Colorado vs. Oregon – A Preview … “T.I.P.S.” for the Buffs against the Ducks …

Tradition has it that when British general Lord Cornwallis surrendered to George Washington and his army at Yorktown, he had his army band play an English ballad.

The title?

“The World Turned Upside Down”.

If Colorado were to defeat Oregon this Saturday (8:00 p.m., MT, ESPN), it would be appropriate for the CU marching band, after the playing of the fight song and the alma mater, to strike up just that tune.

In four seasons of Pac-12 play, Colorado has lost to Oregon by the scores of 45-2, 70-14, 57-16, and 44-10.

I’ll to the math for you … that’s 216 points for Oregon, 42 for Colorado, or an average score of 54-10.

And now there are those who believe the “resurgent” Buffs can not only give the “struggling” Ducks a game, but can actually win outright.

The betting world seems to be down on the Ducks as well. Oregon opened as a 12-point favorite on Sunday, but the line has since moved down to 7.5.

The World Turned Upside Down, indeed.

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

 

T – Talent

Sobering reality … Oregon has more four-star players as third-stringers than Colorado has on its entire roster.

One problem for the Ducks this year, however, is that none of those four- and five-star players go by the name of Marcus Mariota.

With Oregon’s Heisman trophy winner off to the NFL, the Ducks have spent the first month of the 2015 season in an unresolved search of Mariota’s successor … with mixed results. Vernon Adams came over from Eastern Washington, and was supposed to be the answer. Adams, though, broke the index finger in his throwing hand, and has been ineffective.

Jeff Lockie, the heir apparent before Adams transferred in, won his first start … but that was against Georgia State.

Both quarterbacks played in the 62-20 loss to Utah, and neither played particularly well. Adams went 2-for-7 passing for 26 yards and a touchdown, while Lockie went 10-of-20 for 139 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.

There are reports that Adams will be shut down for a few weeks to heal up (and perhaps learn more of the playbook), giving Lockie the start against Colorado … but Oregon doesn’t give out injury reports, so we won’t know for certain until Saturday night.

Now, it’s not like the Duck quarterback, whoever he is, is lacking for weapons. Oregon is still No. 15 in the nation in scoring, and running back Royce Freeman is a star. The 229-pound sophomore is averaging 112.5 yards per game rushing (6.5 yards per carry), and already has six total touchdowns in four games.

The leading receiver for Oregon is Bralon Addison, with 16 catches for 216 yards and two touchdowns. As you might expect from the Ducks, though, the wealth is spread around. Oregon has six players who have rushed for at least 100 yards this season (CU has five) and five players with over 100 yards receiving (CU has two).

While the Oregon quarterback situation is receiving a great deal of press, the Duck offense is really not the problem behind Oregon’s 2-2 start.

Instead, it’s the Oregon defense which has brought down the Duck Dynasty so far this season.

Oregon is 114th in the nation in pass defense (301.3 ypg.), 110th in total defense (474.8 ypg.), and 117th in scoring defense (40.8 ppg.).

And it’s not just the 62 points put up by Utah which is skewing the numbers.

Eastern Washington put up 42 points against Oregon; Georgia State scored 28. Granted, Oregon scored 61 points in both of those games, but the trend is unmistakable.

Here’s a bet you could have gotten long odds in Vegas on a month ago … Colorado’s defense has yet to give up more than 28 points in four games; Oregon’s defense has yet to give up less than 28 points in four games.

 

I – Intangibles

The confidence of the CU players, riding their first three-game winning streak in seven years, is high. In seasons past, said junior quarterback Sefo Liufau, the Buffs “haven’t really been confident” going into games such as Saturday night’s against Oregon. That’s changed, he added, “But now we have to go out and prove it.”

The real question heading into Saturday night’s black-and-grey game at Folsom:

What is the psyche of the Oregon players?

Will they come to Boulder with a chip on their shoulders, determined to show the Buffs and the rest of the Pac-12 that they are still a force to be reckoned with? That the Utah game was an anomaly? That all of that talent and speed is still light years ahead of what the Buffs can put on the field?

Or will the Ducks come to town with some self-doubt? After all, this is a team which will play as an unranked team for the first time since 2009. This is a team which, while not completely out of the national championship race, has to be considered a longshot even though the calendar still reads September.

Oregon hasn’t won fewer than ten games in a season since 2007, when the Ducks went 9-4. All of the players on this team have known nothing but double digit winning seasons and national championship aspirations (for a program, it must be noted, which went 0-for-the-20th-century in double digit winning seasons).

Is it possible that, for the first time, there might be some second-guessing about the hiring of Mark Helfrich?

At the same time, is the confidence in Mike MacIntyre and his system is reaching new levels?

College football is a game which is won on emotion almost as often as talent.

… Have to say … Advantage, Colorado.

 

P – Preparation / Schedule

When ESPN decided to pick up the Colorado/Oregon game for national telecast last week, they had to figure that Colorado was going to beat Nicholls. While the Buffs would be a weak 3-1, it was still a winning record, and the promoters could sell the idea that the Buffs would at least be competitive against the Ducks (if not, at least the game was starting at 10:00 p.m., Mountain time, and most east coast viewers would be able to still get to sleep at a reasonable time after the Ducks raced out to a 21-0 first quarter lead).

At the same time, ESPN had to figure Oregon would also be coming into the game with a 3-1 record. Sure, Utah was a good team, a ranked team in fact. But this was Oregon, at home, against the Utah Utes.

A Utah upset was not completely unforeseeable, but the 62-20 rout was never in the offing. Now, Oregon is outside the polls, and the Ducks are limping into Boulder with a less appealing resume.

The night game, and the national television audience, is nothing new to Oregon, but it is more unfamiliar ground to this group of Buffs. Colorado only appeared on ESPN twice last season … and that was one game on ESPN3 and one on ESPNU. In 2013? Other than the CSU game (CBS Sports Networks) and the Arizona State game (FS1), every game CU played was on the Pac-12 Networks.

Think the Colorado players know they will be on national television on ESPN? Yea, I’m guessing they know.

And the night game and status of the two teams has also sparked an interest in ticket sales. After playing before home crowds of 35,000 and 37,000, the Buffs will be looking at a crowd in the high-40’s (an email sent out to season ticket holders Wednesday said “we are expecting a capacity crowd). While a sellout (50,183) may not be in the offing, the Ducks will likely face a crowd at least the equal of the 2013 Oregon game at Folsom (45,944), and perhaps the first crowd of over 50,000 since 2011 (USC – 50,083).

The black-and-grey striping concept will help get the crowd engaged, and the student section (they bought 7,000 tickets for the CSU game), will likely be the largest in recent memory (and the later start won’t hurt student enthusiasm, either).

While certainly not by design, ESPN gave Colorado a big boost in both the size and volume of the crowd for this weekend’s game.

… Advantage, Colorado …

 

S – Statistics

Compare:

– Passing defense: 256.2 ypg., 100th nationally; total defense: 461.0 ypg. (111th); scoring defense: 39.0 ppg. (116th);

– Passing defense: 301.3 ypg., 114th nationally; total defense: 474.8 ypg. (110th); scoring defense: 40.8 ppg. (117th).

One set of numbers was posted by a Colorado defense which lost every conference game it played in over the course of a season (for the first time in 99 years). The other set of numbers represents the Oregon defense through the first four games of 2015.

Colorado got rid of its defensive coordinator after the first set of numbers was posted last fall.

It remains to be seen what happens with the Oregon defense the remainder of this season.

No one really believes that the Oregon numbers will hold until November. The Ducks have played two top ten teams, and have allowed two out-manned opponents some leeway after building big leads.

Still, the above statistics are disconcerting for the Ducks, as are the following, in which Oregon also ranks 100th or worse nationally:

– Quarterback sacks allowed (111th);

– Net punting (119th) (CU is 120th);

– Punt return yardage defense (126th);

– Penalties per game (111th);

– Fourth down conversion defense (122nd);

– Red zone scoring defense (percentage) (107th).

Now, Oregon is used to be near the bottom of the NCAA rankings when it comes to time of possession (and that is still the case this year … the Ducks are 107th nationally in that category), but the other numbers are not the norm in Eugene, and are not what you would expect from a national title contender.

We’ll see if the Buffs can exploit some of these weaknesses … or if the Ducks get healthy against Colorado (again), and right the ship on their way to another Pac-12 title.

 

Prediction … Colorado has made great strides with its defense under Jim Leavitt. Part of this is due to Leavitt’s schemes and coaching styles, and yes, some of it has to do with the level of competition the Buffs have played to date.

Oregon is averaging 42.5 points per game, and has averaged 54 points per game against Colorado the past four seasons. History (and logic) suggests that the Ducks are going to score against the Buffs. The question for Saturday’s game is whether the Buffs’ offense can keep up. Colorado is averaging a healthy 35.8 points per game, but non-conference fun is over. Sefo Liufau, in pain or not, cannot overthrow wide open receivers as he did against Nicholls. The running game will need to be effective, but the inexperienced Oregon secondary must be exploited. So far in 2015, Nelson Spruce has as many touchdowns as does Kyle Evans and Kenneth Olugbode … that needs to change Saturday night.

Utah had a perfect game against Oregon last weekend. The Utes threw a halfback pass for a touchdown, ran back a punt for a touchdown, successfully faked a punt … everything went right, and the result was a 62-20 blowout victory.

Colorado will need a perfect game just to stay with Oregon. Just three weeks ago, the Buffs were limping home from Hawai’i on a nine-game losing streak, and Oregon was the No. 7 team in the country. As much as we would like to look at the world through black-and-gold colored glasses, the teams haven’t changed that much in just three games.

I hope I’m wrong (and that the CU marching band will, in fact, be able to strike up “The World Turned Upside Down”), but …

Oregon 41, Colorado 24

—-

 

17 Replies to “CU vs. Oregon – A Preview”

  1. Yo Stuart,

    Lest everybody get overly concerned about Oregon being 2-0 if they are leading after the 1st quarter, remember that those two big wins for the Ducks came against #97 team in the FBS (Georgia State) and against a team not even IN the FBS in Eastern Washington. Yes, the Ducks scored 61 on EWU but the Eagles also gave up 50 to the mighty and powerful Montana State.

    The Buffs just need to play smart and do their jobs (while trusting their teammates to do theirs). If Sefo can consistently hit his receivers more than 15 yards downfield, the Buffs have a very good chance to win… and it will not be that great of an upset.

    But it can be the signature win the Buffs need to take the next big step forward.

    GO BUFFS!

    Mark
    Boulderdevil

  2. I think Oregon may come into Folsom with an attitude.But i think the ducks will be facing just as angry and hungry a team in CU.The story line coming into the game might be about the Ducks.But i believe the BUFFS are gonna give ’em a heck of a game this Saturday.If they lose i think it might be something like 40-29.Which would be respectable for CU considering the PAC12 history with the ducks.But i am going out on a limb and gonna say CU 33 OREGON 29.So glad the weekend is around the corner. GO BUFFS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. Great TIPS, Stuart. I can’t predict the game. I just can’t do it. It could honestly go either way, or any way. Like everyone else it seems, I will be a ball of anxiety for this game. Going to have to crack my first coldy at the tailgate at about 5:00 or so, just to keep the nerves down. So great to have a game, and a team, with some excitement around it again!

    GO BUFFS!!!!!

  4. My favorite part about this game is going into it thinking CU could pull this off, and actually looking for a win, not just a good showing.
    I believe Oregon is starting to feel the effects of Chip Kelly being gone. Their defense seems to have fallen apart, and the Buffs should be a able to establish a running game. I feel like it is going to be a close hard fought game, and the buffs come up big, 34-31 CU

  5. Stuart,

    I always look forward to the “TIPS” preview with all the nuggets of information and statistics.

    I’m anxious for the game because I truly want to believe CU is ready to compete with schools like Oregon; however, I’m not confident it will happen this weekend. Maybe I need some of the Kool-Aid Bufftrax is drinking. No matter what happens on Saturday night I hope CU can make it competitive…and be in a position to win it at the end.

    Fortunately, my daughters (6 & 3) will be in bed by kickoff (9pm cst) so they won’t see me pacing in the living room during the game or standing 12 inches from the TV (for some reason when I stop pacing I must stand within inches of the TV because the couch is to far away…don’t ask me why, I know it doesn’t make sense). It really is a spectacle to watch me watch a CU game.

    Go Buffs!

  6. Buffs have been trying to prove for 3 weeks now that the Hawaii loss was an anomaly. Well, here’s where they do it.

    Buffs 48, Ducks 35

    I think there’s something to be said for the fact that Oregon’s secondary resembles CU’s from just 4-5 years ago when we were converting other position players to CB just so we could fill out the roster. Sefo and our WRs should have their way with the Oregon D, especially if DeForest Buckner can’t go, which I see that he is doubtful currently. Buckner is a top 10 NFL pick, and that’s a huge blow too if he’s out.

    Throw in that Vernon Adams and Jeff Lockie are rotating, so neither has gotten in rhythm, and that Adams has a broken finger on his throwing hand, and I think that the Oregon offense will be fairly one-dimensional. Oregon struggles against teams with big D Lines, and it’s time for our D Line to prove that they are a solid unit.

    If we: win the turnover battle, have fewer 3 & Outs (neither team has a great punter), and tackle in space we win this game.

  7. Oh no Stuart !!! No faith ?

    A guy who bleeds Black & Gold and views the world thru’ Black & Gold glasses ?

    Stuart, you need a trip to the Kool-aid stand !

    CU-34 OU-28

    1. Bufftrax Iffffffff CU holds uo to 28 or less, I agree they win this one !!! Going into the season I felt this was the most difficult game to predict because of QB play for both the Buffs and Ducks; I just didn’t see it being lack of production.

      So, I’ll drink your Kool-aid CU-27 OU-24. GO BUFFS !!!!

  8. I had a dream last night that I was at the game on the sideline. The mighty Buffs came to play with Sefo getting hot and hitting pass after pass. We move the ball steadily and then turn it over to our running game that just exerts its will on the Oregan team to punch it into the end zone. Oregon hangs with the Buffs for 3 quarters making big plays here and there but in the end the buffs get the lead and just grind away at the clock. Buffs win by 3. The mental toughness this team has developed under Mac makes the difference.

  9. I want to feel good about this game but still am somewhat apprehensive. The Buffs have got to start better then they did against CSU, their really only legitimate test this year. Oregon is better then CSU even though last week against UT they didn’t look good at all.

    I just hope that CU doesn’t lose any confidence if Oregon makes some quick strikes and has early success. I watched an Arizona team that was all jacked up before the game against UCLA and once the game started it wasn’t even close. I keep trying to keep that out of mind as happening to CU.

  10. I completely agree that starting fast is the key to the game given that Oregon is still probably trying to process what happened to them last weekend. A rare opportunity to face a Ducks team in this position. Getting one of the bigger home crowds in recent years fired up at the beginning would help a lot. The first quarter will be telling. Intriguing! My head tells me Oregon 42 CU 31. My heart says CU 35, Oregon 31.

  11. Yo Stuart,

    I’m pretty sure this game will be won or lost based on what is inside the heads of these young men. Will Oregon come out fired up to prove they are better than they showed last week? Or will they come out full of doubt and embarrassment that the Ducks have fallen on their watch?

    More importantly to Buff fans, will the Buffs come out with mean attitude and convinced they can be on a level playing field with anyone in the conference? or will they come out and be intimidated by the bright lights of ESPN and the reality that Oregon has been a top team since most of them were in Junior High?

    I don’t bet on college athletics, because I don’t ever want to be happy or satisfied that my Buffs lost but “at least they covered the point spread.” For the first time since the Buffs joined the Pac-12, I feel they can play with a team like Oregon (this year’s Ducks anyway).

    Will the Buffs win or lose? Yes. Whatever the final outcome, however, this game gives the Buffs the chance to take some major steps forward. They had to learn how to walk again after 2012. Maybe this game will be the first step toward learning how to run again.

    Mark
    Boulderdevil

    1. Mark, thanks for writing my comment….saved me a lot of time. How did you crawl inside my head ?

      My anxiety will be amped (sp?) to the max. I don’t think 3 large bowls of popcorn is going to help… may take an additional 3 bags of Cheetos and 5 packs of gum to get past the 1st quarter.

  12. 47-44 Oregon. I think it will actually be a shootout like the Cal game last year. CU has a better D than Eastern Washington but the offense might be ready to shine if Sefo overcomes his conservative check down.

  13. Another great preview Stuart – the stat comparison really shows how bad this Oregon defense is and why we need to ‘start fast in Folsom’. If we can put together a few well balanced 9 to 12 play drives to start this game and get a few early stops – our confidence will be sky high and their self doubt will start chewing at their souls. We’ll know pretty quickly if we are truly making strides back to relevance. I feel better about this game than any game in a long time (and I did not feel good about Hawai’i at all).

    Go Buffs!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.