Colorado at Washington State – “T.I.P.S.” for Redemption Bowl

When Cornhusker kicker Issac Armstrong missed a 48-yard field goal in overtime on September 7th, giving Colorado an unlikely 34-31 win over No. 25 Nebraska, Buff fans were ecstatic. Another 34-31 victory two weeks later, this time over No. 24 Arizona State on the road, had Buff fans checking bowl projection websites.

When Cougar running back Dezmon Patmon scored on a six-yard pass from quarterback Anthony Gordon with 6:52 remaining in the third quarter of Washington State’s September 22nd game against UCLA, ESPN’s Football Power Index gave the Cougars a 99.8% chance of winning that game, which would have raised Washington State’s record to 4-0. The No. 19 Cougars seemed primed to take a top 20 ranking to their duel with Utah the following week … before the wheels fell off in a 67-63 loss to the Bruins.

Since falling to UCLA, Washington State has been out-matched by Utah, 38-13, and out-gunned by Arizona State, 38-34. Colorado, meanwhile, was out-gunned by Arizona, 35-30, and overwhelmed by Oregon, 45-3.

Colorado is 3-3, 1-2 in Pac-12 play.

Washington State is 3-3, 0-3 in Pac-12.

Both teams are all but mathematically eliminated from their runs for a division title. Both teams are now relegated to searching for six wins and a bowl opportunity.

The winner of Saturday night’s game will have win No. 4, and a legitimate shot at the post-season with five games remaining. The loser will be grasping at straws to try and envision a scenario which leads to six wins.

Call this Saturday’s game … the Redemption Bowl.

This week’s “T.I.P.S.” for CU at Washington State … Saturday, 5:00 p.m. MT, ESPNU

T – Talent 

Last weekend, Washington State quarterback Anthony Gordon threw the ball 64 times against Arizona State, completing 44 of those passes – both career highs – and lost.

In the epic game against UCLA, Gordon threw for 570 yards and nine touchdowns … and lost.

So, this just in, offense is not the problem for the Cougars. Washington State is averaging – averaging – 43.0 points and 538.7 yards of total offense per game. The Cougars are seventh in the nation in scoring; 5th in total offense.

Washington State has seven different receivers with at least 20 catches (CU has one, Tony Brown, with 29) and seven with at least 200 yards receiving (CU has three). The potent unit is led by Easop Winston, Jr., who has 42 receptions for 496 yards and nine touchdowns (CU’s Tony Brown, K.D. Nixon, and Laviska Shenault have a combined seven touchdown receptions).

The WSU rushing attack is led by former CU commit Max Borghi (the over/under for how many times that Borghi was almost a Buff gets mentioned on the message boards is 16). Borghi has 407 rushing yards and five touchdowns thus far in 2019 (for comparison’s sake, Alex Fontenot has 392 yards and four touchdowns).

All these offensive weapons against a Colorado defense which is 113th in scoring defense (33.8 points per game) and 123rd in total defense (480.0 yards per game).

Any wonder why ESPN’s FPI gives Washington State a 79.7% chance of winning?

Well, I guess it could be worse … CU could be facing the 99.8%-00.2% odds UCLA faced in the third quarter of their game against the Cougars.

What gives CU a 20% chance of winning is the Washington State game is the Cougar defense, which is giving up 31.8 points per game (98th nationally) and 459.0 yards per game (115th).

Steven Montez needs to shake off his four interception game against Oregon … and have one of the better games of his career … for the Buffs to snap their two-game losing streak.

I – Intangibles 

Will the demons of 2017 and 2018 come back to haunt the 2019 Colorado football team?

The Buffs hit a glass ceiling of five wins the past two seasons, unable to come up with a sixth win and bowl eligibility – despite ten chances to do so.

Last season, the Buffs started 5-0, then lost both ends of a back-to-back road trip in October (at USC; at Washington) … and never recovered.

This fall, the Buffs are facing another back-to-back road trip in October … is the humbling defeat to Oregon a portend of bad losses to come?

“It hurts man,” kicker James Stefanou said Friday night. “It feels like someone’s ripped your guts out when you lose like that. Close ones are tough to lose, but those ones, it’s got to build you as a team and you have to learn from it – like anything. Right now it hurts.”

But the Buffs can’t dwell on the loss for too long. “It’s just the same 24 hour rule we’ve been talking about all year,” quarterback Steven Montez said. “You go you go back, you watch the film, you think about all the things that you wanted to take back and then you kind of just forget about it and you move on you start studying Washington State.”

If you are an optimist, you might even hope that the Buffs will grow from the experience. “We’re gonna get back to the drawing board; we’re going to get better, man,” senior safety Mikial Onu said. “This is a tough loss. They always are. But I’m proud of the team and the direction we’re going to go. We’re going to learn from the experience and we’ll be better.”

The Buffs will be better than what they showed against the Ducks – that much is certain.

However, whether the “better” comes this weekend … or next year … remains to be seen.

P – Preparation/Schedule

— Weather will be a factor in Saturday’s game. As of this writing, the forecast for Pullman for this weekend is a high of 46-degrees, winds up to 15 m.p.h., and a 90% chance of rain.

No one likes to play in the rain (or sit in the stands for the same), which could help the Buffs keep it close. If you are the underdog – and the Buffs are 12.5-point underdogs – you would rather be playing in a game against Washington State in which:

  • The passing game is less effective, with more off-target passes and more drops;
  • Turnovers – the great equalizer – are more likely to occur; and
  • Attendance tends to dip (WSU is averaging less than 30,000 per game in 2019 … and this is the first home game since the Cougars started their losing streak).

— Both teams played on the road last weekend, with CU playing at Eugene; Washington State in Tempe. The only upside for the Buffs, such as it is, is that the Buffs played on Friday night, and were home to watch the ASU/WSU game on television Saturday afternoon. For a team which has a number of players who remain on the mend, every extra day of rest helps.

As far as looking ahead … It’s a tough stretch for the Cougars. Not only is Washington State on a three-game losing streak, but the Cougars were on the road the past two weekends (at Utah; at Arizona State), and, after the home game against the Buffs, take to the road for another back-to-back road swing (at Oregon and at Cal, though there is a bye week before the Cal game). The Buffs, meanwhile, get to return home next weekend to get their 14th shot at win No. 1 against USC next Friday night.

All in all … CU has the better of it, schedule-wise.

S – Statistics

— This is the back half of CU’s annual back-to-back road trip part of the schedule. The Buffs are 0-6-2 to date on such trips as a member of the Pac-12 (swept six times; two splits), and will try and come up with split No. 3 this weekend;

— Colorado has given up a minimum of 30 points in all six games this season (and in 11 straight games overall, dating back to last season). Washington State, meanwhile, has given up 143 points (or 47.6 points per game) in three Pac-12 games. Even discounting the 67-point meltdown against UCLA, it’s worth noting that the Cougars gave up 38 points to both Utah and Arizona State the past two weekends;

— Prior to the Oregon game, Colorado was first in the Pac-12 and third in the nation in turnover margin at +1.6/game (picking up 12 turnovers, while committing only four … including two fumbles, which both came on kickoff returns). After losing four turnovers and gaining none against Oregon, the Buffs fell to fourth in the Pac-12 and 18th in the nation in turnover margin (+.67/game);

— Mike Leach is 4-5 all-time against Colorado (3-2 at Washington State; 1-3 at Texas Tech);

Something’s gotta give department … Colorado has been outscored by a combined margin of 42-10 in the the second half of their last two games.  Washington State, meanwhile, has been outscored 38-17.

What to watch for … Which running back has the better game, and converts the most third-and-short opportunities. With the running game playing a more prominent role in bad weather game, Max Borghi and Alex Fontenot will have an increased role. Borghi has proven to be a hard-nosed runner, and a great outlet receiver in the passing game. It will be up to Alex Fontenot to match Borghi’s production if the Buffs are to have a chance against the Cougars.

Prediction … As the hours pass, it’s easier and easier to put the memories of the Oregon game in the rear view mirror. Even the most ardent CU fan had long ago penciled the road trip to Eugene as an “L” this season. The fact of the matter is that while the game was a rout, it doesn’t count for two losses for the Buffs … it’s still just one game.

But certain realities remain.

The Buffs – be it from inexperience, injuries, lack of talent, coaching – or any number of combinations from that list, are horrible in pass defense. Hopefully, a few more bodies will be back in the lineup in the secondary this week, giving the Buffs a fighting chance against the Washington State offense (it looks like Aaron Maddox is back at starter at strong safety, and Trey Udoffia is back on the active roster … but true freshman K.J. Trujillo is starting at one of the cornerback positions). It also doesn’t help that defensive end Mustafa Johnson and nose tackle Jalen Sami are listed as “questionable” to “doubtful”, leaving two true freshmen to start in their places.

The weather may be adverse, perhaps bad enough that it will impede the Cougar offense (though CU fans will remember that the last time the Buffs played in Pullman, in 2017, only the Colorado offense was stymied by the weather. Temperature at kickoff was 41-degrees, with 22-32 mph winds, with rain throughout the night … and the Buffs were shut out. Using three quarterbacks, the Buffs managed all of 174 yards of total offense in a 28-0 beat down).

If the CU defense can’t be counted upon to stop the Mike Leach offense, and the weather can’t be counted upon to keep the Cougars in check, that means that the Buffs will have to out-offense the Cougars to win.

After the four-turnover, three-point effort against Oregon, anyone want to bet the house payment on that happening?

The Washington State defense is not in the same league as the Oregon defense, but can the CU offense exploit the WSU deficiencies enough times to keep up with the Cougar offense?

I would like to say yes, but the Buffs are going to have to make it happen on the field before I can start picking them again …

Prediction … Washington State 35, Colorado 24 … 

Previous predictions … 

— No. 13 Oregon 33, Colorado 17 … Actual: No. 13 Oregon 45, Colorado 3

Colorado 38, Arizona 31 … Actual: Arizona 35, Colorado 30

No. 24 Arizona State 27, Colorado 17 … Actual: Colorado 34, No. 24 Arizona State 31

— Colorado 34, Air Force 24 … Actual: Air Force 30, Colorado 24 (OT)

Colorado 37, No. 25 Nebraska 31 … Actual: Colorado 34, No. 25 Nebraska 31 (OT)

Colorado 38, Colorado State 20 … Actual: Colorado 52, Colorado State 31


15 Replies to “Colorado at WSU – “T.I.P.S.” for Redemption Bowl”

  1. WState 52 – Colorado 20. I’ve been a Buff fan for too long. Feel like I’ve seen this season play out before. Hope I’m completely wrong.

  2. Read your stuff for years and admired your Buff “loyalty”? . Today I heard defeatism and whining. This team is NOWHERE near the canvas tent built by MacIntyre….this team doesn’t fold. You listed about 6 things that could be wrong with the secondary: (way to be decisive!) They are young and talented. They weren’t expected to play this early. A year ago, most of them were playing in a stadium where they (the players) knew everyone sitting in the stands.
    Yes, we will get burned a few times. But the question is: how many stellar secondarys have been exploited….many. I believe, and I DO believe, BUFFS win in a shootout…52-45.
    Just in case you’re wondering how we do that…Run the damn ball with Fontenot and Mangum till they’re choking on it …and then unleash Laviska and KD and Brown and Dimitri.
    Keep the ball away from their offense…6-8 minute drives and then lower the boom.

  3. If the team doesn’t respond to Coach Tucker this week I see maybe a win against UCLA. If he can get them to respond and pull out a victory then confidence and team morale carry the Buffs to 6 or more wins. But for now just get number 4.
    Buffs 35 WSU 31

  4. The last 2 times I’ve traveled to Pullman with friends who are ardent WSU alumni and supporters the Buff’s have not done well. This year for family obligations, I will not be in attendance and as one colleague mentioned “damn, we are leaving our Buff Loss Talisman at home !” Not my view, but if so I will accept their misguided sentiments when somehow the Buff’s prevail 36 – 34.

  5. Yo Stuart,

    Just remember to forget the stats. On (in?) the Palouse, they are freaking out because Washington State has lost three in row. It’s not the losses to Utah and ASU, which can be forgiven, it’s the giving up 67 points and losing to perhaps the worst UCLA team that most people can remember.

    Remember how Buff fans felt when we collapsed against Oregon State? That game against the Bruins was that bad for Leach and his faithful.

    We will know which Buffs came to play probably by the end of the 1st quarter. Is it the team that plays tough and disciplined or the team that has a false start every time a defender moves? Will they be hung out to dry by trash talking? Or will they keep their cool?

    Winning is the best revenge. It doesn’t matter how many yards Wazzou throws for. All that matters is the final score. If the Buffs I saw down in Tempe show up, they can and will beat the Cougars. If the Buffs that showed up to play Arizona and Air Force show up, Colorado loses yet another close one.

    Oregon is the class of the Pac-12, so no need to point out what happens when you play poorly and undisciplined against a superior team. This one is there for the taking… but so were two of our losses.

    If the Buffs control the ball and the clock (and put up points like UCLA), they win this thing. The clock is ticking on Montez and his NFL dreams. Will he take this game seriously or be content to ride out the season knowing that his place in the non-important record books is secure.

    Once again, we will see. That’s why they play the games.


  6. So as much as people love to talk about how the Air Raid passing attack is all about throwing the ball around…they don’t mention that the core, defining play of the Air Raid is the mesh play, which features a crossing route across the middle of the field and is designed to exploit linebackers.

    I’m much more worried about slow linebackers failing to cover Max Borghi and whatever random slot receivers Leach pulled out of nowhere than I am about CU’s inexperienced secondary giving up long bombs.

    WSU wins, 45-30

  7. Hey, there’s no real reason to think the Buffs can hang with Lil’ Wazzou’s outrageous offense. But I’m feelin’ lucky, let’s make it Buffs 35 – The Leachmen 31

  8. Come on guys! CU 35 Wazzu 32…

    I wouldn’t bet on that, but… I see Leach passing as much in the rain as he does in the snow or sun. Almost every down. We can only hope that their receivers don’t catch them all, and in the post-game stories and comments in the Cougarsphere, they’re lamenting that Leach just never learns, is too stubborn to modify his schemes and game plans, and that maybe, just maybe, it’s time to move on… That’s the hope anyway.

    Looking forward to seeing how our Buffs bounce back from last week’s beat down. How they respond and come into Pullberg will shine a little more light into what we’ve got going in the Champions Center. I still think they can get three more wins. Maybe more. I have no idea what games, but… they’re out there. Well, as long as they don’t play as poorly as they did in Eugene, at least.

    Go Buffs

  9. I think CJ’s 42/28 is closer. The rain is going to slow the Buff’s O too. Leach strikes me as the kind of guy who will have his QB and WRs practicing this week while water is being sprayed all over the field

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