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This Week’s “T.I.P.S.” for CU’s attempt to take out a top ten team

Colorado is 2-18 against ranked teams under Mike MacIntyre.

The good news? One of those wins came against Washington State … the last time the Cougars were in Boulder.

In 2016, No. 20 Washington State came to Folsom Field, with a Pac-12 North title in the offing. The Buffs won that day, 38-24, keeping alive CU’s chances at a Pac-12 South title.

Of course, the Buffs were the 12th-ranked team in the nation at the time, sporting an 8-2 record.

This year, the 5-4 Buffs are reeling, having lost four games in a row. A month ago, when the Buffs were 5-0 and nationally ranked, there seemed to be a better-than-even chance that the Buffs would be 7-2 heading into November.

Can the Buffs turn it around? Is this the week that Laviska Shenault (and the CU offense) makes a comeback?

We’ll find out this weekend …

Colorado v. No. 10 Washington State … Saturday, 1:30 p.m. MT, ESPN

T – Talent 

Their wasn’t much preseason respect for the Cougars (there wasn’t much for the Buffs, either, but we’ve grown used to that).

Athlon Sports … “Fans may need to temper their expectations after WSU followed an eight-win season in 2016 with nine wins in ’17”.

Lindy’s … “The turnover was massive – five assistant coaches in addition to standouts Luke Falk and Hercules Mata’afa – so it seems unlikely that the Cougars will be in the Pac-12 North hunt”. 

The difference?

Two words: Gardner Minshew.

Not only were the Cougars having to replace the No. 1 Pac-12 career passing yards leader in Luke Falk, they were also without Falk’s heir apparent, Tyler Hilinski, who tragically took his own life last winter.

Minshew, a graduate transfer from East Carolina, wasn’t even listed as the probable starter in the preseason magazines … and now he is the nation’s leader in passing yards per game (390.8 – Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins is a distant second, over 50 yards/game less). Minshew also leads the nation in total offense (397.4 yards/game), and is sixth in passing touchdowns, with 27. (For comparison, Steven Montez is 21st in passing yards/game; 20th in total offense; and 25th in passing touchdowns).

While it is true that Washington State is used to production from its offense, what sets the Cougars of 2018 apart from more recent versions who have been in contention for Washington State’s first conference title since 2002 is … the defense.

Washington State is 24th in the nation in total defense, and is giving up only 23.8 points per game.

A powerful combination …

I – Intangibles

ESPN held off on making its decision on when to televise several of this weekend’s Pac-12 games until Sunday afternoon, so that they could see how last weekend’s games played out.

The Colorado/Washington State game was ultimately selected for the coveted 1:30 p.m., MT, time slot, relegating the Cal/USC game to the late night (10:30 p.m, ET) kickoff.

And it wasn’t because the Buffs, losers of four straight games, were a draw.

It’s pretty clear that the reason ESPN is putting national eyeballs on Folsom Field this Saturday is for the sole reason that the network wants to focus some attention on the No. 10 Washington State Cougars … and their potential Heisman trophy ceremony invitee, Gardner Minshew (an invitation is likely as far as it will go, unless Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa suffers an injury between now and the December coronation).

How will the two teams react to being part of a nationally televised afternoon game?

Will the Cougars, excited to strut their stuff before an ESPN audience (who are still awake enough to enjoy the game), come out with fire and dominate the Buffs from the get-go?

Will the Buffs, finally sick and tired of losing, decide that this is the week that the “missed opportunities” will no longer be missed, and ride the enthusiasm of a surprised Folsom Field crowd to an upset victory?

The stats all point towards a Washington State victory. But … there is a formula by which underdogs can ride a wave of enthusiasm to a win.

The Buffs need look no further than the Oregon State game two weeks ago. The Buffs had a 24-3 lead at halftime, and scored a 75-yard touchdown run by Travon McMillian on the first play from scrimmage in the third quarter.

Game. Set. Match.

Right?

Except for the Buffs allowed the Beavers to get back into the game. An epic 17-play drive ensued after the McMillian touchdown, a drive in which the Oregon State offense converted three third-downs and two fourth-downs, gave the Beavers momentum … momentum the Buffs were never able to get it back. There was still enough time – just enough time – for the Beavers to mount a comeback, tying the game on (yet another) fourth down conversion in the final minute.

It will take that sort of focus and energy from the Buffs to defeat the Cougars.

The Buff players not only have to make plays … they have to believe that making plays will ultimately make a difference in the outcome.

P – Preparation/Schedule 

The Buffs have an actual advantage this week when it comes to the schedules for the two teams.

Colorado played at Arizona Friday night, and were back home early Saturday morning, with plenty of time to rest up to watch #Pac-12AfterDark, when Cal took on the Cougars Saturday night.

Not only did the Buffs receive an extra day of rest, they are the home team this week, with Washington State traveling to Boulder.

Translation: the Buffs are actually two days up on the Cougars in terms of preparation, with the ability to scout the Cougars on Saturday night, and an extra day to practice on Friday while Washington State is in transit.

Not much to go on in terms of an advantage, but, when you are as beat up as the Buffs are, any extra time to rest and prepare is welcome.

The Buffs also pick up a slight advantage in the kickoff time. Instead of a night game, the kickoff is set for 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, which would be 12:30 p.m. for the Cougars and their internal time clocks.

An earlier-in-the-day kickoff would seem to work against a Pacific Time Zone team. Then again, the Oregon State game kicked off at noon Pacific Time a few weeks ago, and we all know how that worked out …

S – Statistics

— CU sophomore wide receiver Laviska Shenault would be leading in both receptions per game (60, or 10.0/game) and receiving yards per game (780, or 130.0/game), but he no longer qualifies for the NCAA rankings. Shenault injured his toe during the USC game on October 13th, and hasn’t played since. Shenault’s Instagram post Sunday night of “The return of 2Live ..” has given hope to the Buff Nation that he may return to the field of play this weekend, but he is still listed as “day-to-day” by the CU athletic department;

— Washington State is 128th in the nation in rushing … but only because the Cougars are first in the nation in passing offense;

— Running back Travon McMillian is 33rd in the nation (7th in the Pac-12) in rushing (93.0 yds/game);

— Ronnie Blackmon is 23rd in the nation (2nd in the Pac-12) in punt returns (10.3 yards/return);

— The last time Colorado defeated a top ten team was in 2007 (a 27-24 win over No. 3 Oklahoma);

— Mike Leach coached teams are 3-5 against Colorado, including an 0-4 record in games played in Boulder (0-2 as the head coach of Texas Tech; 0-1 as the head coach at Washington State; and 0-1 as the offensive coordinator at Oklahoma, in 1999).

Prediction …

The nation’s leading passer lined up against a secondary which is so banged up that two players (Derrion Rakestraw at safety; Mehki Blackmon at cornerback) had their first career starts last weekend?

That’s not a great combination for the home team.

The football gurus in Las Vegas know all this, of course, but only installed No. 10 Washington as a five-point favorite (since moved to six points) over the home-standing Buffs.

What is Vegas seeing about this game that the Buff Nation – which is universally down on its team – isn’t seeing?

Well, Cal did hold Washington State to 19 points last weekend, with Gardner Minshew not picking up a touchdown pass until the final 32 seconds of the game.

The only other team to hold the Cougars under 30 points all season this season, however, was Utah, which held Washington State to 28 in a 28-24 WSU win in September.

Two pretty good defenses.

In the past two weeks, meanwhile the Colorado defense has surrendered 41 points to Oregon State and 42 points to Arizona.

Last week in this space I posted: “Perhaps Laviska Shenault can get back on the field, and reignite the Buff offense. Otherwise, I just can’t see the Buffs scoring enough to keep up with the Wildcats.”

Lather, rinse, repeat?

… No. 10 Washington State 42, Colorado 28 … 

Previous predictions … 

Prediction: Arizona 38, Colorado 24 … Actual: Arizona 42, Colorado 34

Prediction: Colorado 42, Oregon State 17 … Actual: Oregon State 41, Colorado 34 OT

Prediction: Washington 31, Colorado 14 … Actual: Washington 27, Colorado 13

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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10 Replies to “CU v. Washington State – A Preview”

  1. The sad truth is that I think there is a better chance of WSU putting up 50-60 than of us winning.

    Only bright spot is no one is talking about this game in PacNW…it’s already all about the Apple Cup.

  2. Yo Stuart,
    Nice write up as always. I gotta funny feeling about this game. Leach has seemed in the past to be cursed at Folsom Field. But that can’t last forever can it? We can only hope.

    Can the Buffs make the Pac-12 North as much of a mess as the South? Can MacIntyre finally beat a ranked team? Can CU finally break out the Cheez-Its? Stranger things have happened.

    Mark

  3. My head says that WSU will beat the Buffs to the tune of 45 -28 given Mac’s track record against higher ranked teams, the apparent mismatch between a high powered offense and CU’s secondary, the Buffs’ lack of confidence resulting from a 4 game losing streak, injuries, and the inability of the Buffs offense to capitalize when they have the opportunities on offense.

    My heart, totally irrationally, says that the game will be close and maybe even an upset. There is Leach’s “head thing” against the Buffs in Folsom. One of those losses had to be particularly galling for Leach when he lost versus an 0-6 (if I remember right) Hawkins squad. If Shenault and Worthington can play, the positive spark for the players should be palpable. Montez certainly remembers his abysmal performance, which led to his benching, against the Cougs and will be motivated. Also, something had to be amiss in last week’s game when WSU had to resort to a last minute TD to win at home against an unranked team. Heart, defying all sanity and logic says CU 28, WSU 27.

    I’m just throwing this one out into the universe as the head and heart are conflicted and on the fence.

    Go Buffs!!!

  4. I will take 100% blame for the last four losses. It’s my picks. I’m sure of it.

    So… here we go. 99-0. Wazzu? No F’n way. Buffs win.

    Go Buffs

  5. I will watch this game until I just can’t watch it anymore…. then I will go out into the Texas sun and get a November sunburn to burn away my negativity. Maybe next week we have a shot at number 6.

  6. Sorry but I dont share VK’s optimism. (no surprise there…eh?)Not only is this game an incredible strength against the Buff’s most glaring weakness I dont think Viska’s return will make much of a difference either if we keep using the wildcat and the sideline pass….both of which were nailed down by cap’n obvious opponent DC’s.
    The only chance the Buff’s have is if Eliot comes up with some clever blitz packages that create havoc in the WSU backfield. Chances are slim there because Leach has seen it all in the past from opposing DCs as passing 90 percent of what he does. However, Leach will test Borgi out against the Buff’s D knowing that kid probably has a huge chip on his shoulder over Mac’s rejection.
    The offense…..geez… Using the 3 play playbook in critical situations for so long any hope we mix it up is like Charlie Brown thinking Lucy will actually keep the ball down this time.

    1. Yo ep, the medicinal MJ has worn off. Now into the Medicinal Malts
      I can see clearly now the Sun is gone.
      I can see all the Cougars in their way
      Gone is the bright sun that had me blind
      It’s gonna be a cloudy (cloudy) cloudy (cloudy)
      Saturday

      Therefore after reviewing your post. I am sticking by everything I said.

      Buffs

      Note: Medicinal MJ and Medicinal Malts. Yup that ol Sly and the Family Stone tune is ringing through my brain and messing with my ol heart.

      Note 2: Who is John Galt?

  7. Well hello ol Stu. Sorry I didn’t get to see you at the OSU game. After CLE luncheon was the usual. Anyway T.I.P.’s is always one of my favorites.

    I gotta say that there is a funny feeling about this game. Lowly Colorado, all beat up, on a losing streak of 4 games, and coulda won all 4, with an offense that is “Folsom unFast” and a defense that went conservative way too early, and a HC that has met “peter” and a fan base that has reverted to the two thouands, and with ESPN being there, on a perfect fall football day in Boulder, against a “powerhouse” WSU football team, coached by a pirate who has never won in Boulder, and is only a 6 point favorite, and wins every presser……………Where was i going with that? Damn medicinal MJ.

    Well I was going here. I think the Buffs will win. Not a prediction cause I don’t predict. But that silver mirrored ball, reflecting all the spot lights has put me out of wishful, hopin, thinkn and prayn mode into believen mode.

    Buffalo Up………………………..

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