Colorado at Oregon – A Preview … Buffs try to open Pac-12 play with an upset

Five years.

Five blowouts.

For those with short term memories (or who are good at blacking out terrible memories), here is the ugly recitation of CU/Oregon scores since the Buffs joined the Pac-12: 45-2; 70-14; 57-16; 44-10; and 41-24 … an average score of 51-13.

So, when it was announced that Colorado was a ten-point underdog against Oregon – on the road, no less – it was already a victory of sorts.

Not a moral victory, but a victory in the sense that, at least in Las Vegas, there are those who are recognizing the improvement of the CU program.

The Buffs opened the 2016 season by dominating Colorado State (finally!) and Idaho State, and were up in the third quarter – on the road, no less – against the No. 4 team in the nation.

Then there was this …

In an ESPN article posted on Monday, speculating about the wide open Pac-12 South division, there was the following:

“Truth be told, Colorado has probably been the most consistent team in the South through the first three weeks. But their depth is shaky, and it’s unknown if they can sustain that level of play through an entire conference season.

“So you see, the South has never been more ripe for the plucking for a team like Utah — or UCLA — or USC — or Arizona — or Arizona State — or, yes, even Colorado”.

Heady stuff for a team which is 2-25 in Pac-12 play under Mike MacIntyre, and hasn’t been within three scores of Oregon since the Buffs beat the Ducks in Rick Neuheisel’s last game (the 1998 Aloha Bowl).

Here are this week’s “T.I.P.S.” …

 

T – Talent

Both teams took major hits to their lineups last weekend.

Oregon lost to injury wide receiver (and Olympian) Devon White, along with starting left tackle Tyrell Crosby.

Colorado lost to injury kicker Diego Gonzalez and linebacker Derek McCartney.

Two other major players remain question marks, with Oregon Heisman trophy candidate Royce Freeman and Colorado quarterback Sefo Liufau in the dreaded “day-to-day” category, with both players likely to be limited in their mobility on Saturday (3:30 p.m., MT, Pac-12 Networks), if indeed they are able to play at all.

The loss of left tackle Crosby leaves the Ducks with four red-shirt freshmen starting along the offensive line. While that would seem to be good news for the Colorado defense, bear in mind that last Saturday, with Crosby out for much of the game, the Ducks were able to rush for 336 yards against the Nebraska blackshirts.

The Cornhuskers were able to somewhat limit the effectiveness of former Montana State quarterback Dakota Prokup, who was held to 146 yards on 14-of-23 passes. Prokup, though, did rush for 97 yards on 20 carries, and it is Prokup’s mobility which will be of great concern for the Colorado front seven, even more so now with the loss of McCartney.

On defense, the Ducks have made strides since last year, but remain vulnerable. Oregon is 82nd in total defense, giving up over 400 yards per game (and, lest you think that was all Nebraska’s doing, Oregon gave up 392 yards of total offense to UC-Davis and 388 yards to Virginia … the only winless Power-Five conference team in the nation).

Oregon is giving up an average of almost 30 points per game, 84th in the country. So, if the Buff offense can get its act together – whether under a hobbled Sefo Liufau or a better prepared Steven Montez – there is a chance for the Buffs to keep pace with the Ducks’ high-powered offense.

The game, as it did in Ann Arbor, may come down to special teams. There, the Ducks have a significant advantage. Colorado’s punting and kick return game is vulnerable to speed.

This just in … Oregon is noted for its speed.

And it is here that the loss of Diego Gonzalez may also be felt. True enough, any field goal attempt by the Buffs will be an adventure this week (and for the rest of the season), but when the Buffs kick off, they can no longer rely on a touchback (Diego Gonzalez was 16-for-19 on forcing the opposition to start at their own 25). This means there will be kick returns for the speedy Duck return men … a potential lethal problem.

So, the game plan is clear.

Run the ball (Oregon is 90th in the nation in rushing defense), controlling the clock on offense … Corral Oregon’s rushing attack, forcing Dakota Prokup to beat you with his arm and not his legs

… And, above all, don’t screw up on special teams.

Easy, right?

 

I – Intangibles

The thing about injuries, they can decimate a team – or inspire it.

Anyone who watched the second half of the Michigan game knows which direction the Buffs went after Sefo Liufau went down. Sefo Liufau threw a 70-yard touchdown pass the play after he was injured, but Liufau left the game for good shortly thereafter, and the Buffs never recovered from his loss.

After the touchdown, the Buffs only posted two first downs the remainder of the game – one on a Wolverine penalty, the other coming with less than a minute left in the contest. Steven Montez looked very much like a red-shirt freshmen seeing the first live bullets of Power-Five conference football, and it didn’t go well. “”I tried to do what I could,” said Montez, “but they were coming really fast and I made some mistakes”.

Sure, it would have helped if George Frazier had hauled in that touchdown pass in the third quarter, but the reality is that Montez went 0-for-7, and the Buffs, who had generated 28 points in the first 31 minutes of the game, were shutout the remaining 29 minutes.

With a week to digest having Montez behind center (or a limited Sefo Liufau), the Buffs can either rally … or rise to the occasion.

“We feel like we can win every game we play,” said wide receiver Jay MacIntyre.  “It’s not really about Oregon, it’s about us and that’s how we go into every game.  Coach MacIntyre has been preaching that since day one; that’s how we’re going into this game against Oregon.  It’s no different than going into the Michigan game or the Idaho State game.  It’s just us, and if we do our thing we think we’ll be able to win the game.”

The Buffs may rally around Montez, but that may not be enough.

Two years ago, another CU quarterback made his starting debut in Autzen Stadium in Eugene.

In 2014, Jordan Gehrke got the first – and to date only – start, and went 9-for-18 for 64 yards against the Ducks, with six carries for minus-three yards.

The result? Oregon 44, Colorado 10.

 

P – Preparation/Schedule

The Buffs and Ducks have had similar starts to the 2016 season.

Both jumped out to 2-0 records; both did so with relative ease.

Both then went on the road in Week Three to face a Big Ten opponents, with both coming home with their first losses of the season.

Both also limped home with significant losses in personnel.

While the potential loss of Sefo Liufau may prove devastating to the Buffs in the long term, it could prove helpful to the Buffs in the short term.

Just like Colorado State refused to name a quarterback for the opener, forcing Colorado to prepare for several different options behind center, Oregon now faces a similar dilemma.

The Ducks must now prepare for the possibility of Sefo making a successful return. They must also prepare for the wildcard which is Steven Montez.

It’s no different than the tendency of Oregon to go for two-point conversions with regularity. “One of the reasons that Oregon does that is that you’ll spend time working on that as a defense”, explained MacIntyre. “You’ve got to spend time in practice every day which takes away working on things with their offense”.

Hopefully time spent by the Oregon defense in preparing for two different quarterbacks will give the Buffs a slight edge in preparation.

 

 

S – Statistics

The stats sheet for the Buffs is not as stellar after week three as it was after week two … but it ain’t bad.

A quarter of the way through the 2016 season, Colorado remains highly ranked nationally in several important categories …

— 4th nationally (and first in the Pac-12) in total defense (239.3 ypg.);

— 5th nationally (and first in the Pac-12) in pass defense (119.7 ypg.);

— 20th nationally (fourth in the Pac-12) in scoring offense (42.7 ppg);

— 21st nationally (fourth in the Pac-12) in turnover margin (+1.0); and

— 22nd nationally (fourth in the Pac-12) in passing offense (304.7 ypg.)

Meanwhile, there are several disconcerting numbers which bear noting …

— Oregon is 13th in the nation in kickoff returns … Colorado is last in the Pac-12 in kickoff coverage;

— Oregon is 22nd in the nation in punt returns … Colorado is last in the Pac-12 in punt coverage;

Also … Oregon is 8th in the nation in rushing offense; 10th in the nation in scoring defense; and 19th in the nation in scoring offense.

That being said, as noted above, Oregon is 82nd in total defense and 84th in scoring defense.

Translation: the Ducks are going to score. To beat them, the Buffs will have to have their offense at the top of its game, and not making any mistakes on special teams.

A tough task in Autzen …

 

Prediction … In a parallel universe, Sefo Liufau doesn’t get hurt in the first minute of the third quarter against Michigan. The Buffs go up 28-24 and the game is a fight to the end, with Diego Gonzalez (who goes also magically goes uninjured) kicking a game-winner as time expires.

If that were the case, the Buffs would be a darling of the national media, with Colorado likely a ranked team for the first time since 2005. Colorado would be a fashionable pick to defeat Oregon for the first time as a member of the Pac-12.

Thing is, Oregon fans would like to be in a parallel universe as well. If a perfect green-and-gold world, Heisman trophy candidate Royce Freeman doesn’t come up lame early in the game against Nebraska, going on to run all over the Blackshirt defense in Lincoln. The Ducks pull away from the Cornhuskers, and Oregon enters Pac-12 play with a 3-0 record and a top 20 national ranking.

Neither team got what it wanted last week.

Both teams are now counting on a victory this weekend as a springboard to the Pac-12 conference season.

It would be nice to say I believe that the Buffs will pull off a win over the Ducks in the last game the teams will play until the 2019 season (barring a meeting in a Pac-12 championship game).

But the average score between the two teams as members of the Pac-12 – 51-13 – can’t be ignored. I’m actually surprised the Buffs are only ten-point underdogs.

If Sefo can go, the Buffs have a puncher’s chance. If not, it will be a very tough game for the Buff Nation to watch.

My heart is with the Buffs … but not my head.

… Oregon 34, Colorado 21 … 

 

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20 Replies to “Oregon – A Preview”

  1. Punting units ranking with Mac2 as head coach

    year……national rank
    2010…….90
    2011…….73
    2012…….77
    2013…….78
    2014…….104
    2015…….40
    2016…….120

    Must not be a priority

  2. Oregon will not be able to pass effectively against our defense.

    Oregon will not be able to run inside effectively against our defense.

    If Sefo can execute at at least 80% of what he has done this year CU will move the ball and we will score.

    Our punt blocking sucks but I tend to agree with Mac n this and say it can be cleaned up enough to not be the unmitigated disaster it was.

    This game comes down to can we stop the speed sweeps. I just rewatched the Michigan game and frankly we sucked at it the whole game. THE WHOLE GAME!

    Leavitt needs to figure this out. He is going to need to out scheme Helfrich. If he does and if Sefo can play……..

    In Leavitt we trust.

    Buffs win by 7.

  3. I had this as my upset and signature win for this season, so no need to back off now. The D will create the impetus for this victory, they will hold the Quacks to 2 TD’s 16pts (UO makes their 2pt tries) and 2 FG’s 6pts for 22 on the day.
    Buff’s get 4 TD’s 3 by the O (2 w/ short drives thanks to the D) and 1 for the D, just because !! CU 28 – Quackville 22 AND I’ll be there to Watch it !!!!

  4. I don’t do this often but I’m going to do it this week. I guarantee a CU win this weekend on the road. CU 38 Ducks 28. Write it down, put it in your book, I don’t care. I have seen all 3 of this years games live, and this is a good football team just waiting to explode. This is the game we turn the corner.

  5. If special teams can not contain the Ducks, then they need to purposely kick off out of bounds every time. Yes giving them the ball on the 35 yard line is giving up ten yards more then a TB, but that’s better then a run back of more; and those can change momentum very quickly. I’ve seen it done before and the teams that did was more successful because of it; took the other teams speedy returners out of the game.

    The Ducks defense is suspect, maybe the Buffs should game plan for four downs and try to avoid punting, at least you keep everything in front of you and their defense isn’t the best (82nd in total defense).

    As for the Ducks preparing for two QBs, if they are smart they will prepare for Sefo and adjust for Montez. It’s easier to dial up the pressure on Montez without too much extra prep, but what skill set does he have that’s different from Sefo’s? It’s not like one is a dual threat and the other a pock passer.

    If the Buffs can contain the Ducks on special teams I think their defense plays stout enough to slow the Ducks. But the Buffs offense can burn the same Ducks defense that “gave up 392 yards of total offense to UC-Davis and 388 yards to Virginia … the only winless Power-Five conference team in the nation”.

    IF special teams don’t lose the game for the Buffs, they win 30-28 (the ducks miss out on two of four 2-point conversions). Otherwise the Ducks win by two TDs, with three TDs given up directly to special teams play.

  6. Michigan has a new starting QB this year and in his very first throw in the very first game of the season… he threw an interception. But Harbaugh talked him thru it and they continued to play Michigan-style football. Harbaugh didn’t allow his QB or play-calling to go into turtle mode.

    And that is the difference between the Buffs and the Wolverines. As noted by Boulderdevil and cjbuffco, we went into weak, conservative play calling after Montez’s receivers dropped those two passes.

    This weekend’s game against the Ducks will not be won or lost by Montez, it will be won or lost by our coach’s play-calling. Oregon hasn’t faced a D as good as ours, even the Nebraska black shirts (who still don’t deserve those black shirts). We will put up points against Oregon’s subpar D… but only if our Offense is allowed to “GO!”, fast and furious Buff-style football. If we go into play-not-to-lose mode on offense at any point in the game, I hope they fire Lindgren as soon as Monday morning. We have the team, go beat the Ducks.

    Go Buffs!

  7. Colorado is going to win this football game. Michigan was a much harder game and the Buff looked great. I don’t care who plays QB for CU, our defense is gonna stun the ducks.

    Cmon Buffs!

  8. Looking at non con games and comparing this year to last year.

    stat………………2015………..2016

    scoring offense…….35.8………..42.7
    scoring defense…….19.7………..16.5

    Total offense………477.5……….500.0
    total defense………341.3……….239.3

    red zone conv………66.67……….88.89
    opp red zone conv…..75.5………..83.0

    Seems pretty steady. Can they get to 6 and 6?

    Gotta beat, OSU, WSU, ASU, UU.

    Win the home games

    1. Steady? Kind of, BUT, last year the two toughest non-con opponents were Hawaii and CSU, and we know how that went. This year was CSU and Michigan, change that to CSU and Hawaii and those stats are way higher for the Buffs, and a much lower average for the opponents.

      If Sefo comes back soon and stays healthy they can win those games you mentioned and more. Even USC is suspect and may be falling apart by the time the Buffs play them.

      1. Yup Steady. The comparison is for all non con games in both years not just the two that may have been considered the toughest. Regardless Gotta be steady. If the coach of the punting team (and there is one who is in charge) had done their job, steady would have won it.

        That and Sefo not getting hurt

        1. That’s my point. Statistically speaking (like solving for X in an algebra problem), UMass and IDST cancel each other out, I’m not “only” including the two toughest games, so much as I’m letting those two cancel each other out. So, CSU compared to last year was a cake walk; the Buffs ran all over them… along with passing and the defense stuffed the Rams.

          So my point is there has been even more improvement your post about steady improvement reads; your posting of those numbers and tone read like there has been a little (but just a little) steady improvement with numbers like:

          scoring offense…….35.8………..42.7

          A one touch down difference from last year, but without considering that Michigan is #4 and they played at the Big House is apples and oranges. Not the same.

          So, my comment regarding the Michigan game changing those stats is very valid. I bet everyone on this board would agree that if the Buffs played the same schedule as last year they would have beaten Hawaii, question is by how much? And how much would that have changed those stats you posted?

          Probably more like scoring offense…….35.8……… 55
          Hawaii’s special teams would not have dominated the Buffs this year the way that Michigan did; and they don’t have Pepper. Did you see them play Michigan? They never had a chance, at least the Buffs were in it until Sefo went down, and ahead when he did go out.

  9. The punting has to get cleaned up now. It’s been going on too long ( remember Hawaii last year). This is on Mac.
    Lindgren has to get his act together and let the offense run as it should. Otherwise, he has to go.
    These 2 coaches have to do a better job of putting the players in a position to win. The talent is clearly there.

  10. Yo Stuart,

    Averaging past scores does not mean squat. If it did, Colorado would have never beaten Nebraska after 20 years of futility. Michigan is a much better team than Oregon this year. The Buffs can beat these guys. These are not the Marcus Mariota Ducks and they are not the Chip Kelly Ducks who were a threat to run away from every team them played. No, these are the Ducks who are in the lower third of the country in defense.

    The onus will be on Colorado to play well in every phase of the game. They must never again be so soundly destroyed on special teams. Offense to offense and defense to defense, the Buffs are the equal or superior to the quackmasters of Eugene. The Buffs were the slightly better team in two of the three aspects against Michigan, and will be as well against Oregon.

    The primary threat to the D of the Buffs is the feeling of futility. Once the punt team demonstrated that the first block was a harbinger of disaster to come, it became obvious the defense started being bogged down in the futility of their fool’s errand. If every punt attempt by the Buffs was a scoring opportunity for Michigan, the Buff D finally succumbed to the pointlessness of their task.

    And it was not just the Buff special teams who choked. Once the Buffs got up by 14 again (21-7), play caller Lindgren started falling back to his old habits. Instead of pushing the pace, the Buffs suddenly started using the entire clock on each play. They rushed to the line, then looked to the sideline to adjust the call. This allowed a Michigan D to get their wind back and up their pressure.

    This is not new. Lindgren has a history his entire time at Colorado of switching from a winning attack mode to a “try not to lose” style of play. Lindgren does not know how to go for the jugular of good teams. Sure, he can run it up with teams like Idaho State, but when the Buffs play a good team (usually in conference play) they never seem to be happy with a lead. Play calling gets conservative and the Buffs usually find themselves behind once again.

    The Buffs ended the first quarter in Ann Arbor with as many points as ANY Michigan opponent ever scored in that quarter in the Big House. Then Lindgren’s play calling got stupid and the Buffs didn’t do anything on offense until they were behind 24-21. One big play early in the 3rd allowed the Buffs to retake the lead, but then Sefo went out and an ill-prepared Montez had to come in and take over against the #4 team in the country on the road.

    Montez actually could have been ok, but after receivers dropped his first two passes (one of which would have been a touchdown), Lindgren’s play calling went south once again as quickly as the Buff offense decided to call it a day.

    Football is a game of emotion and intensity and commitment. Once any of those is lost for the day, the game is usually a foregone conclusion. The Buff D lost a step when the special teams became a nightmare and the offense lost it once Lindgren’s play-calling indicated he had lost faith in his offense. Maybe it’s time for Mac to let Chiaverini call the plays. At the very least, the Buffs need to stick to their offense instead of shutting it down once they get ahead.

    This year, the only one beating the Buffs is the Buffs. When they are on they can play with most anyone. And the Ducks are riding on reputation more than anything. Can the Buffs play a full game against a good opponent? We’ll see.

    Go Buffs.

    Mark
    Boulderdevil

    1. Great comments. Sitting in the stands last Saturday, even though Buffs were doing well on the scoreboard, I noticed the play calling, moving away from what worked, and GETTING CONSERVATIVE. The reason I put those words in caps is Lindgren does that all of the time. Why? Makes no sense? Go with what works and be relentless about it regardless of what quarter you are in. Being up 49-0 against Idaho State is an exception and I was glad to see 2nd and 3rd string get in. Against anyone else, keep the gas pedal floored.

    2. Can the Buffs play a full game against a good opponent?

      As you suggest, can the Buffs coach a full game against a good opponent?

      That is the bigger question. You are correct that “play not to lose” style has been on Lindgren and Mac as well.

      We will see.

      This will not be the signature win Mac 2 has been dreaming about.

      Hopefully it is only a mild nightmare.

      Regardless.

      The Buffs have won the two they were supposed too win.
      The wooleyirenes were a long shot and except for the gynormus special teams breakdowns who know.

      Oregon are also a long shot, even with the 10 point spread. Don’t be fooled.

      So then 8 conference games left. 5 at home and 3 on the road.

      Win 4 of those home games and it is bowl game.

      That is what matters.

      And looking to next year, 6 and 6 might be all there is as well.

      Go Buffs

      1. Wow! you already know who is going to win next year too. 6 and 6, before we know how this year ends, what coaching changes may be made around the conference, which players are leaving early for the NFL or transferring or any of that, oh don’t forget about injuries. We’ll just go by history and forget about playing the games. Saves time and money. Forget the new facilities, recruits and new coaches like Leavitt and Chev.

    3. Hey,
      As many can attest to here I am no lover of Lindgren. I truly blame him for two losses last year. But I just rewatched the series from 21-7 until Sefo gets hurt and the play calling does not really change. Until we get the first first down the tempo never really increases. Over that series they just don’t make many first downs. This approach actually helps the defense as you need to give your defense some rest in the case of three and outs. He called about the same number of inside runs until we are 2nd and 20 with less than a minute left in the half. I can’t say I blame him for these conservative plays too much.

      Now once things start going bad for Montez most football people will tell you to dial it back a bit as well. The purpose is to try and get your quarterback into some form of rhythm. The team just couldn’t pull itself together with Montez in the game. Michigan is a legit playoff contender so I will give Montez a pass for being a bit overwhelmed when things started to go south.

      Frankly, I can’t put this loss on Lindgren unless he is the punt coordinator. We went two to toe with the best in the country and put up 28 points in 31 minutes. Lindgren did it right.

      We lost the game because our punt team was atrocious, our starting qb got hurt and his back up was not ready, and Leavitt’s defense could not stop the speed sweep.

      Yes that’s right. Part of this loss is on Leavitt’s head. Rewatched the whole game. I think we actually stop the speed sweep like 2 out of 10 times. This is on Leavitt’s head. He better figure out a way to stop it or Helfrich is going to wrack up 300 yards of running.

      All this said, I like Leavitt. I believe he will figure this out.

  11. I feel that there will be one of two outcomes, depending upon who (injury situation) plays and how well CU handles special teams. If Liufau can go the whole way and we have decent special teams, then I can see a score of OR 38 CU 31. If Liufau doesn’t play and we can’t contain the Ducks speed on special teams, then I feel it will get ugly like OR 42 CU 17. A week ago, I felt the OR game would be the signature win. Still a chance but I don’t feel as confident.

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