely hear from Eric Kendricks. The junior linebacker is also a national award watch list candidate. Last season, Kendricks had 150 tackles, the most by a Bruin since 1978.

Overall, UCLA is surrendering only 385.4 yards per game on defense (Colorado is giving up 475.4 yards per game). Only Utah (34) and Oregon (42) have managed to score more than 27 points against the Bruin defenders. Meanwhile, the Bruins have put up at least 34 points on every team not named Stanford or Oregon.

This Saturday is shaping up to be yet another game where the numbers – and talent level – are just not in Colorado’s favor.

Even more disheartening … this might just be the beginning of a golden era under Jim Mora at UCLA. In the first seven games of the 2013 season, the Bruins have seen 18 true freshmen take the field … already a school record.

I – Intangibles

If Colorado had beaten Arizona last weekend, I would have said that this section actually favored the Buffs this Saturday night.

The Bruins are coming off back-to-back defeats at the hands of Stanford and Oregon. Certainly no shame in that. Those are a pair of losses most of the Pac-12 will post this season. The Stanford score was 24-10. Oregon beat UCLA 42-14, but the score was 14-14 at halftime. Both games were on the road.

Even with the losses, the Bruins have remained ranked, and deservedly so.

Up next for UCLA? Lowly Colorado.

What is the psyche of the Bruins, coming off of two emotional losses?

How do they look at a game against the Buffs, the team at the bottom of the Pac-12, after taking on two top ten teams? It would be understandably hard to get the players up for a game like this one. But, with the two losses, UCLA still has the goal of a Pac-12 championship game berth, and a shot at a Pac-12 title. Though currently a game behind Arizona State in the Pac-12 South standings, the Bruins still control their own destiny for a rematch against either Stanford or Oregon.

Conversely, what is the psyche of the Buffs?

Had the Buffs beaten the Wildcats, they could have gone into the Rose Bowl playing with house money. A 4-3 record. Two winnable games at home yet to be played. A bowl bid still in the offing.

Now … no one is talking about going bowling.

The Buffs are down to using the same language all teams with no hope of a championship use this time of year. “I mean yeah, nobody likes to lose,” said junior safety Jered Bell. “We are not playing this game to go out there and lose.  We are still giving it our all, but unfortunately it’s just the way it going right now.  We are not going to stop.  We will keep fighting and eventually it will go our way.”

No question the Buffs are still fighting. No question the effort is still there. No question that there is improvement from last year, both on and off the field of play.

And … No question that it will take something this side of a miracle for the Buffs to be competitive against the Bruins.

P – Preparation / Schedule

Colorado is taking to the road after two straight home games.

UCLA is home after two straight road games.

In their previous three home games this fall, UCLA has won by an average score of 51-14.

In their previous two true road games this fall, Colorado has lost by an average score of 49-15.

Note any similarities there?

Looking ahead to next weekend’s games, the Buffs do get a little bit of a break. UCLA will be back on the road again next Saturday, taking on Arizona in Tucson in a game to be televised by ESPN. Colorado, meanwhile, will continue on the road, heading to Seattle to face a Washington team and another difficult test.

Will the UCLA players be caught looking ahead to their  game against the Wildcats? Did the Bruins spend more time looking at last Saturday’s game film watching the Wildcats instead of the Buffs? Who could blame them for looking forward to a nationally televised game which will have significant implications in the Pac-12 South race?

Thing is … even if the Bruins have a lackluster first half against the Buffs, there is little chance that the momentum will be sustained. Recall that UCLA was down to Nebraska in the first half of their game, and the Bruins came out and smoked Nebraska – in Lincoln – for 28 third quarter points earlier this fall.

S – Statistics

Time to dwell on how many statistical categories have Colorado 100th or worse?


Time to dwell on the statistics which point to a UCLA blowout (like the Bruins’ ridiculous 52% conversion rate on third downs)?


Let’s accentuate the positive.

Paul Richardson watch …

The Buffs’ junior wide receiver is on pace to break a number of single-season receiving records, including:

– Receptions in a season … 50 (currently 12th all-time) … Record – 78 (D.J. Hackett, 2003);

– Reception yards in a season … 914 (currently 7th all-time) … Record – 1,149 (Charles E. Johnson, 1992)

– Receiving touchdowns in a season … 7 (currently tied for 8th all-time) … Record – 11 (Derek McCoy, 2003)

– One-hundred yard games in a season … 5 (record is six)

On the career lists, Richardson is currently 8th in receptions (123), eighth in receiving yards (1,983), fifth in touchdown receptions (18), and 43rd in all-purpose yards (2,025).

Addison Gillam watch …

The Buffs’ freshman linebacker is making a strong case for not only the All-Freshmen Pac-12 team, but Freshman All-American, as well as the All-Pac-12 team itself.

Gillam leads the team in tackles, with 74, already the third-most by a freshman at Colorado. The record for most tackles by a freshman is already within reach (85 by a red-shirt freshman – Matt Russell, 1993; 82 by a true freshman – Jordon Dizon, 2004).

Gilliam leads the number two Buff on the tackles list (Parker Orms, 50), by a wide margin. Barring injury, Gillam will become the first freshman – ever – to lead the Buffs in tackles for a season.

Christian Powell watch …

Through seven games this season – and 17 for his career – sophomore running back Christian Powell is poised to make a little history of his own. Powell has 970 career rushing yards. With 30 yards rushing against UCLA, Powell will become the 50th Buff in school history to rush for at least 1,000 yards in his career. In the Pac-12, only USC (with 62) has had more running backs get to 1,000 yards in a career.

Chidera Uzo-Diribe watch …

Defensive end Chidera Uzo-Diribe has forced five fumbles in the Buffs’ first seven games. That is good enough for third on the single season list (Jashon Sykes had seven in 1999; Barry Remington had six in 1985).

Diribe is also third on the all-time list, with ten forced fumbles in his career. His next forced fumble will tie him for first with Brian Cabral and Barry Remington, who each had 11 forced fumbles in their careers.

So, even if the scoreboard is not favoring the Buffs as they take on the Bruins, there will still be plenty to cheer for this Saturday.

Go Buffs!

One Reply to “CU at No. 17 UCLA – Preview”

  1. Stuart, thanks for taking a positive approach to writing an article. I agree, why always focus on the negative as most do from the DC and DP. This article was refreshing.

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