Colorado at UCLA Preview: “T.I.P.S.” for CU’s first road game of the year


Colorado is 3-1 on the season, right about where everyone had them pegged a month ago. Three wins in the soft non-conference schedule, followed by a loss against a top ten team in Washington.

Now, the silly season begins.

Other than a pretty likely win over Oregon State, the worst team in the Pac-12, and a pretty likely loss to USC, currently the best team in the Pac-12, there are six other games remaining on the schedule which will decide where CU fits into the 2017 Pac-12 pecking order. As it stands now, you can make an argument for CU beating UCLA, Arizona, Washington State, California, Arizona State, and Utah …

… you could also make a case for CU losing most, if not all, of those games.

Will the Buffs rise to the occasion against UCLA? Or will the Buffs continue to under-perform?

We’ll see …


This week’s “T.I.P.S.” for CU at UCLA … Saturday, 8:30 p.m., MT, ESPN2


T – Talent 

So, you want the bad news, or the good news?

Let’s start with the bad news.

For a Colorado defensive unit which had to wait until the end of the Washington game to introduce themselves to Husky quarterback Jake Browning (one quarterback hurry, no sacks), it’s a bad time to be facing UCLA’s quarterback Josh Rosen and the Bruin offense.

UCLA is averaging 45.0 points per game (ninth in the nation; second in the Pac-12), 571.8 total yards (fifth in the nation; first in the Pac-12) and 451.8 yards in the air (first in the nation).

Or, if you prefer easier to digest numbers, UCLA has scored 24 touchdowns in four games … an average of six touchdowns per game.

Josh Rosen is leading the nation in passing yards per game (440.8) and passing touchdowns (16), and is 20th in passing efficiency (161.9). In last weekend’s 58-34 loss to Stanford, Rosen completed 40-of-60 passes for 480 yards and three touchdowns.

Holy scoring machine, Batman!

“He looks really good, he’s healthy now, I think he’s confident,” said Mike MacIntyre of Rosen. “He’s got good weapons and I think he completely understand their passing system. That gives him confidence to go in there and do well. He’s got some ridiculous numbers there’s no doubt about it. So, hopefully if we could just cut those numbers in half he’d still have pretty good numbers, but not ridiculous.”

As you might expect, there are several Bruin wide receivers who are ranked highly nationally. Senior Darren Andrews has 32 receptions for 457 yards (8th nationally) and seven touchdowns (tied for first nationally), while sophomore Caleb Wilson has 32 receptions for 425 yards (13th nationally). Both wideouts were added to the Biletnikoff Award watch list just this week.

A little more perspective on UCLA’s offensive output … The Bruins’ No. 3 receiver, Jordan Lasley, is ranked 38th in the country in receiving yards (320 yards; three touchdowns). Lasley is ranked well ahead of CU’s No. 1 wide receiver, Shay Fields (50th in the nation with 293 receiving yards; two touchdowns).

Okay, how about some good news?

Well, UCLA’s defense is bad.

As in 2016 Oregon defense bad.

Last weekend, Stanford’s Bryce Love rushed for a career-high 263 yards as part of the Cardinal’s 405-yard rushing evening. The Cardinal rolled to a 58-34 victory, with Stanford scoring 35 second half points to pull away.

The Bruins actually allowed only six points and 73 yards on the first five Stanford drives. They rode the energy of their senior leaders Jaleel Wadood and Kenny Young, who both returned after a one-game absence. Wadood and Young led the Bruins with 11 tackles each, but the defense slowly unraveled. Missed tackles led to big plays. Fifteen-yard penalties extended drives and the Bruins lost a third player in as many games to targeting when Adarius Pickett was ejected in the first quarter (Pickett was lost for the remainder of the Stanford game, but will be back in the lineup against the Buffs).

“We were playing well on defense and we were stopping the run and we were stopping the pass and then it just, it went south on us,” UCLA head coach Jim Mora said. “We couldn’t get stops and the guys started to try too hard and we over-pursued and missed tackles.”

UCLA is 2-2 on the season, a record-setting 34-point rally to defeat Texas A&M, 45-44, away from being 1-3. The Bruins are giving up 43.3 points per game, 124th in the nation (out of 130 FBS teams).

If ever there was a Pac-12 opponent (not named Oregon State) to get your offensive act together against, it would be UCLA.

The real issue, then, is not whether CU can score against UCLA.

It’s whether the Buffs can out-score the Bruins.


I – Intangibles

Momentum is a curious beast.

The Buffs had it early against Washington, marching smartly down the field in the game’s opening drive, taking the lead over the favored Huskies.

Then came the blocked punt, and the momentum shifted.

For the next two quarters, the Buffs were on their heels, but stayed within a touchdown. A big play from the Buffs somewhere in the second or third quarters, and the outcome of the game would have remained very much in doubt.

Then came the interception for a touchdown late in the third quarter, and the momentum shifted to the Washington sideline for good.

Last weekend, UCLA stayed with Stanford for over a half, actually leading 13-6 in the second quarter. The Bruins trailed only 23-20 in the third quarter before the flood gates opened and a close game turned into a rout.

The question which needs to be answered by the 2017 Buffs is whether they can take a punch and fight back and pull out a victory. Can they assume a lead, then hold it? Can they face an early deficit, and respond in kind against a porous defense?

In last season’s tide-turning victory over Oregon, the Buffs raced out to a big lead on the road, only to see that lead evaporate. The offense then retook the lead, with the defense making a final stand with an end zone interception by Ahkello Witherspoon in the final minute.

Does the 2017 team have similar moxie?

The Bruins have a 34-point comeback victory on their resume.

The Buffs have yet to prove themselves in a similar manner.

Advantage: UCLA.


P – Preparation / Schedule

For the fifth straight week, the Buffs will be wearing home colors.

UCLA has decided that the CU game at the Rose Bowl will be a “white out”, with the Bruins wearing all white uniforms. This leaves the Buffs wearing black-and-silver for their first true road game of the season.

So the Buffs won’t be wearing road white uniforms this weekend … which is nice.

Now, as to the upcoming schedules for both teams …

Oddly enough, both teams will face Arizona as their next opponent.

The Buffs will face the Wildcats at home next Saturday (6:00 p.m., MT, Pac-12 Networks), while the Bruins have a bye next weekend before taking to the road to face Arizona in the desert.

Colorado has another game to begin preparing for, while the Bruins can focus all of their attention on the game at hand, with an extra week before worrying about their next game.

Advantage: UCLA.

There is another Pac-12 game this weekend which will play a role in the CU/UCLA matchup.

On Friday night, after their team meetings, the teams will have the option of settling in to watch USC at Washington State (7:30 p.m., PT, ESPN).

The Trojans are undefeated, and ranked No. 5 in the nation. USC already has a victory over Stanford, and avoids Washington in divisional play. A win over No. 16 Washington State will mean that the most difficult Pac-12 North games for the Trojans will be out of the way.

Where I’m going with this … barring an upset by Washington State, USC is not likely to lose two games in conference play. If the Trojans lose to the Cougars, however, the Pac-12 South remains an open contest.

This just in … the loser of the CU/UCLA game will be all alone in the Pac-12 basement, with an 0-2 record (Arizona is 0-1, but doesn’t play this weekend).

The winner of the Buff/Bruin game will be alive in the race for the Pac-12 South.

The loser will be all but eliminated.

No pressure.


S – Statistics

The UCLA offense has been putting up some gaudy statistics. Looking for a little encouragement? Below are UCLA’s first five opponents, with the first number being their national total defense ranking; the second, scoring defense:

  • Texas A&M – 92nd … 96th
  • Hawaii – 94th … 106th
  • Memphis – 116th … 108th
  • Stanford – 108th … 70th
  • Colorado – 40th …20th

Granted, UCLA’s offense had something to do with adding to these high (low?) national rankings by their opponents, but they are not totally based upon outings against the Bruins.

Translation: Colorado’s defense, for all of its struggles and issues, is the best UCLA has faced so far in 2017. Hopefully, the Buffs will be able to – at the very least – slow down the Bruin juggernaut.

When the opposing offense is averaging six touchdowns per game, it sounds like a good strategy to keep the ball out of the hands of the opposing offense.  The problem is … UCLA doesn’t need much time to score. In piling up an average of 45.0 points per game, the Bruins are holding onto the ball just 25:42 per game, 119th in the nation.

Odd stat of the week … Hard as it may seem to believe, but Colorado has been dominant in the first quarter so far this season. The Buffs have out-scored their opponents, 38-7, in the first quarter, with the only points being surrendered to Northern Colorado (UCLA, meanwhile, has been out-scored, 30-27, in the first quarter in its first four games).


Bottom Line … The first month of the 2016 season was a crescendo, with momentum building each week.

Colorado opened with thumping of Colorado State, giving the Buff Nation encouragement.

The following week, the Buffs manhandled Idaho State, 56-14, never giving any hint of a letdown.

The following week, the Buffs took an early lead on the road against Michigan, and, but for losing their quarterback to injury, may have pulled off an upset.

The following week, the Buffs shocked the college football world, taking out Oregon (before it was known that everyone would be taking out Oregon).

Each week, the excitement built. Each week, confidence, both inside and outside the Champions Center, continued to grow.

Compare the first month of the 2017 season.

Colorado defeated Colorado State, 17-3, but were far from impressive (some would argue lucky). Mike MacIntyre said in the post-game press conference, “We’ll correct it. We’ll move on”.

Hardly words of celebration.

The following week, the Buffs were supposed to have everything corrected. Instead, Colorado advanced in fits and starts. It was a 37-3 final over Texas State, but still no great cause for joy.

The following week, the Buffs were supposed to have everything corrected. Instead, they found themselves in a dog fight (28-21 in the third quarter) against a Northern Colorado team which couldn’t handle Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in its 2016 finale.

The following week, the Buffs were supposed to have everything corrected, and be well motivated for a game they had been anticipating for nine months. Instead, the Buffs had a good opening drive, but didn’t reach the red zone the remainder of the game. In the second half, Washington out-scored Colorado, 27-3, in a 37-10 rout.

This week, the Buffs are supposed to have everything corrected. The offense is going up against one of the worst defenses in the nation.

“We’re not concerned at all,” wide receiver Juwann Winfree said when asked about the Buffs’ sluggish start. “We’re keeping our heads high, but it is a little frustrating, because we’re so close to breaking out and exploding. It’s just the little mistakes that hold us back each time. I feel that we’re really close to breaking out and this week we need to put it all together, and I feel that we will.”

I’d like to believe that this will be the week that the Buffs live up to expectations. The week that the Buffs play a complete game. The week that the defense gets pressure on an opposing quarterback. The week that the line opens gaping holes for Phillip Lindsay, and keeps Steven Montez on his feet and in the pocket.

I’d like to believe.

The Buffs are 3-1, which is right where we figured they would be at this point in the young season. But the way they have gotten to that 3-1 record has been troubling, with the results yet to match expectations.

Sorry, but I just can’t see the Buffs out-scoring the Bruins.

UCLA 38, Colorado 30


14 Replies to “CU at UCLA – A Preview”

  1. Well Stuart I think you have this one spot on; I just hope the Buff’s Red Zone D is up for this one and we force @ least 3 field goals. If so, and the ‘offense’ comes to life, so maybe, just maybe, CU 38 – UCLA 30.

  2. I think tonight is a big game for CU. This looks like one of those 50-50 games that CU has a realistic shot at winning but, if they make a habit of losing these games they will wind up with a losing season. I think a winning season and a minor bowl bid can help maintain the momentum Mac II has started to build from last year. I hope the defense manages to slow them down and the offence scores 40 or more points for the victory. CU 41, UCLA 37

  3. I think the BUFFS get back on track with a better effort as a team and surprise everyone. They need to win games like this on the road.

    CU 33 – UCLA 21

    GO BUFFS !!!!!

  4. Defense wins. Regurgitating Stuart’s #’s, UCLA’s stats might be a tad over-inflated.
    Texas A&M – 92nd … 96th
    Hawaii – 94th … 106th
    Memphis – 116th … 108th
    Stanford – 108th … 70th
    Those are bad defenses. Strength on strength – Buffs secondary against their passing game. Lindsay big game. 42-38 Buffs.

  5. Stu I know that you have an incredible track record with predicting games correctly but I have to disagree with you on this one… I mean that UCLA defense is absolutely terrible Hawaii put u p five or six hundred yards. I’m really hoping and expecting a CU victory.

  6. I’m going w/ the ol’ cliche “lose big, lose small, win small, win big”. CU’s still in the “win small” part of that climb out of the basement.

    CU and UCLA are an interesting comparison right now, teams with unrealized potential. UCLA’s roster is arguably much better than CU’s. CU’s coaching is arguably much better than UCLA’s (if you go by who gets the most out of the talent they have).

    Both teams face a pivotal point in their seasons. Not make or break, but definitely an important game to put it together and get a nice win.

    I’m saying the Buffs D remains stout, special teams break through (KD returns one for a touchdown) and the offense begins to find its mojo. Not sure it’ll be pretty – pretty sure it won’t be – but?

    CU 35 UCLA 31.

    Go Buffs.

  7. Gotta get the running game going when opposing defenses play prevent the whole game. In the first four games the opposition defenses have been playing with two safeties really deep (10 to 15 yards). If the Buffs can’t run against that alignment, it’s going to be very difficult to get anything else established.

  8. This is the week the Buffs get it together. The offense scores 38 points, takes the early lead, and gets the running game going vs. the soft UCLA defense. Follow the script that Stanford used.

    Buffs force UCLA to play catch up, leading to the picks in the 2nd half.

    Final score – CU 38, UCLA 24.

  9. Going on the road for the first time will be interesting. I sure hope it helps to give them the fresh perspective they need right now. UCLA is in decline, but for this game, they’re a cornered animal scraping to survive. Hope it doesn’t get cheap shot ugly as it has the last few years with them. Not a Mora fan because of it. Bruins 48 Buffs 28.

  10. Yo Stuart,

    I hope that MacIntyre and staff take a good hard look at last year’s game against UCLA. And not just play until the whistle. A great deal of the important stuff last year came after the whistle, as Bruin head coach Jim Mora had his guys taking cheap shots over and over. They did so to get in the heads and under the skin of the Buffaloes and Mike MacIntyre. It worked like a charm, too. Mac was having a tizzy fit on the sidelines while Mora looked cool as a cucumber.

    The Buffs were the better team last year, and should be better this year. But, the Buffs need to keep their composure on the road or this game could get really ugly. Most of the players on these two teams know each other well. The ones at UCLA were more highly recruited and mouth off to emphasize it. Last year, the Buffs were finally the better team. This year, they need to do their jobs and avoid the street-fight mentality.


  11. I feel that our D will be much better than UCLA’s D and though our O will not be as good as UCLA’s O, the O will (coming from the heart) play its best game of the season, if not because of Lindgren’s play calling then a desire by the receivers to make it happen, even if it is yards after the catch, and by the O line finally getting mad enough about its underachieving ways to do something about it. Plus, the players will play commensurately with their cool (IMO) “Black Ops” uniforms. With all heart, no head:

    CU 45 UCLA 38

    Go Buffs!!!

  12. It’s purely gut on this one…for whatever reason I feel going on the road will be good for the team. Buffs vs. the world, we played well with that attitude and chip on our shoulder last year.
    Right now I see Rosen as Jeff George and Bengals version of Palmer…great stats and talent but just make costly mistakes at the wrong time. Overlaid with the traditionally mentally weak Bruins and I see us finally hitting some big plays and pulling this one out ala OU w/late pick to seal the game.

    Shoulder to Shoulder

Leave a Reply

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