Colorado vs.  Washington Preview: “T.I.P.S.” for the Pac-12 title game

Who would ever have believed it?

For the first time since 2005, we are talking about a conference title game which includes the University of Colorado.

While the Buff Nation is (justifiably) excited about ending CU’s 15-year drought without a conference title, you may find it interesting to note that the Husky Nation has been waiting even longer for a championship.

Oregon and Stanford have won the first five Pac-12 titles, so a Pac-12 title game is uncharted territory for both Colorado and Washington.

The last Pac-10 title for Washington?

Back in the 2000 season (and that was a shared title. The last outright Pac-10 title for the Huskies was in their national championship season of 1991).

So, there you have it, Buff fans. Colorado has played for four Big 12 titles, winning one, since the last time Husky fans last tasted a championship.

(Feel free to use that little tidbit if someone reminds you that in 2005, the last time CU played for a championship, the Buffs were crushed by Vince Young and the Texas Longhorns, 70-3. Personally, I’d put the over/under on the 70-3 score coming up during the Fox broadcast of the game on Friday at 3.5).

 

This week’s “T.I.P.S.” for Colorado v. Washington … Friday, 7:00 p.m. MT, Fox

T – Talent

Quarterback Jake Browning, though only a sophomore, has garnered Heisman trophy buzz this fall. Browning, the Pac-12 Offensive Player-of-the-Year, has thrown for over 3,100 yards (after throwing for over 2,900 as a freshman), with 40 touchdowns and only seven interceptions.

You read that correctly … 40 touchdown passes; seven interceptions.

Twice this season, against Cal and against Oregon, Browning threw for six touchdowns and no interceptions in a game … Yikes!

Browning has two ridiculously talented favorite receivers. John Ross, Jr., missed all of last season, but has come back with a first-team All-Pac-12 performer this year, with 72 receptions for 1,071 yards and 16 touchdowns. Dante Pettis, meanwhile, has 49 receptions for 787 yards and 14 touchdowns.

This tandem has proven lethal to opponents … think the talent of WSU’s Luke Falk combined with the speed of USC’s wide receivers.

Think that keying on the passing attack will keep the Huskies in check?

Nope … they have a 1,000-yard rusher in Myles Gaskin, who has 1,180 yards and ten touchdowns this season (and is averaging a gaudy 6.0 yards per carry).

What this all adds up to is a Washington offense which is 21st in the nation in total offense (485.0 yards per game) and third in the nation in scoring (44.8 points per game).

Well, then, apparently the goal is to out-score the Huskies.

Think again.

As great as the Buff defense has been this fall … Washington’s defense has been even better.

Colorado’s numbers have been amazing. The Buffs have allowed just 23 offensive touchdowns this season, down from 43 last year and 67 as recently as 2012. Opponents are scoring, on average, 18.8 points per game.

The Washington defense is allowing even less – 17.8 points per game.

Colorado has one defensive player – linebacker Jimmie Gilbert – who made first-team All-Pac-12. Washington has four first-team All-Pac-12 players on defense.

So … Washington has a potent offense and a tough defense.

I guess that leaves special teams as the best way to beat the Huskies.

Sigh.

Let’s not go there …

 

I – Intangibles

Both teams, as noted above, are in uncharted waters this weekend. Neither team has played for a Pac-12 title, and neither team has won a championship since the players on the team’s current roster were in pre-school.

Does either team have an advantage?

Washington is playing not only for a Pac-12 title, but a berth in the College Football Playoffs. The Huskies are 11-1, with the only loss coming against USC. Washington is the No. 4 team in the latest College Football Playoff rankings, and a win against No. 8 Colorado would seemingly cement the Huskies’ slot in the Final Four.

Washington’s case for a place in the semi-finals is hampered, however, by its Baylor-esque non-conference schedule (Rutgers, Portland State, and Idaho … rated 127th out of 128 FBS teams in schedule difficulty). Two years ago, weak non-conference scheduling helped to knock TCU out of the Final Four. The Horned Frogs were No. 3 in the rankings, won their final regular season game against Iowa State, 55-3, yet dropped from No. 3 to No. 6 in the rankings when the playoff teams were announced.

The Huskies will have the College Football Playoff committee’s attention all to themselves this weekend, as the CU/Washington game is on Friday night, while the other Power-Five title games are on Saturday.

Washington will not only want to win … but win big.

By the same token, there is much more pressure on the Huskies than on the Buffs.

Colorado is playing with house money, and have been for the past few weeks.

True enough, “Pac-12 champs” has been the goal this season for the Buffs, and they are now within sight of that achievement. Still, this group of over-achievers has very little left to prove to anyone. There is only a small chance that the 8th-ranked Buffs will be in the running for a playoff berth come Sunday, and Colorado may earn a Rose Bowl invitation … win or lose (see below).

By their own admission, the Buffs played a little tight last weekend against Utah. They shouldn’t have that problem this weekend.

If the Buffs can stay with the Huskies early on (in case you missed it, Washington raced out to a 28-3 lead against Washington State … in the first quarter … last weekend), and keep the score close, the greater the pressure will be on the Huskies.

 

P – Preparation / Schedule

Many of those who are projecting how the bowl matchups will be announced on Sunday have Colorado going to the Rose Bowl.

… and that’s with a projection that the Buffs will lose to Washington on Friday night.

If Washington earns a spot in the playoffs, the Rose Bowl will take the next highest-ranked team from the Pac-12. In the last playoff rankings before the conference championships, Colorado was ranked 8th; USC was ranked No. 11. In between are No. 9 Oklahoma and No. 10 Oklahoma State, who play each other on Saturday, so the Trojans are pretty much guaranteed to move up at least one spot.

But will the committee rank a 9-3 USC team above a 10-3 Colorado team? The Trojans did beat the Buffs head-to-head, but that game was also played in the Coliseum, and the Buffs were without Sefo Liufau. USC also lost to two teams – Utah and Stanford – which Colorado beat.

How will the committee place the teams? Who will the choice of the Rose Bowl committee?

Well, if Colorado wins, the Buffs, barring some significant upheaval in the top seven in the rankings, will be heading to Pasadena.

Let’s leave it at that.

One last note on preparation and scheduling … there has been some consternation in the fact that Washington played last Friday, while Colorado played on Saturday, giving the Huskies an extra day of preparation.

Truth be told, it’s the Buffs who gained a little bit of an advantage.

Colorado knew that the opponent for the Pac-12 title would be either Washington or Washington State. The Buffs had just played the Cougars, so those charged with prepping opponent’s film only had to focus on one opponent – Washington. After the Huskies’ win Friday night, the opponent was a known quantity.

The Huskies, meanwhile, had to wait until Saturday night to see who their opponent would be in the title game. If CU had lost to Utah, the Huskies would have had a rematch with USC.

Not much of an advantage for the Buff coaching staff, to be sure … but playing last Saturday night instead of Friday night is not much of a disadvantage, either.

 

S – Statistics

So, when a great offense faces a great defense, who wins?

Hard to say, but here’s the thing … Colorado and Washington are both good – on both sides of the ball.

Shocking, no?

When Washington has the ball, you’ll have an offense ranked 21st in the nation (485.0 ypg.) squaring off against the No. 13 CU defense (323.8 ypg.)

When Colorado has the ball, you’ll have an offense ranked 29th in the nation (469.9 ypg.) squaring off against the No. 17 Washington defense (328.9 ypg.).

Both teams are ranked in the top 15 nationally in points allowed: UW 10th (17.8 ppg.); CU 13th (18.8 ppg).

The real difference between the two teams, if you are looking for one, is when it comes to piling on the points. Washington is 3rd in the nation in scoring, at 44.8 points per game. Colorado, meanwhile, with relatively comparable offensive statistics, is scoring ten points less per game (34.8 ppg., 36th nationally).

It will be an interesting battle, regardless of which units are on the field.

And then there is this.

Buff fans are very well aware of CU’s special teams deficiencies … 118th in the nation in net punting; 119th in punt return defense. Surprisingly enough, these are also categories in which Washington is most lacking: 125th in net punting; 96th in punt return defense.

Guess good teams don’t have to work on their punting all that often …

 

Prediction … It’s been a great run for Colorado football this season. With each week, the Buff bandwagon has taken on more and more converts.

There were several posts on the message boards the past few days about Buff fans being unable to find Buff gear in the stores … because the stores were selling out.

A nice problem to have.

Before we get to the last prediction of the regular season, I wanted to go back and see how the predictions were coming out this season.

Here is how the 2016 season have played out with your “T.I.P.S.” for the game:

My Predicted Outcome and Score …. Actual Score

Colorado 34, Colorado State 17 …. Colorado 44, CSU 7
Colorado 49, Idaho State 7 …. Colorado 56, Idaho State 7
Michigan 27, Colorado 13 …. Michigan 45, Colorado 28
Oregon 34, Colorado 21 …. Colorado 41, Oregon 38
Colorado 40, Oregon State 21 …. Colorado 47, Oregon 6
USC 27, Colorado 24 …. USC 21, Colorado 17
Colorado 37, Arizona State 21 …. Colorado 40, Arizona State 16
Colorado 24, Stanford 17 …. Colorado 10, Stanford 5
Colorado 35, UCLA 21 …. Colorado 20, UCLA 10
Colorado 34, Arizona 10 …. Colorado 49, Arizona 24
Colorado 31, Washington State 28 …. Colorado 38, Washington State 24
Colorado 31, Utah 20 …. Colorado 27, Utah 22

It adds up to an 11-1 record in predicting the outcome, with the lone misstep coming in the Oregon game (but c’mon, who saw that coming? Oregon had yet to fall apart, the game was at Autzen, and CU was coming in with a red-shirt freshman making his first career start after going 0-for-7 against Michigan the week before).

I point all of this out because I don’t want you to shoot the messenger.

Las Vegas has Washington as a seven-point favorite.

The ESPN Football Power Index gives CU a 28.3% chance of winning … or, if you would prefer, gives Washington a 71.7% chance of winning.

I have great faith in the Colorado defense. I don’t see the Washington offense, as potent as it is, running out to a 28-point first quarter explosion like it did last week against Washington State.

The thing is, I’m not sure I have as much faith in the Colorado offense. The Buffs had seven three-and-outs and two turnovers against Utah last weekend. That lack of consistent production just won’t cut it against a relentless Washington offensive attack.

If the Buffs can stay with the Huskies, and not fall behind early, the game could well come down to turnovers and special teams.

Colorado, as everyone knows, struggles on special teams. The Buffs, though, are sixth in the nation in turnovers gained (26), and eighth in the nation (+.83) in turnover margin.

That certainly gives cause for hope …

… except for the fact that Washington is first in the nation in turnovers gained (30) and first in the nation in turnover margin (+1.50).

There are scenarios in which No. 8 Colorado can upset No. 4 Washington.

I just can’t predict them coming true.

… No. 4 Washington 30, No. 8 Colorado 21 … 

 

—–

 

 

28 Replies to “Washington – A Preview”

  1. Well the interceptions didn’t help. But continuing to play Sefo was a
    Bad bad decision.

    Lingering made no adjustments. He needs to get outta here or the BUFFS
    Will never get to the next level. Fact

    He is a 2nd level oc

    1. The CU offense this year has posted most first downs … in school history.
      The CU offense this year has posted six 500-yard games … tied for the all-world 1994 offense for the most in school history.
      The highest-average per game on offense in 20 years … and in the top ten in school history.
      Damn, you are hard to please.

      If that’s “second level” … I’ll take it every year from here on out.

  2. No matter what happens tonight the Buffs are bowl bound…can you freakin’ believe it!!!!

    Tonight will be a tough game and the offense will need to match the intensity of defense and no special team mistakes. The Rise continues…CU 27 Washington 24!

    #WTTF

  3. So I readily admit I have not watched any of UW games seriously looking at them, but I have a feeling the buffs pull this one out. Here’s why:
    1. UW has faced few elite defenses and when faced by one they tend to struggle. Especially if that elite defense has a great set of DB’s. USC was able to shut browning down badly. I am sure we are watching that tape. And of all the teams that have the guys to run the same scheme as USC the Colorado defense is one of them. My bet, we rush hard, leave the db’s on an island and ask Tedrick to ball hawk. I think CU can keep UW under 24 points.
    2. CU put up points against elite defenses, not always, not consistently but they have. This is a bit of a homer pick but also recognizes that UW lost a great lb and lineman during the season. I think cu gets to 24 points.
    3. CU has a bad special teams game and follows it with a good one. This will be our good one. No mistakes, just solid special teams play.

    My pick CU 24 UW 17.

  4. Simply put, this game is more on the coaches than the players. Need the best offensive game plan since the UM or ORE game.

    STOP running: Sefo so much, the jet sweep and obvious first down runs that lead to obvious third down passes.

    Buffs have talent and heart. Put them in a good game plan, dont get sefo beat up (his accuracy suffers when he is getting hit so much) and be unpredictable on O.

    Leavitt will bring the D; the players will perform. Call a good game with no ST disasters and the Buffs win.

  5. I will be howling this tomorrow

    I gotta feeling that tonight’s gonna be a good night
    That tonight’s gonna be a good night
    That tonight’s gonna be a good, good night

    Tonight’s the night
    Let’s Buff it up
    I got my money
    Let’s spend it up

    Go out and smash it
    Like Oh My God
    Jump off that sideline
    Let’s get get off

    I know that we’ll have a ball
    If we get down
    And go out
    And just win it all

    I feel stressed out
    I wanna let it go
    Lets go way out spaced out
    And taking all control

    Fill up my cup
    Mazel Tov
    Look at them winning
    Just take it off

    Let’s paint the town
    We’ll shut it down
    Let’s burn the roof
    And then we’ll do it again

    Let’s do it, let’s do it,
    Let’s do it,
    Let’s do it, and do it, and do it,
    Let’s live it up
    And do it, and do it, and do it, do it, do it,
    Let’s do it,
    Let’s do it,
    Let’s do it

    Easy come
    Easy go
    Now we on top (top, top, top, top)

    Feel the shot
    Body rock
    Rock it don’t stop (stop, stop, stop, stop)

    Round and round
    Up and down
    Around the clock (clock, clock, clock, clock)

    Monday, Tuesday,
    Wednesday, and Thursday
    Friday, Saturday
    Saturday to Sunday

    Get get get get get with us
    You know what we say
    Win every day
    Wi wi wi win every day

    And I’m feeling (ooooo hoooo)
    That tonight’s gonna be a good night
    That tonight’s gonna be a good night
    That tonight’s gonna be a good good night

    I gotta feeling (oooooo hoooo) that tonight’s gonna be a good night
    That tonight’s gonna be a good night
    That tonight’s gonna be a good good night

    Uh Oh don’t you analysts and reporters overlook the Mighty Buffalo

  6. Gotta good feeling about this game.

    Them Buffs have not played a complete game all year. This is the one.

    Uh Oh here come the Pac 12 Champions Mighty Buffalo

    1. VK’s on fire! Hey, how ’bout this? Buffs still don’t play a complete game tomorrow, but… win another “ugly” one.

      Then? With a Clemson loss, a “defensive slug-fest” aka, terribly boring Big 10 championship game, CU gets that coveted #4 spot in the playoffs.

      Full circle. Play ‘Bama.

      THEN they put together that complete game, and shock the world, leaving Atlanta with a win.

      They go on to beat Ohio State in the national championship game.

      May as well dream big this morning.

      Go Buffs!

      1. This is my dream scenario as well, putting my Buffs in my backyard for the first round of the playoffs.

        This means I could see them prior to the highly anticipated date against Georgia Tech…in 2026.

  7. The Huskies entered this season, believing they were the new best in the PAC 12 North dethroning the Trees and Ducks and were saying so publicly. The Buffs also had some goals and a lot of Mountains to climb to get there; they, kept their first summit the (PAC 12 South Title) a lot more internal and verbal as to the next game.

    What both did really well was when the destination was still in their hands, on-the-field, they both produced.

    Now residing in WA State, I can share that they would not be as confident about tomorrow night if it was USC they were facing, as that game left its mark on their soul.

    So, if this is the slug-fest of great defenses that I think we will see, if we can get a 10 pt lead somewhere late in the 3rd or go-ahead score late in the 4th, I think that USC game will cast its shadow.

    So, my Heart of the Buffalo says, CU 24 WA 21

  8. The espn pickers

    KyleBonagura UW 24-17
    KevinGemmell UW 27-20
    ChantelJennings UW 34-24
    DavidLombardi CU 20-17
    TedMiller UW 28-24

    They always pick these low spreads. Lombardi is correct but the score will be bigger

    Kyle Bonagura: This really feels like a game that could be decided on some sort of fluky play because of how stout both defenses have been. Colorado is equipped to slow down Washington’s high-powered offense, but the Buffaloes are going to have a tough time offensively. They did just enough to get by Stanford, UCLA and Utah, but the last time they played a team this complete ended in a 21-17 loss to USC.

  9. What’s the injury situation for the Huskies? I saw somewhere that two starting linebackers are out? Every little bit helps!

  10. I have watched many different games this season, and John Ross is the fastest and most scary guy I have seen.

    I am going to hold my breath when we kick-off or punt to him. If he gets loose no one is going to run him down.

    Stop Ross from scoring, and we have a chance to win.

  11. All heart on this prediction, no head, contrary to my previous game forecasts:

    CU 31 Wash 28

    Rationale: this focused, senior laden team is like a sword, forged in the multiple year fires of adversity. They are simply tough with a will to win.

    Go Buffs, Do It!

  12. Colorado will do what they have done most of the year. Washington is not Michigan or USC. Buffs will find a way to win and it might be ugly!

  13. Looking at national stats is nice.
    Looking at conference only games in conference is also nice.

    Some stuff

    Red Zone
    Wash offense.. got in the red zone 39 times ..score 38 times 30 touchdowns
    Color Defense..Oppon in the red zone 30 times score 20 times 13 touchdowns

    Wash Defense..oppo in the red zone 33 times score24 times 10 touchdowns
    Colorado offense..got in the red zone 37 times score 33 times 23 touchdowns

    I have looked at every conceivable conference stat

    The damn thing is pretty darn even across the board. What stands out is that Washington has more long gain plays on offense.

    gonna have to limit that deal to zero.

    Still say Buffs win. If the offense is not the old way offense. This is gonna have to be the “offense of the future” that keeps being brought up…..as recently today.

    Go Buffs

  14. Yup this game is gonna require zero errors by the Special Teams. Zero. The coverage has to be outstanding and the kicks out of the endzone. Gotta make the extra points as I believe, and hope, the Buffs go Red-Zone crazy.

    Defense has to play great which they are capable of and you know Leavitt will have them ready, a great game plan, make great play calls and adjustments as required. Gonna have to pound that frosh qb early and often. Some exotic blitz crap out of the chute and then settle in.

    Offense needs to score on that first drive. Gotta have it. No three and outs.

    Go Buffs.

    If lindgren/chiaverini can step up, the Buffs win 42 to 30. (maybe only 20). If not the Buffs have no chance.

    And Sefo cannot get hurt. Game changer.

  15. I understand completely about the TIPS for this game. Something tells me though that CU is not going to roll over for the Sake of the PAC 12 that has so viciously shown no mercy over first 4 years to my Alma Mater. That being said i do feel this game will go one of two ways:

    1) The Buffs hang with Washington through the first three quarters and Washington pulls away at the end. Washington 35 Colorado 21

    2) Buffs Play lights out in all phases (including special teams [gulp]) and surprise Washington on two (yes two) trick plays for scores keeping it close throughout and eventually shocking the nation. Buffs 42 Washington 38

    Defense gets 2 turnovers

  16. The only way we loose this game, imo, is if we are just totally gassed from our last couple of weeks. Otherwise, I think our D will give Washington’s offense the same struggles that they had against Utah and USC. If Liufau can be consistent (and not fumble) there is no reason this game won’t come down to the 4th Quarter. At that point, it will be the team that wants it more… and that will be our Buffs!

  17. I get the pick. You are using your brain. We know where your heart lies. I feel the same way…. and, yet….. I also remember our last championship win against Texas. We were underdogs then too. College football is a funny game sometimes. I think that CU shows up and puts it all together shocking the Pac 12.

    Colorado 41 – Washington 30

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