Sunday Afternoon Quarterback – Grading the Buffs after the Arizona State game


… Game Five … Colorado 28, Arizona State 21 … 

— CU rushing offense v. Arizona State rushing defense —

By the numbers … Travon McMillian had 30 carries for 136 yards, joining Rashaan Salaam (1994) as the only other CU running back to post four 100-yard games in the first five games of a season. McMillian had 56 of his yards in the fourth quarter, when the Buffs ran off 12:34 of game clock over two drives to seal the victory. Steven Montez contributed 17 yards on three carries, with Laviska Shenault getting five carries for 13 yards … and two touchdowns.

Grade: A- … The Buffs finished the game with 166 yards rushing and two touchdowns – both by its wide receiver – which are not overly dominant numbers against a defense which gave up 254 yards rushing to an Oregon State freshman running back the week before. Still, when the game was on the line in the fourth quarter, the Colorado offensive line took command. The Buffs’ two drives did not net any points, but they did generate 87 yards in 24 plays … and took away any chance of a Sun Devil comeback.

— CU passing offense v. Arizona State passing defense —

By the numbers … Steven Montez completed 24-of-33 passes for 328 yards and two touchdown passes to Laviska Shenault. It’s saying something about the CU passing game when Montez completes 72.7% of his passes, and his completion percentage for the season goes down. Laviska Shenault was his normal All-American self, with 13 catches for 127 yards and two touchdowns. K.D. Nixon had five receptions for 97 yards (including a 51-yarder), while Tony Brown had four receptions for 55 yards (long of 39). Jay MacIntyre had only two receptions, but they were timely, going for 27 and 22 yards, respectively.

Grade: A- … Steven Montez continues to make good decisions, and continues to complete passes at a high rate, despite the fact that the Colorado passing game is more than just fly sweeps and short outs. (If you are an astute CU at the Gamer, you may have noticed that this is the same sentence I used to open the review of CU’s passing effort against UCLA). No interceptions, no sacks, 328 yards and two touchdowns … a pretty successful afternoon.

— CU rushing defense v. Arizona State rushing offense —

By the numbers … A week after going for a school-record 312 yards against Oregon State, Eno Benjamin had 28 carries for 120 yards and two touchdowns against the Buffs. Quarterback Manny Wilkins, who has been known for some timely running, had only 14 yards on seven carries.

Grade: B+ … Any time the opposing team has a 100-yard rusher, there are concerns. Any time you hold a team to 27 yards on 12 carries in a half – which the Buff defense did to the Sun Devils in the second half – you have had a good game. Arizona State did not have an explosion play (longest carry: 17 yards), so the Buff rush defense did its job.

— CU passing defense v. State passing offense — 

By the numbers … Senior quarterback Manny Wilkins completed 12-of-18 passes for 222 yards and a touchdown. The Buff defense did surrender a 72 yard completion, but that only resulted in a first-and-goal at the CU three yard line. At the time, Nick Fisher’s touchdown saving tackle only seemed to be postponing the inevitable tying touchdown to open the fourth quarter … but that drive resulted in no points. One of CU’s two sacks on the day came two plays later, setting up Delrick Abrams’ heroics on fourth down.

Grade: B+ … Arizona State’s bomb, the 72-yard completion on the first play from scrimmage after the Buffs had taken their first lead, had the Folsom Field grumbling. Mustafa Johnson’s sack of Manny Wilkins on second down, followed by Delrick Abrams’ pass defense on fourth down, turned the game in CU’ favor.

— CU special teams — 

By the numbers … A quiet day for the CU special teams, which, in a close game, can be a good thing. James Stefanou missed his only field goal attempt, hooking a 38-yard attempt in the second quarter. Davis Price, continuing his double duty as punter and kickoff specialist (Alex Kinney could be back in a week or two), was serviceable. Price averaged 37.8 yards on four punts, and four of his five kickoffs went for touchbacks.

Grade: B … You never want to miss a field goal attempt, especially one from inside the 40-yard line. The Buffs gave up one 11 yard punt return, but the only kickoff return of the day was kept to 16 yards. The punt return, by star wide receiver N’Keal Harry, resulted in a big tackle by linebacker Drew Lewis, who had been blocked out of bounds, but came back in to level Harry, who was not the same the rest of the game. Some have criticized Lewis’ return to the field on the play, but it was a legal move.

Overall Grade: A- … Throughout much of the first three quarters, Arizona State had the upper hand on the scoreboard. The Buffs, though, responded with a touchdown drive every time the Sun Devils scored (or, put another way, the Arizona State offense never had the ball and the lead at the same time). At the end of three quarters, the Buffs were up on the scoreboard, 28-21, and had an edge on yards, 397-364, but the Sun Devils had a first-and-goal at the CU three yard line. The Buff defense held, with the Buff offense then taking over the game in dominating fashion. Steven Montez, Laviska Shenault, and Travon McMillian were excellent, and the defense – which had to play much of the game without leading tackler Nate Landman, ejected in the second quarter for targeting – was good enough to get CU to a 5-0 record.

Pac-12 Power Rankings

Note … These are my subjective Power Rankings, which will be updated every Sunday. (Please feel free to post your own rankings in the comments section) …

12. Oregon State (1-5, 0-3) … Ranking last weekend: 11

This weekend … Lost to Washington State, 58-37.

The Beavers stayed with Washington State for a half, trailing 28-24 at the break. Thereafter, though, the Cougar offense stayed in high gear, while the Oregon State offense stalled, with Washington State leaving Corvallis with a 56-37 victory. After giving up record rushing yardage to Arizona’s J.J. Taylor and Arizona State’s Eno Benjamin in successive weeks, the OSU defense allowed WSU quarterback Gardner Minshew to pass for 430 yards and five touchdowns.

Oregon State defense: the cure for the common offense.

Up next … Bye week … Up next: California, October 20th, TBA

11. UCLA (0-5, 0-2) … Ranking last weekend: 12

This weekend … Lost to No. 10 Washington, 31-24.

It is a commentary on the state of the UCLA football program that the Bruins can lose to the Huskies at home for the first time since 1995, fall to 0-5 for the first time since 1943 … and move up a spot in the Power Rankings.

The Bruins only lost to the Huskies, 31-24, which is actually progress for UCLA. Still, a loss is a loss. “We didn’t high-five in the locker room and say, `Hey, we got close against a really good team.’ And they are a really good team,” first-year head coach Chip Kelly said. “Pete (Chris Petersen) has done a great job with that program, but I’m not a guy that gets solace in `We were close.’ That’s not us. Close isn’t good enough. Close is bad.”

Yes, yes it is.

Up next … at California … 5:00 p.m., MT, Saturday, Pac-12 Networks

10. Arizona State (3-3, 1-2) … Ranking last weekend: 7

This weekend … Lost to Colorado, 28-21.

Which cliche would you prefer: “You play to win the game”, or “You are what your record says you are”?. The first, of course, came from first-year Arizona State head coach Herm Edwards; the second from Bill Parcells.

Both apply to the Sun Devils, who are 3-3, and 1-2 in Pac-12 play. Edwards went for the tie at the beginning of the fourth quarter against the Buffs instead of the chip shot field goal, and the Sun Devils never threatened again. Now, the Sun Devils are staring up at most of the rest of the conference, with a gauntlet of Stanford; at USC; Utah coming the next three games. A bowl game is now the goal for the Sun Devils in the 2018 season.

Up next … Bye week … Next weekend: Stanford, Thursday, October 18th, 7:00 p.m., MT, ESPN

9. California (3-2, 0-2) … Ranking last weekend: 8

This weekend … Lost to Arizona, 24-17.

What happens when you give up two defensive touchdowns on the road in the Pac-12? You lose. The Bears had the lead (14-10) and the ball deep in Arizona territory late in the third quarter against the Wildcats, but a pick six changed the game. In the fourth quarter, still only down 17-14, another pick six put the game out of reach.

Two weeks ago, the Bears were the darlings of the national media. A five turnover game against Oregon, plus a sloppy loss to Arizona (not to mention that the win over a ranked BYU team doesn’t look that impressive anymore), and the Bears have gone from the No. 24 team in the nation to a team in desperate need of a win over UCLA.

Up next … UCLA, 5:00 p.m., MT, Saturday, Pac-12 Networks

8. Arizona (3-3, 2-1) … Ranking last weekend: 10

This weekend … Defeated California, 24-17.

Kahlil Tate played marginally better – 141 yards passing; 40 yards rushing – but, as noted above, it took two defensive touchdowns for the Wildcats to defeat Cal at home. The Wildcats were out-gained by the Bears, 476 total yards to 265, needing four turnovers to get to a 3-3 record.

Still, the Wildcats are 2-1 in Pac-12 play. A Pac-12 South division elimination game may be taking place Friday night in Salt Lake City.

Up next … at Utah, 8:00 p.m., MT, Friday, ESPN

7. Utah (3-2, 1-2)… Ranking last weekend: 9

This weekend … Defeated No. 14 Stanford, 40-21

Sure, the Cardinal were without star running back Bryce Love, but the Utes were dominant on both side of the ball. Running back Zack Moss had 20 carries for 160 yards, and two touchdowns, while quarterback Tyler Huntley was very efficient, completing 17-of-21 passes for 199 yards and a touchdown.

Written off for dead in the division race a week ago, the Utes are still alive in the Pac-12 South division race. Up next are two division home games, against Arizona and USC. Win those two games, and the Utes are back in contention.

Up next … Arizona, 8:00 p.m., MT, Friday, ESPN

6. Stanford (4-2, 2-1) … Ranking last weekend: 2

This weekend … Lost to Utah, 40-21.

From No. 7 in the nation to No. 6 in the Pac-12 … in two weeks?

That’s what can happen to you if you lose to Notre Dame, 38-17, and Utah, 40-21, in successive games. It’s a testament to the respect coaches (or their proxies) have for David Shaw and the Cardinal that Stanford remains in the USA Today/Coaches’ poll (at No. 24, down from No. 14 last week).

The reality is that, but for two fluke fumbles by Oregon three weeks ago, Stanford would be looking at its first three-game losing streak since 2008. The Cardinal now have a week off to try and get Bryce Love back healthy .. and get its act together.

Up next: … Bye week … Up next: at Arizona State, 7:00 p.m., MT, Thursday, October 18th.

5. USC (3-2, 2-1) … Ranking last weekend: 6

This weekend … A bye week.

The idle Trojans move up a spot this week, as former No. 2 Stanford is sliding down the list.

It was a mixed bag for USC’s resume this past weekend. The upset win by Texas over Oklahoma made the September loss to the Longhorns look a little more tolerable. The 17-3 loss to Stanford, though, looks a little more questionable, what with the Cardinal giving up 78 points the last two weekends. The Trojans are the most talented team in the South division, and are the clear favorites to repeat. A win against the Buffs this weekend, coupled with a win over Utah next Saturday, could create some separation from the rest of the division.

Up next … No. 19 Colorado, Saturday, 8:00 p.m., MT, FS1

4. Washington State (5-1, 2-1) … Ranking last weekend: 5

This weekend … Defeated Oregon State, 56-37.

Yes, Washington State only led the Beavers, 28-24, at halftime this past weekend, but the Cougars put the pedal to the metal in the second half. A week after posting zero rushing yards in a win over Utah, the Cougars ran up 100 yards against the Beavers (to go with 430 passing yards).

Washington State is a blocked field goal away in the USC game from perhaps being undefeated and nationally ranked. The Cougars now have a bye week, lying in wait for Oregon, which will travel to Pullman a week after having to take on Washington. A win over Oregon, and Washington State will be ranked, and a true player in the Pac-12 North division race.

Up next … Bye week … Next weekend: Oregon, Saturday, October 20th, TBA

3. Colorado (5-0, 2-0) … Ranking last weekend: 4

This weekend … Defeated Arizona State, 28-21.

There are 11 undefeated left in the FBS, and Colorado is the only team west of the Mississippi River without a loss. All 11 undefeated teams are now ranked. If rankings are any indication, the Buffs are considered to be the 8th-best undefeated team, with the seven ranked above them all in the nation’s top ten.

UCLA was supposed to be a test for the 3-0 Buffs, who went 3-0 last season before folding once they got to Pac-12 play. Then, after dispatching the Bruins, Arizona State was to be the test for the Buffs, being the only team on CU’s early schedule with more than one victory. Now, the real test is taking on USC on the road.

The Buffs are 5-0 … they have passed every test to date.

Up next … USC, Saturday, 8:30 p.m., MT, FS1

2. Oregon (4-1, 1-1) … Ranking last weekend: 3

This weekend … A bye week.

The schedule set up very well for the Ducks, with a bye week to rest and prepare for the Pac-12 North showdown against Washington, while the Huskies had to travel to Pasadena to take care of business against UCLA.

After breezing through a non-conference schedule which was – as hard as it is to believe – even easier than CU’s. An inexplicable fumbling away of the Stanford game is all that is keeping the Ducks from a perfect record and a top ten ranking.

Take out No. 7 Washington, and Oregon will assume the mantle as the Pac-12’s best hope for a College Football playoff berth.

Up next … No. 7 Washington, Saturday, October 13th, TBA

1. Washington (5-1, 3-0) … Ranking last weekend: 1

This weekend … Defeated UCLA, 31-24.

It could be argued that the Huskies weren’t taking the Bruins seriously. Still, Washington came away with a win over UCLA … the first for the Huskies in Pasadena since 1995.

This weekend, it’s the matchup everyone has been waiting for, as the Huskies must travel to Eugene to take on the rested Ducks. After Oregon defeated Washington a series record 12 straight times, the Huskies have won the last two games, and have done so in convincing fashion – 70-21 and 38-3.

Washington wants to keep its College Football Playoff hopes alive. With a loss to (now mediocre) Auburn to open the season, the Huskies have no margin for error.

Up next … at No. 17 Oregon, Saturday, TBA.

… Your thoughts? Post your rankings in the comments section … 





Leave a Reply

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