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Colorado v. Washington – “T.I.P.S.” for CU’s Senior Day Night

Remember the 2016 Pac-12 title game … No. 4 Washington v. No. 8 Colorado in Santa Clara, California?

Colorado came into the contest against Washington with a 10-2 record and a wave of momentum, but the Buff offense was dominated by the Husky defense. The Buffs managed all of 161 yards of total offense and nine first downs in a 41-10 defeat.

Well, the last time the Washington defense took the field, two weeks ago against Oregon State, the Husky defense posted similar numbers. Washington held Oregon State to 119 yards of total offense and six first downs (with Oregon State’s lone score coming by way of an interception return for a touchdown).

Not that the defense for the 6-4 2019 Washington squad is as good as the 2016 Pac-12 Champion version, but two weeks ago they did put up numbers reminiscent to what the 2016 team produced.

Memo to Steven Montez and Laviska Shenault:

Make your last game at Folsom Field count …

This week’s “T.I.P.S.” for CU v. Washington … Saturday, 8:00 p.m. MT, ESPN

T – Talent 

Jacob Eason and Mel Tucker have the University of Georgia in common.

Eason, a five-star recruit from Lake Stevens, Washington, was the No. 5 overall player from the Recruiting Class of 2016. Eason committed to Georgia, and started as a freshman in 2016. He was injured, however, in the first quarter of the first game of his sophomore season. Eason was replaced by Jake Fromm, who took the Bulldogs to the 2017 title game against Alabama.

Opting to leave rather than play behind Fromm, Eason transferred to Washington in January, 2018, and sat out the 2018 season. Now a junior, Eason this fall has completed 63.7% of his passes, going for 2,472 yards, with 20 touchdowns and seven interceptions (compare: Steven Montez – 63.0% completion percentage, 2,428 yards, with 14 touchdowns and 10 interceptions).

So … other than the touchdown/interception ratio – and the fact that one is 6-4 and the other is 4-6 – the two quarterbacks are not all that dissimilar in production.

What about the running game?

Salvon Ahmed (No. 26 in your program) figures to be a key player in Saturday night’s game. The junior has 886 yards rushing, with nine touchdowns (compare: Alex Fontenot – 720 yards with four touchdowns).

The leading receiver for the Huskies is a tight end (not a surprise for Washington), Hunter Bryant (No. 1). Bryant has 41 reception for 647 yards and three touchdowns in the Huskies’ ball control offense (and is projected by CBS Sports, along with CU’s Laviska Shenault, to be a first-round NFL draft pick next April).

While Washington is above average on offense (61st in total offense; 36th in scoring offense), it is the Husky defense which gives Washington its best chance at success. Even in the Huskies’ four losses (20-19 to Cal; 23-13 to Stanford; 35-31 to Oregon; 33-28 to Utah), the defense has played well enough to win the game.

And, considering how well the Washington defense played against Oregon State, it’s fair to say that points will be at a premium for the home team Saturday night.

I – Intangibles 

— Entering this weekend’s games – the weekend before Thanksgiving, mind you – every team in the Pac-12 conference remains in the hunt for a bowl bid.

Granted the hill is steep for four Pac-12 teams, but the fact remains that for every Pac-12 team there exists a path to 15 extra practices this December.

Four of the Pac-12’s members have 4-6 records, with their seasons on the line the next two weekends. All four will need to win both of their remaining games in order to get to six wins and bowl-eligibility:

  • Stanford … needs to beat both Cal and Notre Dame;
  • UCLA … needs to beat both USC and Cal;
  • Arizona … needs to beat both Utah and Arizona State; and
  • Colorado … needs to beat both Washington and Utah.

This just in … there’s a good chance that none of the above teams will make the post-season.

Still, Colorado, just like the other three 4-6 teams on the list, is still alive for a bowl bid, and that gives the Buff locker room plenty of incentive for Saturday night’s game.

— Meanwhile, over in the Washington locker room … The Oregon win over Arizona last weekend locked up the Ducks’ invitation to the Pac-12 championship game, ending a three-year run for the Huskies as the top dog in the Pac-12 North.

The Huskies are 6-4, and are already eligible for the post-season. But … there is no shot at the Rose Bowl or a playoff bid, this is Washington’s second road game in a row (albeit after a bye week), it’s a night game, in the cold, against a Colorado team which hasn’t beaten Washington since Rick Neuheisel was the CU coach.

How interested will they be in this game?

“We still got three games left and they’re really, really important,” said Washington coach Chris Petersen, trying to put a positive spin on a down year for the Huskies. “I know it just sounds corny and all that, but it’s kind of what we were talking about. We’re improving and we’re getting close to what we’re capable of with this team and all these guys together.”

Not a whole lot to get the blood pumping, if you are on the Washington side of the field …

P – Preparation/Schedule

— Both teams are coming off of bye weeks, so both teams have had time to rest up and get some banged up players healthy. For the team with less depth (see: Buffaloes, Colorado), that can only be a good thing.

— The weather forecast for the 8:00 p.m., kickoff will be around the freezing mark, but there should be little wind and no precipitation. The lack of wind and rain will be a boon for those of us in the stands who are willing to stay up to watch the game and then fight traffic to get to our beds sometime after midnight.

The late kickoff is hurting ticket sales, though, with just over 42,000 tickets sold as of Monday. CU is one of only eight schools in the nation averaging more than a sellout this season, with an average of 50,563 at each of the first five home games (capacity: 50, 183). For CU to “average” a sellout in Year One of the Mel Tucker era, a head count of 48,283 will be required this weekend.

— Next weekend … Both teams will have “rivalry” games, though neither contest has been super competitive of late. Washington will return home to face Washington State, with the Huskies having taken the last six Apple Cups. Meanwhile, in Salt Lake City, top ten Utah will be looking to punch its ticket to the Pac-12 title game with a win over Colorado. The Utes have won six of the eight meetings between the schools since they joined the conference together in 2011.

Both historically and in terms of venom, the Washington/Washington State game is of greater importance than the Rocky Mountain Brawl … or whatever the CU/Utah rivalry is supposed to be called.

While the Buffs will be up for Senior Night in Boulder, the Huskies have their home finale to look forward to next weekend.

Advantage: Colorado.

S – Statistics

— How’s this for a drive chart: Punt; punt; downs; punt; punt; punt; interception; punt; punt; punt; punt; punt.

A typographical error?

No … The Oregon State drive chart against Washington two weeks ago.

As noted above, the Beavers had 119 yards of total offense against the Huskies, with a grand total of six first downs. In the second half, Oregon State managed zero first downs and 15 total yards in going three-and-out five consecutive times after halftime.

Okay, I won’t belabor the point, but if the Buffs get to midfield on their opening drive against Washington on Saturday night, that in and of itself is a victory.

— Are you sitting down? Try this on for size … In the first quarter this season, Washington has out-scored its opponents 107-13;

— In the last five seasons, the Huskies have scored 14 touchdowns on kickoff and punt returns … and have given up zero;

— The two teams are very similar when it comes to offensive production this fall. Washington is rushing for 167.4 yds/game; CU 153.7. Washington is passing for 249.1 yds/game; CU 247.8. So, naturally, total yards/game (Washington 416.5; Colorado 401.5) is also fairly close. Where the teams differ, however, is in what they are doing with those yards. Washington is 36th in the nation in scoring offense (33.3 pts/game), while Colorado is 95th (24.7 pts/game).

— Penalties may play a role in the outcome, as Washington is 82nd in the nation in penalties (6.5/game), while Colorado is 114th nationally (7.4/game).

What to watch for – Part I … Both teams are adept at forcing turnovers (16 apiece), while being better at holding onto the ball (CU has lost 13 turnovers; Washington 12). As is almost always the case … win the turnover battle, you’ve got a better chance to win.

Something has got to Give Dept. … Colorado has been terrible at stopping the opposition on third down (47.6%; 124th in the nation) while Washington has struggled in converting on third downs (34.8%; 108th in the nation).

What to watch for – Part II … With a grand total of 29 points being scored in CU’s last game (CU 16, Stanford 13) and a grand total of 26 points being scored in Washington’s last game (UW 19, Oregon State 7), points may be hard to come by Saturday night. If that’s the case, field position will be pivotal, and both teams have excellent punters. CU, behind senior Alex Kinney, is 20th in the nation in net punting, while Washington is 7th in the nation in net punting.

Prediction … A few games back, I said I couldn’t pick the Buffs to win until they proved it on the field.

Well, they came through in the Stanford game. It was a painful game to watch at times, with the Buff offense generating only 16 points. The home crowd remained on edge all afternoon, with the joy (relief?) of victory not hitting us fully until the Evan Price 37-yard field goal sailed through the uprights on the game’s final play (full disclosure: even after the field goal was called good, and the Buffs started mauling Price, I was still looking for a flag for holding … or 12-men on the field … or something else which would somehow deny the Buffs a victory).

The win gave the program, and the young men in the locker room, some positive results to show for their hard work in adjusting to Mel Tucker’s systems. The five-game losing streak would not turn into an eight-game losing streak. The Buffs had a November win for the first time in three seasons.

Followed by a bye week to savor the victory.

Can the Buffs carry that momentum forward? Can they stay in the game against the favored Huskies (14.5-point spread) long enough for the visitors to become tired enough, or cold enough, or disinterested enough, to allow the Buffs another emotional fourth-quarter victory?

My heart says “yes”, but my head says: Oregon State – which arguably has a better offense than does Colorado – punted ten times against this Washington defense.

Ten times!

Sixteen points were enough to defeat Stanford.

The Buffs are going to need more than 16 points to beat the Huskies.

I’m not sure they’ll get there …

Prediction … Washington 24, Colorado 14 … 

Previous predictions … 

Stanford 30, Colorado 27 … Actual: Colorado 16, Stanford 13

UCLA 34, Colorado 31 … Actual: UCLA 31, Colorado 14

USC 38, Colorado 20 … Actual: USC 35, Colorado 31

Washington State 35, Colorado 24 … Actual: Washington State 41, Colorado 10

— 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

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13 Replies to “CU v. Washington – Senior Day “T.I.P.S.””

    1. He was asked that as his press conference and basically just shrugged and said “yeah I know he’s a hard worker blah blah blah” so my impression was “not really”.

  1. You can make a good narrative for predicting a CU win. This is mine. CU had success vs. Stanford. UW is similar in style to Stanford, heavy on the rushing game, pocket passer, stout defense, etc. (Talent, Prep) Also, a CU win over either USC or UW, teams the Buffs haven’t beat since joining the Pac12, would be the signature achievement of the season and show this new coaching staff is for real (Intangibles). Like others have already said it will most likely be up to the offense to keep the score within reach. Going with the heart this week and a narrow Buffs win.

  2. The overall talent of the Huskies and their D should win out but….I am going with the intangibles this time and with my heart. The win against Stanford (clearly not the Huskies but the Cardinal DID beat them) gives the team confidence and the Buffs still have something to play for even though it is a stretch and it is senior day. It’s irrational but:

    CU 17 Wash 14

    Go Buffs!!!

  3. Oh, one thing on the Oregon state shut out. I think the uw staff has figured out Lindgren and just know what to do to stall his offense out…..

    1. Lindgren always had a few games like this as an offensive playcaller at CU, especially towards the end of the season. His inability to keep the offense from degrading in effectiveness as the season went on was, in my view, the main reason he was forced out.

      That said, the Beavers are my second-favorite school to root for in the PAC (family in Corvalis, I love their color scheme) so I hope Lindgren gets it turned around and they beat WSU (but not Oregon, because I’m still holding out hope for the PAC12 to get to the CFP)

  4. Has Mel Tucker’s team turned the corner? Washington is clearly a beatable team this year, just like Stanford was. Washington is better than Stanford though so Tucker’s team will need to be better than they were two weeks ago. Can they be? I am not sure. One thing you did not note above is Montez’s horrible play in the cold….. not a great sign for this week. Also Washington has a very solid run defense, which means we are not going to be able to just cram it down their throats. Getting Pursell back should help…. I wish they would go 2-1 with Fontenot and Mangham instead of straight rotation. Giving Viska an extra week of rest will help as well.

    With all of that I think your assessment is right my heart says they could do it, my head says ther is little chance. At least this year…..

  5. So Washington has a very very good defense. Good enough to totally steamroll the suddenly great Brian Lindgren.
    I think the obvious conclusion is the Buffs usual offense most likely isn’t going to do much better. The Buff player’s talent level isn’t going to surge forward enough in 2 weeks to make any difference.
    With 2 weeks to prepare I hope it isnt spent entirely on every coach’s favorite items of working out the details and execution exclusively on the existing offense everyone in the country already has film on.
    Hopefully that will be enough time for Johnson will introduce some new wrinkles, plays, formations etc. that the world has yet to see from the Buffs. Doesn’t take a lot. Just a few t use in critical times or when the Huskies have been set up by a dose of the same ol thing. And…..maybe even….(gasp)…. a trick play or 2.
    I appreciate Mel’s rejection of the previous coaching reliance on “bright smiles”, Garden hats and their own sons but straight ahead smash mouth football aint quite enough right now without enough horses….although the recent recruiting has offered hope for the future.
    With Utah we may have to find the voodoo woman who put the curse on Buff football (at Tom Osborne’s or Kisla’s payment and request???) and see what she needs to transfer that curse to the Utes.

    1. Come on, EP! Eason can get rattled. He’s a pocket type passer more than a freelancing dual threat, and Summers’ D (and pretty much every CU D for the last 20 years) has been a lot better against those guys. And, despite being a pocket passer, he still too often bails out, right into pressure. So, there’s hope on that side of the ball.

      Meanwhile on offense? CU’s been far from lights out this year. And the UW defense does seem to be picking up some slack lately. But, on a chilly November evening in Boulder, this could be another lower scoring affair, and if they can get just one more point than the Huskies, that’ll work for me.

      Once again, I won’t put money on it – not even w/ my Husky brother nor friends – but? I feel an upset coming. Heck, we’re 2-td dawgs to the dawgs? Say it ain’t so! I believe I was at the last game CU beat UW; the Holiday Bowl circa 1995 or so. I won’t be there this time, but:

      Buffs win straight up.

      Go Buffs.

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