Colorado v. No. 7 Washington Preview: “T.I.P.S.” for CU’s shot at redemption


The Colorado/Washington game has been circled on the calendar for the Buff Nation since last December 2nd, when the No. 4 Huskies dominated the No. 8 Buffs, 41-10, in the Pac-12 championship game.

Time for payback? Time for revenge? Time for redemption?

Perhaps not.

“I think it’s about proving to ourselves that we’re capable of playing in the Pac-12 and we’re capable of playing for a Pac-12 championship,” Buffs cornerback Isaiah Oliver said at Tuesday’s weekly press conference. “That starts this Saturday. Opening up Pac-12 play, we know we have to take our game to the next level. We’re not really looking at it as a big game against Washington, we’re looking at it as a big game in the Pac-12 as a whole. It wouldn’t matter which team we’re playing, just opening up Pac-12 play is a big deal for us.”

Buff fans are certainly hoping that this game will be a “big deal” for the CU players. There are concerns that the team hasn’t played its last two opponents like they were “big deals”, and may not be capable of staying with the Huskies.

We’ll find out soon enough …


This week’s “T.I.P.S.” for CU v. No. 7 Washington … Saturday, 8:00 p.m., MT, FS1


T – Talent 

The past two weeks, you had to look long and hard to find players on the opposing roster who scared you.

Now the Buffs face a team with a roster where you have to look long and hard to find players who don’t scare you.

Texas State, near the bottom of the FBS, and Northern Colorado, near the middle of the FCS, weren’t loaded with NFL-caliber talent.

This just in … Washington has such talent.

Where to start?

Quarterback Jake Browning actually has fewer passing yards so far this season than does Steven Montez (858 yards for Montez; 798 yards for Browning), but that is largely due to Browning not being needed to finish games. Other than a first half scare against Rutgers (30–14 final), the Huskies have been coasting (beating Montana 63-7 and Fresno State 48-16), with Browning’s talents not necessary for the full 60 minutes.

Last year, Browning threw for 43 touchdowns and nine interceptions, and has an 8-to-1 ratio so far this season. Browning is very good, but here’s the worrisome part: In the Pac-12 championship game last season, Browning was held to 9-of-24 passing for 118 yards by CU’s top 20 defense … and the Huskies still won going away, 41-10.

Browning’s weapons?

Myles Gaskin is Washington’s leading rusher, with a 6.4 yards per carry average and three touchdowns in limited action so far this season. Gaskin has rushed for over 2,600 yards the past two seasons, and had 159 yards against the Buffs last December.

The leading receiver is a name Buff fans will be hearing about a great deal this week.

Dante Pettis has 12 receptions for 209 yards (a nifty 17.4 yards per carry) and three touchdowns. Pettis has mostly made a name for himself, however, as a punt returner. In the first three games of the 2017 season, Pettis has three punt returns for touchdowns, including a 77-yarder against Fresno State last weekend.

Pettis now has eight punt returns for touchdowns in his career, tying the NCAA-record. With a punt return for a touchdown against Colorado, Pettis would break the career record, while also setting a new record for consecutive games with a punt return touchdown in four straight games.

If he does, Pettis will come full circle, with his first punt return for a score having come against … Colorado. Three years ago in Boulder, Pettis, then a true freshman receiver, scored the first touchdown of his career on a 28-yard reception. Later in the game, he had an 87-yard punt return for touchdown – the first punt return score by a Husky in 11 years.

CU punter Alex Kinney has only allowed two punt returns so far this season, but if the Buffs kick to Pettis Saturday night … well, they get what they deserve (Rocket Ismail, anyone?).

It being a given that the Washington offense has weapons, is CU’s best hope to play for a shootout against the Huskies, with the CU offense going point-for-point against the Washington offense?

That will be tough.

Washington is ranked 14th in the nation in total defense, giving up only 261.7 yards per game. And that’s not a fluke … last season the Huskies were ranked 12th in the nation in defense. Linebacker Azeem Victor (No. 36) is on almost everyone’s All-American list. The defensive line? Suffice it to say that it is better than anything the Buffs have seen so far in 2017.

Washington is ranked 13th in scoring defense … right behind the Buffs, who are 4th in the nation in scoring defense.

Those small sample rankings would suggest a low-scoring game.

We can only hope.

With a low-scoring game, the contest can come down to turnovers and momentum, and, with any luck, some Folsom Field magic.


I – Intangibles

Were the Buffs bluffing?

Is it humanly possible that the Buffs have looked so … what’s a kind word? … mediocre so far in 2017, because they have holding back in hopes of catching the Huskies off-guard?

Not likely.

The Buffs were looking for a “complete game” against Northern Colorado (Mike MacIntyre’s words, not mine).

The term “complete game”, though, can only be applied if CU’s head coach was referring to his starters having to stay in for the full sixty minutes.

Instead of getting reps for the backups due to a blowout, the Buffs were forced to play backups as their starters were heading to the locker room after being assessed targeting penalties.

Can the Buffs just “turn the switch”, and not make mistakes (e.g., 14 penalties v. Northern Colorado, to go with two red zone turnovers) which will cost them the game this weekend?

“I feel like we’ve been preparing for Pac-12 play ever since we lost last year against Oklahoma State,” said Isaiah Oliver, who draws the unenviable task of guarding Dante Pettis. “This is something we’ve been working for, getting ready to get back to the Pac-12 Championship. All of the guys are excited and fired up and ready to go.”

Fingers crossed.


P – Preparation / Schedule

In the preseason lists of “easy” non-conference schedules, Colorado was often mentioned. The Buffs did have to face in-state rival Colorado State, but the two other non-conference games were both at home, and came against less-than-stellar competition.

Also on that national preseason list of cushy non-conference slates – often ranked even higher (lower?) than Colorado – was Washington. The Huskies did open on the road, but against a Rutgers team which went 2-10 last season (beating Howard and New Mexico) before heading home to take on Montana from the Big Sky Conference, and woeful Fresno State.

Both teams, as a result, could have been forgiven for pointing towards this weekend as the first big game of the 2017 season.

But … is Washington really even looking forward to this game?

Last year, Colorado beat Colorado State, 44-7, and Buff fans were dismissive of the Rams’ chances against CU this fall.

Last year, Washington beat Colorado, 41-10 … any reason why the Huskies shouldn’t be dismissive of the Buffs’ chances against Washington this fall?

Following that logic, an argument can actually be made that Washington will be on cruise control until November. After facing the Buffs, the schedule for the Huskies through the end of October: at Oregon State; California; at Arizona State; bye week; UCLA.

Washington’s November to remember is still a ways off: Oregon; at Stanford; Utah; Washington State.

While Saturday’s game will be the culmination of nine month’s of waiting for Colorado, it’s just another hurdle for the Huskies on their way to the College Football Playoffs.

Advantage: Colorado.


S – Statistics

A valid argument can be made that, even though the season is already one-fourth done, that 2017 season statistics remain irrelevant. Until we get into conference play, and teams have to face a more balanced schedule of opponents, you are comparing apples to oranges.

But, hey, I like statistics:

— Even after giving up three touchdowns to a fair-to-middling Big Sky Conference school, Colorado remains fourth in the nation in scoring defense. The Buffs are surrendering only 6.75 points per game (Washington is 13th, giving up 12.3 ppg.);

— After the Buffs gave up a surprise early touchdown to Northern Colorado, the Buffs quickly responded, erasing their only deficit of the season. To date, the Buffs have been in the lead for 150:55 of game clock, trailing only 1:49 (and tied for 27:16);

— CU has had 12 red zone opportunities, with ten scores (six touchdowns; four field goals). Not great, but the Buff defense has been perfect, not allowing a touchdown in four opponent penetrations of the red zone (two field goals). The Buff defense has yet to face a goal-to-go situation, while the CU offense has four touchdowns in four goal-to-go opportunities;

— Stat No. 1 to track Saturday night … Colorado is 17th in the nation in third-down conversion defense (12-for-47, .255), while Washington is 26th in the nation in third-down conversion defense (14-for-49, .286). Win this statistic – win the game;

— Stat No. 2 to track Saturday night … Colorado and Washington are tied for 14th in the nation in turnovers forced, with seven apiece. If the Buffs are to have any chance of beating the Huskies, this stat has to fall in favor of Colorado; and

— Odd Stat of the Week: Colorado is one of only two teams in the country which has yet to return a kickoff.


Bottom Line … It may sound strange – as many Buff fans are awaiting Saturday’s kickoff with trepidation – but the Washington game actually presents Colorado with a golden opportunity.

An opportunity the Buffs haven’t had in almost a year … a contest in which they have almost everything to gain, and almost nothing to lose.

Since last year’s game against USC, expectations for the Buffs have been ramped up … and up …and up. There was the first-ever win over Arizona State; then the first-ever win on the road over Stanford; the first win over UCLA as a member of the Pac-12; the first win over ranked teams (Washington State and Utah) in almost a decade; the first-ever Pac-12 title game; the first bowl game since 2007 …

This weekend, what are the expectations of the Buffs?

Keep it close? Be respectable? Don’t get embarrassed?

That’s a pretty low threshold for a team which has won 13 of its last 17 games.

A team ranked just outside of the Top 25 in the nation, a team which is 3-0, a team which is playing at home … is still a ten-point underdog.

Washington has lived up to expectations so far in 2017; the Buffs have not.

“To me, that’s a good thing,” Mike MacIntyre said of the criticism his team has faced for not playing better to start the season. “Everybody is talking different about us. It might be a negative thought or a negative vibe – ‘Well, they can’t do this; they’re not ready for this’ – but I’m glad we’re not celebrating and having parades in the street that we’re 3-0.

“We want to do something better than that. Hopefully we can.”

We’ll see.

I would love to believe that the Buffs will have figured out their offensive line issues by Saturday night.

I would love to see the CU defensive line control the line of scrimmage against the Washington offense.

I would love to see the Buff secondary keep Husky receivers from getting behind them for long scores.

I would love for the Buffs to be able to say “we told you so” to the college football world, and find themselves as a top 20 team in the rankings Sunday.

I just don’t see it.

If Colorado falls to No. 7 Washington, the season will not be over. It will not be a disaster.

Most Buff fans would have predicted a 3-1 start to the season. There will still be plenty to play for after this Saturday.

Prove me wrong, Buffs.

No. 7 Washington 38, Colorado 20


19 Replies to “CU v. Washington – A Preview”

  1. Such negativity in the predictions, so it bears repeating:

    “We arent the better team over a season, but we dont have to be. We just have to be better THAT DAY”

    Anyone who has played at a decent level of competition knows that UNC and TxST are difficult for a team to look at anymore than a scrimmage (and it showed): noon games, no excitement, in the heat when you’re still digesting breakfast ?

    But tomorrow….. Buffs will have a extra gear we havent seen yet this year. Focus the adrenaline into positive energy and not mistakes….look out.

    one score game either way, but lower scoring with the Buffs winning. We channel Ronnie Bradford for a blocked PAT early, hold on late when the altitude gasses the Dogs and do just enough on offense to win an alley fight.

  2. My examination of the stars and unusual shifts in distant areas of the universe indicates that U-Dub will go long ball, early and often. Jake Browning may channel Daryle Lamonica.

  3. Colorado will have to play perfect to win. Unfortunately i just don’t see that happening. The Offensive line is not a cohesive unit , the DB’s got beat deep against NOCO and Montez has issues over and under throwing receivers as well as throwing to the wrong shoulder. Don’t get me wrong Montez shows flashes of what could be coming. Steven has time to improve and get better but that is a long way off maybe even into next year.I love the BUFFS and want them to win but the first PAC12 win of 2017 will have to wait another week.


    GO BUFFS !!!!!

  4. Yo Stuart,

    Like you, I just don’t see it. The Buffs have the players to compete physically, but they don’t seem to be in mentally this year. The young guys won 10 last year (and the real young ones are seeing the field for the first time) and don’t have that years of hardship burning in their souls to finally be on a winning team.

    More importantly, I think the defensive coordinators have caught on to how predictable our play calling is. We keep expecting growth from the players but don’t seem to be holding our coaches to the same standard. Mac’s comment that one of his captain’s “Doesn’t know what he’s talking about” spoke volumes about a possible rift on the team. I hope I’m wrong about that but have a sneaking feeling that not everything is hunky dorey despite Mac’s claims.

    The talent on this team will still carry the Buffs to a bowl game, but being outcoached on game day is a daunting problem. Mac built the program back, has trained the guys to Pac-12 players, but the coaches don’t seem to respond to game day situations.

    This is a chance for the play calling to surprise people and for the Buffs to take a big victory. Or not. We’ll see if the coaches as well as the players can rise to the occasion.


    1. More importantly, I think the defensive coordinators have caught on to how predictable our play calling is. We keep expecting growth from the players but don’t seem to be holding our coaches to the same standard….

      That Mark is an apparent issue.

      Last year the D was good because of the players. Little credit given to the coach. So this year? Not the same players. Not the same coach. The coach has made the difference just like last year

      On the O side nothing has changed. Oh wait different QB etc but same coaches.
      It looks like “Dejavu (sp) ” all over again.

      OH well………..Go big super secret Lindy offensive plan.


      Note: Would really like to say the offense is average because of the players, but gotta put it on the OC’s. Talent on the field is better than the talent in the press box

  5. I had the following thoughts. CU hung with Washington through a half of football and then imploded with turn-overs driving the score way out. Then we moved towards a pass focused offense that allowed Washington to control the clock and grind on offense and pin their ears back on defense. The offense couldn’t move the ball in that environment and the defense got tired eventually.

    Keep it close, no mistakes. Keep running a balanced offense. Let our altitude take it out of them. It will slow them down in the 4th quarter.

    I agree that CU has not shown that they can beat a Washington yet. But I believe this is a new team still trying to find their groove. If they find it Saturday it could be a great game. 28-24 CU.

    If CU continues to get avoidable penalties and turns the ball over it will get out of control 48-17.

    Go Buffs.

  6. Stuart, another nice, balanced article. Always enjoy the “T.I.P.S”.

    Wash 38 CU 17

    I love it that Buffs are 3-0 but last week’s game had to be the most frustrating 20 point win to watch in a long time. It seems, for various reasons, that the team has not gelled yet. Here is to hoping that it does gel and produces a win and a game to the remember.

  7. Stuart great job as usual, didn’t think of it until now hence didn’t make it into your formal feedback efforts….just thinking one of the reasons I come here is of course b/c you do a great job aggregating content. Living in SEA I read these today:

    and esp. interesting:

    So just thought an idea would be Weekly also featuring stories from the opposing team’s home ‘paper’. Thanks!!

  8. Everything will hinge on whether or not Montez can go through his progressions and make post-snap reads quickly, rather than deciding on who he’s throwing to before the snap. Washington should press coverage on the X/Y receivers to take away quick slants and force Montez to make multiple reads. Colorado will look to move the pocket around and set-up 1-read run-pass option plays for Montez, but you can’t do that every play.

    If Montez is comfortable sliding around in the pocket, looking at what the safeties are doing first and checking down quickly when Fields/Ross/Bobo aren’t open, then CU will be able to take pressure off the run game, control possession, and allow its defense to be aggressive.

    If Montez isn’t comfortable, gets sacked early, and allows Washington to bring extra defenders into the box to stop Lindsey (without fear of Montez’s arm), then CU will have quick possessions and the defense will be gassed by the third quarter.

    Montez hasn’t shown that he can make those reads consistently this season, though.

    Washington 31 Colorado 10

    1. Agreed, another way to look at it is the Oline play. We lost last year b/c we were dominated on both lines (see Brownings Stat Line and the Score). Unfortunately early results from the Oline are not promising and still fear physically there will be drop off from the Dline just from the attrition. Hence the overall apprehension.

      Personally very excited to see us compete though, think we will give great effort and make Buff Nation proud win/lose.

  9. The Buffs are going to have to do a whole lot more than they have against the level of competition that we have played so far. Our defense is ranked where they should be given who they have played. Sorry this week is a different story. We are not ready for this caliber of team yet and may not be ready this season. WU 42 CU 10

  10. We arent the better team over a season, but we dont have to be. We just have to be better THAT DAY.

    I dunno, Folsom Field under the lights…..Buffs find a way. Not pretty, not perfect, but some old time magic that makes no sense other than that the football gods smile on the good guys for a day…..

    23-19 Buffs…….a tense last few minutes; the D holding off a late TD drive after blocking a PAT early.

  11. It’s like this: CU is a good team. Top 20-ish. They are not yet an elite top 10 team. As much as I wish they were.

    Can they get there this year? Maybe. Can it start Saturday?

    Why not?!

    If they play Colorado Football (keep the pace, move the chains, don’t make dumb mistakes that kill their drives, or keep UW’s going) and, get a couple big plays to go their way? They can steal this win.

    Buffs 38, UW 35. (Stefanou game winner, perhaps?)

    Go Buffs!

    1. And don’t forget

      The offensive game plan, play design, play calling,
      and in game adjustments need to be outstanding

      Hopefully this the case. I just don’t wanna see any booth
      shots of a befuddled OC

      And the defense. Hold em to thirty and surely
      the highly acclaimed Buff offense will show the world
      and do there part


  12. I just don’t see it yet either, Stuart. We’re still not physical enough in our line play to compete with the big boys. Washington has improved since we played them last and we haven’t yet. Maybe someday, but not yet. UW 41 CU 13.

    We’ll know we’ve arrived when, like Washington has thus far this year, we take care of business by halftime against lower-level talent and are able to get quality reps for our backups…so that they are ready to keep the high level of play going when it’s their turn to start. THIS is a trademark of a top 15 team.

  13. Assuming the effort is there, why not, I see turnovers being a/the path to a Buff’s WIN. That means we have 0 and we takeaway 2 from the Huskies.

    And, keep the ball out of Pettis’s hands returning or receiving.

    And of course, hold down their running game and 3rd down conversions.

    And that is just, on the Defensive side, the Offense will need multiple time consuming scoring drives.

    CU 27 – UW 24 Buff’s WIN

Leave a Reply

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