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“T.I.P.S.” for CU’s attempt for first-ever Pac-12 win over Washington

No sense dwelling on the details of the 31-20 loss to USC … it feels too much like re-hashing a game from the 2017 season.

The optics were bad – The Buffs finished with season lows in points (20), total yards (265) and passing yards (170). USC’s defense finished with 16 tackles for loss — including four sacks — which led to Colorado averaging just 1.5 yards on first down plays. Colorado had just 95 yards rushing,  and it took a 49-yard touchdown run from Laviska Shenault to even get to that number.

And now the Buffs are taking on an even more established defense. Washington ranks in the top 20 nationally in total defense and scoring defense.

“You have to love a challenge,” CU offensive coordinator Darrin Chiaverini said. “That’s why we do what we do. If you’re scared, you’re in the wrong business. You have to have the mindset that you’re going to compete. If you’re going to be the best in the conference, you have to beat the best and they’ve been one of the best since I’ve been here.”

Colorado has been listed as a 16-point underdog for this weekend’s trip to Washington.

I’d consider that to be a challenge.

 

This week’s “T.I.P.S.” for CU at No. 15 Washington … Saturday, 1:30 p.m. MT, Fox

 

T – Talent 

While Washington quarterback Jake Browning has his share of detractors, there are some numbers Browning has put up over the course of his four years in Seattle which can’t be ignored:

  • Career passing yards – 10,855 … 10th on the all-time Pac-12 career list
  • Career touchdown passes  – 88 … tied for 7th on the all-time Pac-12 career list
  • Career total offense – 11,025 – 10th on the all-time Pac-12 career list

And its not just the career numbers which have the Buff coaches worried, it’s Browning’s ability to extend plays. “He’s extremely accurate; he knows where he wants to go with the football,” said Mike MacIntyre. “People say he’s not a scrambler, but he knows how to keep plays alive and keeps his eyes downfield, making pass after pass”.

If the Buffs key on the Husky passing game too much, however, there is another Washington player making his way up the Pac-12 career lists. Running back Myles Gaskin:

  • Career rushing yards – 4,678 … 6th on the all-time Pac-12 career list
  • Career rushing touchdowns – 50 … 5th on the all-time Pac-12 career list

With 337 more rushing yards this season, Gaskin will become the first running back in the history of the Pac-12 to rush for over 1,000 yards in all four seasons of his collegiate career.

All that, and the Washington offense is not the reason that the Huskies have spent the entire season ranked in the top 15 in the nation.

The Huskies are 15th in the nation in passing defense (178.6 yards/game); 17th in the nation in total defense (315.7 yards/game); and, most importantly, tied for 10th in the nation in scoring defense (16.0 points/game).

Linebacker Ben Burr-Kirven is the player to keep an eye out for. Burr-Kirven has led the Huskies in tackles in six of their seven games this season, and posted a career-best 19 tackles (7 solo, 12 assists) against Oregon. He currently leads the Pac-12 with 93 tackles and is third in the nation with 13.3 tackles per game. Burr-Kirven has been listed on several mid-season All-America squads.

How do the Buffs plan to attack the Pac-12’s best defense?

“I think our plan is to get the field downfield a bit more and stretch Washington out,” said quarterback Steven Montez. “When you are a good defense, they fly to that outside stuff, and they cover the flats really well (like USC did against the Buffs). I think if we get the ball downfield more we’ll be alright”.

Good luck.

I – Intangibles

Had last weekend’s games gone differently, the Colorado/Washington game would have had national significance. The Huskies, fresh off of a third-straight win over rival Oregon, would have a top seven ranking and a stranglehold on the Pac-12 North division. The Buffs, meanwhile, with a win over USC would have been undefeated, ranked in the top 15 nationally, and would have had a stranglehold on the Pac-12 South division.

Instead, after Washington lost to Oregon, and CU lost to USC, ESPN College GameDay is in Pullman for the Oregon/Washington State game. Washington, with two losses, is out the College Football Playoff chase, while Colorado, with one loss, is out of the polls.

Both teams have reason to be down this week. The question is: Which team will bounce back?

When asked about his team’s psyche, Mike MacIntyre replied: “They’ve responded well; they practiced well … All the captains did an excellent job of leading”.

Steven Montez was also asked at the Tuesday press conference about the loss to USC, and its effect on the team. “It’s kind of a reality check … I think we always have something to prove, because people don’t look at Colorado and look at us as an elite team nationally … We’ve had something to prove since the season started. We just have to keep moving in a positive direction.”

While the CU coaches and players are saying the right thing, one has to wonder about the Washington Huskies. Billed as the Pac-12’s best hope at a College Football Playoff berth, the Huskies, two weeks before the College Football Playoff rankings even make their 2018 debut, are out of the hunt.

Will Washington players come out angry, and take out their frustrations on the Buffs?

Or will they be less focused, having had their plans for a national playoff run end with an overtime loss to their biggest rival?

P – Preparation/Schedule 

This is Colorado’s eighth season in the Pac-12.

In each of the first seven seasons in their new conference, the Buffs have had to play back-to-back Pac-12 road games (which is not unusual for Pac-12 teams. Now, try and find an SEC team who ever has to play back-to-back conference road games … you’ll spend a great deal of time looking, which is the advantage of having four non-conference games, at least three of which are played at home each season).

In CU’s first seven Pac-12 seasons playing back-to-back road conference games, Colorado has posted an ignoble 0-5-2 record. That is to say, the Buffs have zero sweeps, have been swept five times, and have managed two splits.

That doesn’t bode well for the Buffs, coming off a loss to USC last weekend.

It also doesn’t help that the Buffs played a night game in Los Angeles, not returning to Boulder until 5:00 a.m., Sunday morning.

Meanwhile, the Huskies also played on the road last weekend, but it was an afternoon game, and it was in Eugene. The Huskies were not only back home Saturday night, but were home in time to watch and scout the Buffs. While CU players were trying to shake off their lack of sleep Sunday, the Huskies were already preparing for the Buffs.

This Friday, while the Huskies are getting in some extra practice time, the Buffs will hop on another plane.

Serious advantage … Washington.

S – Statistics

— CU sophomore wide receiver Laviska Shenault continues to lead the nation in both receptions per game (60, or 10.0/game) and receiving yards per game (780, or 130.0/game), though, as of this writing, his status for the Washington game is “day-to-day” with a toe injury (not for nothing, but wide receiver Juwann Winfree is also “day-to-day” with a sprained ankle suffered during the Nebraska game);

— Quarterback Steven Montez, coming off of a 26-for-47 performance against USC, has dropped to eighth nationally in completion percentage (.705);

— Running back Travon McMillian is 27th in the nation in rushing (93.3 yds/game);

— Since Colorado joined the Pac-12, Washington has beaten the Buffs six times. All six games were decided by more than 15 points, with five of the six by 27 points or more;

— In CU’s six losses to the Huskies since joining the Pac-12, the Buffs have yet to score more than 24 points, and been held to ten points or fewer four times. The last time the two teams met in Seattle, in 2013, the final was 59-7;

— Washington has won 11 straight games at home, and 17 of 18 (last loss: 26-13 to USC, 2016).

Prediction …

Two months ago … Hell, 11 months ago, when the 2018 schedules were released … we knew that the back-to-back road trips to USC and Washington represented the most difficult stretch of the 2018 schedule.

Two months ago … Hell, 11 months ago, when the Buffs were limping to a 5-7, 2-7 finish after a 3-0 start … Colorado fans would have accepted, sight unseen, a 5-2 record on Sunday, October 21st, 2018.

And that’s likely to be the case.

While the Buffs played poorly against the Trojans last weekend, I must say that I’ve been surprised by some of the vitriol spewed since then on the fan boards. One thread was entitled, “Man, when will the Buffs ever live up to their hype?”.

Puh-lease.

Exactly what “hype” have the Buffs failed to live up to? Colorado was picked to finish 5th in the Pac-12 South by the media who cover the conference, and Las Vegas set the over/under win total for the Buffs at 4.5.

By those measures – and by the measure of pretty much every preseason magazine – the Buffs have exceeded any reasonable expectations for the first half of the 2018 season.

That being said, it’s difficult to envision a scenario by which the Buffs will beat the Huskies this weekend.

The CU injury report, the frequent flyer miles, a stingy defense playing at home … all work against the Buffs.

The Buffs went 5-1 the first half of the 2018 season. A 3-3 record in the second half would be a comedown, but it would still give CU an 8-4 regular season record, a good bowl game, and momentum for the 2019 season and beyond.

This weekend’s goals … don’t add to the injury report, and come away with at least a few positives upon which to build for the Oregon State game and beyond.

… Washington 31, Colorado 14 … 

Previous predictions … 

Prediction: USC 24, Colorado 20 … Actual: USC 31, Colorado 20

Prediction: Colorado 34, Arizona State 27 … Actual: Colorado 28, Arizona State 21

Prediction: Colorado 30, UCLA 21 … Actual: Colorado 38, UCLA 16

Prediction: Colorado 48, New Hampshire 10 … Actual: Colorado 45, New Hampshire 14

Prediction: Colorado 31, Nebraska 24 … Actual: Colorado 33, Nebraska 28

Prediction: Colorado 41, Colorado State 24 … Actual: Colorado 45, Colorado State 13

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9 Replies to “CU at No. 15 Washington – A Preview”

  1. I just want to put my take on the USC game out there. Number one, Mac was clearly coaching scared, he even commented on that last first half drive that he worried about Montez giving the ball back with too much time. Well guess what, you did anyway. No excuse for that. Second, I’ll be the one to put it out there, as soon as Viska began to be mentioned in the heisman picture, Mac and check decided it was more important to get him the ball than it was to win the game. I get that you want to give the ball to your best player but it was obvious that they said “welp we’ve got a heisman contender throw it to him and see what he can do”. How do you not have one pass to a TE through 6 games. Wow. Also, all these people complaining about not throwing down field, I’m willing to bet that many of the plays where Montez took a sack was a down field throw. The O line got owned. The writing is on the wall for Adams. I only say that because of his recruiting. We have the offense, we clearly have the development team as far as Drew Wilson and the new nutrition program, so what does that leave? Recruiting and coaching.

    Stop playing scared Buffs or you will lose again this weekend.

  2. So what about the receiving corp.
    Jay needs to be out…..concussion.
    Shenault needs to be out….need him totally healthy for the rest of the season…no bye week
    So…..

    Nixon, Ento, Brown, Jackson need to step up .
    With the new redshirt rule maybe give Stanely and Arias a shot.
    Bell too.

    Oline depth chart says 2 RSF a 2 Jr. and Sr. are the starters.

    Hoping yup.

    Buffs.

    Note: In the Buffs rating of lineman scenario. Only one has achieved a starter rating. Sherman and barely made it.
    There are none in the ‘all conference caliber. grade or the ‘phenomenal performance’ category
    There are:
    2 in the below average
    6 rated average

    So there ya go.

  3. Stu boy, you are a pretty dang good predictor. In fact really really good and I really believe that I really do.

    So yur saying the Mighty Buff defense will give up the same amount of points they gave up to USC.
    Well actually you are saying they will give up more as the D only gave up 24 to USC unless of course the Wash D is going to score.

    I am not convinced Wash will score more than 24 points on this D. The issue to me is whether Chev can overcome his arse whipping by that Ol DC of USC and whether Shenault plays (I hope he doesn’t). What? Yup rest him. This is up to Chev to make right. USC game was a lingrening plan and execution. Score and stats late in the game when they are meaningless. 7 out of 9 three and out’s in the first half. Medical MJ required. Up the dosage. Predictable and passive. Sheesh it was hard to watch. So if Chev can take the last game as a “learner, and that he was predictable and it showed and he got owned, then the Buffs can score more than 24 and win. Up to Chev.

    Buffs.

    Real Note: Mac needs to let the OC do his job. Don’t be jumping in with your conservative, scared, nervous, ol man blandly walking the sidelines, etc etc. The O looked terrible when it counted. You did too. Lost. Lost focus. Clock management. Scared when it counted. Coaches lose games. Chev and Mac lost this game.

  4. All the various factors mentioned in this article will combine to produce a score similar to previous outings. Hope Mac and Chev show more courage and go down swinging regardless of the score. Washington lines should dominate the trenches.

    Wash 45 CU 13

  5. Yo Stuart,
    It’s an interesting quandary our Buffs face in Washington. Last week, everyone wondered if ranked Colorado could finally pull it together and beat USC. Sadly, while the players looked up to the task, it was the coaches we found wanting. The coaches called plays and failed to manage the clock in such a way that it was easy to come to the conclusion that they did not think their team could even compete with a mediocre Trojan team.

    I’d like to think that the players can get over the hump of the loss, but I am not so sure about the coaches. Will they freeze up again like they did in LA? Will they even give our Buffs a chance to play straight up? We’ll see.

    Maybe the expectation that the Buffs could win was too much. This week there is no such expectation. Everyone expects Washington to roll. Maybe that will allow the players and coaches alike to play fast and loose. It’s easier to be relaxed when no one expects you to either win or even be competitive. Once again, we’ll see.

    I’m not nervous. I have no expectations of victory. I wonder if he players and the coaches feel the same way. Will they mail it in? Or will they play like they have nothing to lose? We will see.

    Mark
    Golden Buffs / Boulderdevil

    1. Completely agree. The people at the top in any organization set the tone. If Mac and Chev are loose and aggressive, then the players should buy into that and have a “we have nothing to lose” attitude by going all out. If Mac and Chev radiate the same stuff as last weekend, the play not to lose attitude will certainly result in a loss and may bleed over into the remaining part of the season which would be a travesty given the hot start to the season. I do expect a loss as well but want to see a leave it all on the field, go for it approach, starting at the top.

  6. I hope it’s as close as you predict, Stu. Our hope for any chance of keeping the game close sailed “wide right” with the missed Wash field goal attempt at the end of regulation of the UW vs. U of O game. I was hoping for that Wash win….. and with it a chance for us to catch the Huskies in “let down” mode after their big win. Oh well, I’m afraid they’re going to be quite pissed off on Sat and will take it out on our wounded Buffaloes.

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