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Colorado at No. 13 Oregon – “T.I.P.S.” for the Steven Montez return to Autzen

It looked for awhile like I wasn’t going to be able to watch CU’s first game against Oregon since Steven Montez led the Buffs to a 41-38 victory over the Ducks in 2016.

The Dish Network and Fox were at odds, and the announcement was made on September 26th that the Fox Sports channels were no longer available to Dish customers.

The parties have since kissed and made up, and the game will be available to Dish customers after all.

With the Buffs a three-touchdown underdog to the Ducks … perhaps that’s not really good news after all.

This week’s “T.I.P.S.” for CU v. No. 13 Oregon … Friday, 8:00 p.m. MT, FS1

T – Talent 

You know the world is a strange place when the Buff Nation might actually prefer to face a quarterback who may be the No. 1 overall NFL draft pick next April than the one they just faced?

In three career games against Colorado, Kahlil Tate threw for 908 yards and nine touchdowns, and rushed for 365 yards and four more scores. To put that in some perspective, Tate’s 908 passing yards would place him 35th on CU’s all-time passing charts, ahead of the career numbers posted by former Buff quarterbacks like Derek Marshall (1983-84), Nick Hirschman (2011-12), Boyd Dowler (1956-59), and Charlie Davis (1968-70).

Or, to put it another way, Kahlil Tate has almost as many yards of total offense in three games against the Buffs (1,273), as Laviska Shenault has in yards from scrimmage in his three years in Boulder (1,590).

What the Hell … bring on Justin Herbert.

The Oregon quarterback is only 23rd in the nation in passing (268.2 yards/game), behind one Steven Montez (12th, at 292.6 yards/game).

Matter of fact, Colorado has players skill positions on offense which exceed their Oregon counterparts:

  • Passing … Steven Montez: 1,463 yards … Justin Herbert: 1,341 yards
  • Rushing … Alex Fontenot: 392 yards, four touchdowns … CJ Verdell: 277 yards, two touchdowns
  • Receiving … Tony Brown: 442 yards, four touchdowns … Jacob Breeland: 352 yards, five touchdowns

So why again is Oregon a three-touchdown favorite, and is given a 93.7% chance of winning by ESPN’s Football Power Index?

In a word … defense.

This isn’t Chip Kelly’s Oregon (although it would be nice if it were Chip Kelly’s UCLA). The Oregon Ducks of 2019 are very good on offense, with perhaps the best offensive line in the nation protecting Justin Herbert. Under Mario Cristobal, however, the Ducks are building a reputation as one of the best defensive teams in the Pac-12.

Oregon’s defense is yielding just 9.8 points per game, best in the Pac-12 and sixth in the nation. The Ducks have held its last four opponents to single digits, the first Power Five conference team to do so since Michigan in 2015.

In five games, opponents have reached Oregon territory just 19 times in 60 possessions, with three of those already starting on Oregon’s side of the field.

Feel free to re-read those last few sentences while you envision the Buff offense trying to piece together an evening of ten-play, 75-yard drives.

So … if CU’s defense has yet to hold an opponent under 30 points, and Oregon’s defense isn’t allowing double digits to its opponents … that’s not a good combination.

I – Intangibles 

“Never let the same team beat you twice”.

Coaches say it all the time. You lost a tough game, but you have to let it go (Mel Tucker talks about a “24-hour rule” for every game. Win or lose, move past it after 24 hours). In other words, don’t let the Arizona loss – a game the Buffs know they could have won – be responsible for subsequent defeats due to a lack of focus on the next opponent.

In 2017, Colorado came into the game against Arizona with a 3-2 record. The defending Pac-12 South champion Buffs had visions of competing for another title. After Tate ran all over the Buffs in a 45-42 shootout, the Buffs went 2-4 the rest of the way, finishing 5-7 and home for the holidays.

In 2018, Colorado came into the game against Arizona with a 5-3 record. The Buffs needed only one win in the last four games to return to a bowl game. After Tate threw for five touchdowns and another Wildcat victory, the Buffs lost their three remaining games, finishing 5-7 and home for the holidays.

In 2019, Colorado came into the game against Arizona with a 3-1 record. Under Mel Tucker, the Buffs already had two wins over quality opponents in the books, and had the Buff killer Tate at home in front of a sellout crowd. After Tate threw for 404 yards and three touchdowns, the Buffs …

To Be Determined

P – Preparation/Schedule

A Friday night road trip is never easy on the traveling team. Instead of getting on a plane on Friday, the visitors have to travel on Thursday, moving everything up a day in preparations.

For the Buffs, trying to get over the Arizona loss as soon as possible, the Friday night road game may actually be a blessing in disguise.

“We had to come in on Sunday and put the (Arizona) game away and introduce Oregon to our guys in a walk through,” head coach Mel Tucker said after Monday’s practice. “Then we come out here today and it’s like a Tuesday practice. Burn the midnight oil a little bit as a staff, make sure we keep those guys on track in terms of the game plan. It just moves everything up a day.”

As far as looking ahead … The Buffs were supposed to get an advantage here. While Colorado is traveling next weekend to the eastern end of the state of Washington to play the Cougars, Oregon is heading to the western part of the state to play Washington in Seattle. The Oregon/Washington tilt was supposed to be the Game-of-The-Year in the Pac-12, with the North Division’s two top teams squaring off for Pac-12 and national prominence. Instead, with Washington already falling twice in Pac-12 play, the game has lost most of its luster. Even if the Huskies defeat the Ducks, Washington fans would have to hope that Oregon loses another game … while Washington remains perfect the rest of the schedule … for the Huskies to have any chance to win the Pac-12 North.

S – Statistics

— Since losing the season opener to Auburn in Arlington, Texas, 27-21, the Ducks have allowed all of 22 points in the last four games (and exactly one touchdown in their opponents’ last 51 drives);

— Colorado, meanwhile, has given up a minimum of 30 points in all five games this season;

— The Buffs are 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). CU has scored 37 points off of turnovers, while the opponents have scored just three points. If you are looking for a stat which will give the Buffs a chance against the Ducks, look no further than turnover margin;

— Colorado has won four of its last five games played on Fridays (three games against Colorado State; one against UCLA last fall);

Something’s gotta give department … Oregon has not been particularly effective in finishing drives, coming in at No. 101 nationally in Red Zone Scoring Percentage (offense), scoring only 75% of the time. Colorado, meanwhile, has been among the nation’s worst in the nation in Red Zone Scoring Percentage (defense), allowing teams to score 86.7% of the time (92nd nationally).

What to watch for … Colorado needs its offense to be successful to stay in the game in Eugene. The Buffs are 23rd in the nation in passing offense (300.2 yards/game) and 34th in scoring offense (34.6 points/game), while the Ducks are 9th in passing defense (166.0 yards/game) and 6th in scoring defense (9.8 points/game).

Prediction … This game will be a measuring stick as to the state of the CU football program in the first year under Mel Tucker. One of Neill Woelk’s Ten Takeaways from the Arizona game was:

Tucker still believes in this team, and his players believe in him. Anyone who saw the fourth quarter Saturday knows this much — the Buffs aren’t a team that is going to quit.

This is a team that has bought into Tucker’s belief in fundamentals and hard work. The Buffs will play for him down to the wire because they know he has their back. They trust him, they respect him and they will come back next week with a resolve to get better — because that’s how good programs are built.

That relationship will be put to the test this weekend.

It would be difficult to find more factors working against the Buffs:

  • Short week, road game, against the best team in the Pac-12 … nothing good about that combination;
  • Offensive stalwarts, including offensive lineman Colby Pursell (out indefinitely – gall bladder surgery) and wide receiver Laviska Shenault (still “day-to-day” – core muscle strain) missed the Arizona game. If ever you wanted to have all hands on deck, it would be against a defense which is 7th in total defense, 6th in total defense, and hasn’t allowed a team into double digits the last month;
  • Defensive starters, including Mustafa Johnson (day-to-day – ankle sprain), Aaron Maddox (out since Air Force game – leg laceration), and Chris Miller (out for the season – torn ACL) have missed playing time at positions of desperate need. Going against the best offensive line and a first-round NFL draft pick at quarterback is difficult under the best of circumstances. The Buff defense has been a sieve all season, and is now looking at having three freshmen starting against Justin Herbert in Autzen;
  • Oregon, with Washington and Auburn both losing last week, is slipping further and further away from Playoff consideration, and could be looking for a dominating win on national television on a Friday night to impress voters who don’t see many Oregon games. The Buffs could be the victim of the Ducks trying to make a statement, and not just get a win and move on.

The last time the players wearing black-and-gold faced double digit odds was last November, when the Buffs limped home with losses to Washington State (31-7), Utah (30-7) and Cal (33-21).

We all want to believe Neill Woelk is right, and that these Buffs won’t quit.

It’s hard to imagine the Buffs winning this game. Conversely, it’s easy to make a case that the CU offense will struggle against one of the nation’s best defenses, and that the CU inexperienced secondary will be shredded by Justin Herbert and the Oregon offense.

A three-touchdown underdog? Take the Buffs, because this is Mel Tucker’s team, not Mike MacIntyre’s … but it still looks like a comfortable win for the Ducks.

Prediction … No. 13 Oregon 33, Colorado 17 … 

Previous predictions … 

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

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

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

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

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

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10 Replies to “CU at Oregon – “T.I.P.S.” for Friday Night at Autzen”

  1. I’m just hoping for the Buffs to play a mostly penalty-free game, make a couple of big hits on offense, show some grit on defense, and make the Ducks nervous. After last week that would show me they are still dedicated to Tucker’s plan.

  2. Ore 45 CU 21. Expecting a long evening for the Buffs with Ducks taking advantage of our D and our O having hit and miss success against their D. The AZ loss took a lot of wind out of CU’s sails. Mostly strong headwinds from here on out.

  3. “With the Buffs a three-touchdown underdog to the Ducks … perhaps that’s not really good news after all.”

    Yes, I’m also a Dish customer and was thinking the same thing Stuart!

    Hopeful for a competitive game.

    Go Buffs!

  4. Now if you feel that you can’t go on
    Because all of your hope is gone,
    And your life is filled with much confusion
    Until happiness is just an illusion,
    And your world around is crumblin’ down;
    Buff fan, reach out (come on Buffy reach on out for Ralphie)
    Reach out (reach out for Ralphie.)
    She’ll be there, with a hope that will shelter you.
    She’ll be there, with a prayer that will see you through.
    She’ll be there to always see you through.
    When you feel lost and about to give up
    ‘Cause your best just ain’t good enough
    And you feel the world has grown cold,
    And you’re drifting out all on your own,
    And you need a hand to hold:
    Buff Fan, reach out (come on Buffy, reach out for Ralphie)
    Reach out (reach out for Ralphie
    She’ll be there, to love and comfort you,
    And She’ll, to cherish and care for you.
    She’ll be there to love and comfort you.
    I can tell the way you hang your head,
    You’re without love and now you’re afraid
    And through your tears you look around,
    But there’s no peace of mind to be found.
    I know what you’re thinkin’,
    You’re alone now, no love of your own,
    But Buff fan, reach out (come on Buffy reach out for Ralphie)
    Reach out (reach out for Ralphie.)
    Remember Shoulder to shoulder
    She’ll be there, to give you all the love you need,
    And She’ll be there, you can always depend on Ralphie.

    Up the Buffalo

    1. GOOD LORD!!!! I wondered what had happened as haven’t Herd as in Buffalo much from VK lately. Now I know…….he’s going up in the foothills or mountains with some crystals, a loin cloth, rubbing fragrant oil on his body, humming some strange near east religion chant and then composing poetry, probably on a piece of tree bark, using berry juice and a quill pen.

  5. I will be at Autzen Friday night with the family rooting for our mighty Buffs. Probably will be the only Buff fan at the stadium.
    Here’s hoping for the best…

    1. Been there, done that.
      I was there for the 70-14 game a few years back … a few hundred Buff fans in the end zone.
      Oregon fans didn’t make fun of us – it would have just been cruel.

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