Colorado at No. 2 Oregon – A Preview – “T.I.P.S.” for the upcoming contest in the rain at Autzen

This weekend, the high and low temperatures in Eugene, Oregon, are likely to vary about five degrees … no high temperature above 48 degrees; no low temperature below 43 degrees. Whether it’s 3:00 p.m. or 3:00 a.m., the weather in Oregon this time of year can be counted on to be about the same.

Oh, and there will be rain.

Of course, that is to say that there will be rain everywhere except in Autzen Stadium, where Colorado will take on No. 2 Oregon (2:30 p.m., MT, Pac-12 Networks).

It is tradition, at Oregon home games, for PA announcer Don Essig, right before kickoff, to proclaim, “It’s time for kickoff! It’s 47 degrees and the sun is shining, because … ” with the crowd finishing the sentence in unison: “It never rains in Autzen Stadium!”.

It will be Duck weather this Saturday, and, if history is any guide, there will be another Duck rout. In the three times the Colorado and Oregon have met in Pac-12 play, the results have been 45-2, 70-14, and 57-16.

Which quarterback will start for Colorado, and how long Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota will stay in the game, are two questions which fans will have to wait until Saturday to have answered.

The ultimate outcome of the game, however, is not really at issue.

… Here are this week’s “T.I.P.S.” for the Colorado/Oregon game …

T – Talent

Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota has a passer efficiency rating of 184.6. You don’t have to understand how the rating is calculated (and I sure don’t) to know that that number is ridiculous (Sefo Liufau, by comparison, is ranked 58th nationally, with a passer efficiency rating of 131.2). Mariota has passed for 2,780 yards this fall, with 29 touchdown passes offset by … wait for it … two interceptions. Mariota’s career passer efficiency rating of 170.9 is second on the all-time list in NCAA history (to the 175.6 rating posted by Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford, 2007-09).

… and … Mariota’s passing game is not what most worries opposing coaches.

It’s his speed.

“On the second drive (of Oregon’s game against Utah), it’s 3rd-&-8 and everybody’s covered, so he (speeds up field), makes three guys miss”, marveled CU head coach Mike MacIntyre at this week’s press conference. “I mean, he’s flying. They couldn’t even touch him. Then, he did it on another third down. So, somehow you have to keep him corralled in the pocket because if he can find the are before the ball is snapped , he kind of already knows where his escape lanes are … I think in today’s college football, I think he kind of fits it to a ‘T’. He’s able to keep plays created and he’s able to make a lot of throws”.

We could spend a great deal of time talking about the weapons at Mariota’s disposal, but Buff fans really don’t need to know the gory details. Yes, the Ducks have been slowed at times this season due to injuries along the offensive line, and Oregon did lose its star tight end, Pharoah Brown, for the season in the Utah game, but the Ducks have plenty of options.

What’s more, other than Mariota, who will likely declare for the NFL draft after the season, there is a youth movement afoot in Eugene. Freshmen have scored 190 of Oregon’s 460 points (42.6%) this season, with true freshman running back Royce Freeman leading the team with 14 touchdowns.

To make matters worse, the Colorado defensive secondary is decimated. Chidobe Awuzie, the Buffs’ second leading tackler, is out (kidney laceration). Tedric Thompson, who was the team’s leading tackler before he was injured in the UCLA game (concussion), is listed as questionable. This, of course, is on top of the season-ending injuries already suffered by defensive backs Jered Bell and Marques Mosley.

How dire is the situation? The depth chart lists Terrel Smith, who has played special teams most of the season at one safety position, with true freshman Evan White (himself questionable with a concussion) at the other safety position. If White can’t go, red-shirt freshman Ryan Moeller will be pressed into duty. The only other option is former walk-on Richard Yates.  “We’re so beat up in the secondary,” said MacIntyre at Tuesday’s press conference. “I’ve been coaching 25 years and I’ve never seen anything like this attack one position”.

Things hadn’t improved by Wednesday.

“Right now, we’re not planning on not having anybody else back yet,” MacIntyre said of the safety situation after Wednesday’s practice. “I wouldn’t see those guys being able to start because they haven’t practiced for 10-12 days. It’ll be an emergency thing or help us on special teams.”

All this, going up one of the most prolific passers in the history of the college game …

In the “give us a ray of hope” category, the Oregon defense has not been as effective as in prior years.

The Ducks are 120th in the nation in pass defense (CU is 90th), giving up 294.0 yards passing per game. Oregon is actually worse than Colorado in total defense (107th to CU’s 104th) … but … Colorado may be coming out with a quarterback, Jordan Gehrke, making his first career start.

Deep breaths, everyone … it’s going to be a long afternoon.

I – Intangibles

As much as Buff fans enjoyed watching Wisconsin quarterback Melvin Gordon run over, through, and around the Nebraska defense last weekend, his effort’s may have done Colorado a disservice. Gordon went for 408 yards, a new single game record, and already has 1,909 yards on the season. An outsider in the Heisman trophy race prior to last weekend, Gordon is now seen as the primary challenger to Marcus Mariota for the coveted award.

So where does that leave Oregon and Mariota this weekend? Last year against Colorado, Mariota threw for 355 yards and five touchdowns, rushing for two more scores.

Will Mariota (and/or the Oregon coaches) want to post ridiculous stats to usurp the Heisman conversation? Will Mariota want to have another seven touchdown game to impress Heisman voters?

Or will the Ducks want to pull Mariota once the game is out of hand, so as not to run the risk of injury, or of facing charges that Mariota’s stats are being padded?

Twenty years ago, Colorado running back Rashaan Salaam did not play in the fourth quarter of half of the Buffs’ games.  “Because if he wins the Heisman, he’s going to win it on his own merit,” said CU head coach Bill McCartney when asked about pulling Salaam from games. “We don’t need to pad what he’s doing.  Everything he had done he has earned in the heat of the game.”

Then there is also the injury factor for the rest of the team to consider. Oregon has been racked with injuries this fall, especially along the offensive line. If the goal is a national title, how long will the starters be expected to play? Oregon is already slotted as a playoff team, and does not need style points to stay in that position.

Then there is the Ducks’ remaining schedule.

The next two months are set up as about as nicely as any Duck fan could have hoped, with each week just a bit harder than the week before:

– After a bye week, Oregon gets the 12th-ranked team in the Pac-12 conference, at home;

– Next weekend, competition heats up just a touch, against Oregon State in the Civil War;

– The following weekend, the Ducks will play in the Pac-12 title game, against a foe yet to be determined (with Oregon already clinching the North, and five teams still trying to qualify from the South, how many more Duck fans will be in Santa Clara than fans from the Pac-12 South representative? The Pac-12 title game will likely be a de facto home game for the Ducks);

– Win that game, and it’s on to the national semi-finals.

A perfect ladder of difficulty, a step-by-step path to a national championship.

Oregon does not need a lopsided win over Colorado to get into the national playoffs. The Ducks are the No. 2 team, and there is zero chance they would be downgraded below fourth if they keep winning.

The Ducks just need to get the victory over the Buffs and advance to the next level, hopefully without losing any key players to injury.

That reality alone might help keep the final score more respectable than in year’s past.

P – Preparation / Schedule

It doesn’t count for much in the “we play to go 1-0 every weekend”, the Oregon likely blowout win over Colorado may not get much play in the national media (which is good news to those of us sensitive to such discussions).

Because, as it turns out, it’s a weekend of clunker games.

With the rivalry games coming up over the Thanksgiving weekend, many teams scheduled lightly for the weekend before … and that would be this Saturday.

As a result, there are only three games this weekend between ranked teams. Two of them are in the Pac-12, with No. 9 UCLA hosting No. 19 USC, and No. 17 Utah hosting No. 15 Arizona (No. 25 Minnesota playing at No. 23 Nebraska is the other).

Other games will likely produce some routs:

– No. 1 Alabama (no line) against 1-AA Western Carolina;

– No. 3 Florida State a 19-point favorite at home against Boston College;

– No. 4 Mississippi State a 29-point favorite at home against Vanderbilt;

– No. 6 Ohio State a 34.5-point favorite at home against Indiana;

– No. 10 Georgia (no line) against 1-AA Charleston Southern;

– No. 11 Michigan State a 22.5-point favorite at home against Rutgers;

– No. 14 Auburn (no line) against 1-AA Samford;

– No. 21 Oklahoma a 25-point favorite at home against Kansas; and

– No. 22 Clemson a 40.5-point favorite at home over Georgia State.

Colorado is a 33-point underdog on the road to No. 2 Oregon. It may be a good day if the Buffs can keep it that close.

But even if it is a rout, it will be just one of many to be played this weekend.

So the Buffs have that going for them …

… which is nice.

S – Statistics

Hear ye! Hear ye!

There is a statistic in which Colorado is ranked 10th nationally, and Oregon is ranked 123rd!

Okay, it’s time of possession, a statistic which has been rendered meaningless by the Ducks’ fast-paced offense.

But it was worth noting …

Most other statistics for this weekend’s game are in the “Don’t Look, Ethel!” category, as in:

– Oregon is 5th in the nation in total offense; Colorado is 104th in total defense;

– Oregon is 3rd in the nation in scoring offense; Colorado is 118th in scoring defense; and

– Oregon is 3rd in the nation in turnover margin; Colorado is 99th.

Now, Oregon is in the 100’s in several statistical categories, so feel free to memorize them for use when confronted by an Oregon fan:

– Oregon is 120th in passing defense; 107th in total defense; 111th in third down conversion defense; 107th in penalties (tied with Colorado); and 112th in penalty yards (CU is 116th).

Or, you could turn to history:

– Colorado is 10th in the nation in all-time conference championships, with 26; Oregon is 59th, with 11;

– Colorado is 24th on the all-time wins list, with 681 victories; Oregon is 40th, with 623;

– Colorado is 18th in all-time consensus All-Americans, with 31; Oregon is 61st, with 5; and

– Colorado has a national championship and a Heisman trophy winner; Oregon has – at least to date – neither of those.

The above won’t be worth much – certainly not any points – on Saturday.

But perhaps it will help to remind you that the University of Colorado has a proud history, and a proud future is closer than it was two years ago at this time, when the Jon Embree era was coming to a disquieting and frustrating conclusion.

Go Buffs!



2 Replies to “CU at No. 2 Oregon – A Preview”

  1. What kind of demoralizing comment is that at the end about our young backup who may play in his first start? Did you play Pac 12 football at qb? Be more press responsable. I hope Gehrke lights it up and makes you look like a fool

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *