CU v. Arizona: “T.I.P.S.” for the Buffs’ Attempt To Keep Arizona Winless

… Related … If you prefer your predictions verbally, “CU at the Game Podcast: ”T.I.P.S.” for CU v. Arizona / Will “Subtle Changes” Be Enough? can be found at Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or pretty much wherever you download your favorites. Or, if you would prefer, you can find the podcast here or here.

Well, this is it.

The Buffs are at home. The Buffs are coming off of a bye week. The Arizona Wildcats are coming to Boulder on a nation’s worst 17-game losing streak, with their starting quarterback for the last two games – their third starter in five games – out injured.

Short of bringing Northern Colorado back for a rematch, you couldn’t ask for a better opponent for a struggling Buff team.

Yet Colorado comes into the game on a four-game losing streak of their own, losing by an average score of 28-8.

So … Which struggling team will come out with a “W”?

College football is a game of emotion. For proof, one need look no further than the fact the Colorado – hapless Colorado – was within three minutes of defeating No. 5 Texas A&M … The same Texas A&M team which handed No. 1 Alabama its first loss in 19 games.

Either the Buffs or the Wildcats will leave Folsom Field Saturday afternoon with a bounce in their step, with a renewed sense of optimism that the second half of the season holds some hope for future Pac-12 victories.

All it takes is one win to give a team a boost, and one team will get that boost on Saturday.

The other team will leave Folsom Field Saturday afternoon deflated, wondering – and correctly so – if there will be any victories the remainder of the season.

Colorado opened the week as a 6.0-point favorite over Arizona.

Buff fans are hoping – perhaps against hope – that Vegas has it right.

This Week’s “T.I.P.S” for CU v. Arizona – Saturday, 1:30 p.m., MT, Pac-12 Networks

T – Talent

When a team is struggling on offense, much of the criticism falls to the quarterback position (sound familiar?), and that has been the case at Arizona. The Wildcats have started three different quarterbacks this fall, with varying degrees of success. First year head coach Jedd Fisch thought he had found the answer in South Florida transfer Jordan McCloud. The sophomore started the last two games, and was effective against UCLA (hitting 70% of his passes for 182 yards) before going down with a leg injury in the second half. “Emotionally, it hurts,” Arizona coach Jedd Fisch said. “I think there was a little bit of a deflation there.”

The replacement for McCloud will be Gunner Cruz, who came into the UCLA game after McCloud was hurt. Cruz started the first two games of the season (losses to BYU and San Diego State), but freshman Will Plummer, who started against Northern Arizona, could also get a second chance to show his abilities should Cruz struggle.

The Arizona rushing attack is led by sophomore Drake Anderson, who has 240 yards and a touchdown this season. For my money, though, the player to watch is junior wide receiver Stanley Berryhill, who is the leading receiver (40 receptions for 397 yards), but can also be effective as a rusher. With Cruz a far less mobile quarterback than McCloud, look for the Wildcats to get the ball into the hands of Berryhill early and often.

The Arizona offense moved the ball effectively against UCLA to open the game, putting together drives going for 14 plays, 12 plays, and 15 plays … but netted only six points. The long drives kept the Wildcats in the game (it was 14-13 at halftime, with Arizona having a 219-168 advantage in total yards at the break), but, like the CU offense, the Wildcats have had troubles getting into the end zone (113th in red zone offense; 123rd in scoring offense).

The Arizona defense has been fair, considering the 17-game losing streak the program has endured. The Wildcats are 66th in total defense, giving up 373.4 yards/game (CU is 71st, at 383.6 yards/game), but is 104th in scoring defense (giving up 31.6 yards/game). Translation for CU’s offense: take advantage of scoring opportunities.

UCLA gave the Colorado coaching staff the template for a successful game against Arizona. The Bruins scored 34 points, but star quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson had only 82 yards passing, completing only eight of 19 passes (which sounds a great deal like Brendon Lewis numbers, don’t they?). UCLA got to 34 points thanks to their rushing attack. Check out these numbers: 47 carries for 329 yards (a 7.0 yards/game average) with three touchdowns. The Bruins had two rushers go for over 100 yards, with 146 yards for Brittain Brown and 117 yards for Zach Charbonnet.

Hmmm … so Brendon Lewis (or Drew Carter) will not have to win the game with their arms, so as long as the CU running game is clicking.

Let’s hope CU has a game plan to do just that.


I – Intangibles

The psyche of a college football team is a fragile thing.

Teams like CU can get up for big games (like Texas A&M), but then fall flat in games they have a chance to win (like CU’s last three games).

Arizona’s losing streak stands at 17 games, the longest current streak in the country, and the longest in Pac-12 history. And yet, despite an 0-5 record this season, the Wildcats have been in every game but one. Arizona lost in its opener, 24-16, to a BYU team which came into last weekend’s play with a No. 10 national ranking. Arizona went on the road to face No. 3 Oregon, and was down only 24-19 at the start of the fourth quarter. And before McCloud was injured, it was a 24-16 game in the fourth quarter against UCLA.

Colorado, meanwhile, hasn’t been as competitive of late. The Buffs were down 20-0 to Minnesota at the start of the fourth quarter, down 28-10 early in the fourth quarter against Arizona State, and trailed USC 37-14 one minute into the fourth quarter of CU’s last game.

The last time CU actually had a lead during a game was with 2:41 to play against Texas A&M. Since then, the Buffs have gone three full games without ever having the better side of the scoreboard.

That has to wear on a team …

There is also the factor that both teams – whether they would admit it or not – have had this game circled for some time. This is the battle for the basement of the Pac-12 South, and both teams are counting on this game as a win. The winner of this game may not climb any higher than fifth in the South division, but the loser is almost certainly doomed to finish last.

Those are not exactly the bragging rights you are looking to be playing for at the outset of the season, but for CU and Arizona, it may be all that is left.

Then there is the beginning of the Arizona losing streak.

Much will be made of the Wildcats’ 17-game streak, dating back now over two full years.

But, of course, mention will have to be made during this weekend’s telecast of the last team Arizona beat.

That would be Colorado, in Boulder, on October 5, 2019, when the Wildcats defeated the Buffs, 35-30. Buff killer Kahlil Tate, in finishing off a 3-0 run of demoralizing the CU and its fans, passed for 404 yards and three touchdowns in a 35-30 victory (Tate wouldn’t crack the 300-yard mark passing the rest of his career).

CU has a way of making Arizona quarterbacks – even backup Arizona quarterbacks – look like Hall-of-Famers.

And the players on both sidelines know that …


P – Preparation/Schedule

The setup is all CU could have hoped for.

A bye week is always welcome when your team is on a four-game losing streak. A chance to heal; a chance to regroup.

And, hopefully for the Buffs, a chance to rethink the offense.

If CU comes out against Arizona with the same ol’, same ol’ offense, with no hint of change or creativity, the Buffs will hear it from the Folsom Field crowd.

Arizona, last weekend against UCLA, was coming off of a bye week, and the offense was, in fact, more productive than it had been. With an off-week to prepare for the Bruins’ defense, the Wildcat drive chart before McCloud got hurt looked like this:

  • 14 plays, 65 yards … field goal
  • 12 plays, 47 yards … field goal
  • 15 plays, 61 yards … downs
  • 9 plays, 75 yards … touchdown
  • 2 plays (end of half)
  • 11 plays, 48 yards … field goal
  • 5 plays, seven yards … punt

It wasn’t until the final two minutes of the third quarter, then, before the Arizona punter came onto the field for the first time. If Arizona could have finished some of their drives with touchdowns instead of field goals, UCLA could have been in trouble.

Buff fans will be looking for that type of production from the CU offense coming off of a bye. The players have had a chance to get healthy, the offensive line has had a chance to practice together, and the offensive coaching staff has had two weeks to design a game plan which can work against the Arizona defense.

Fingers crossed …

As far as next weekend’s games are concerned, the Arizona coaching staff and players have to at least have an eye towards the next opponent. While the Buffs are traveling to the Bay area to face a struggling Cal team (1:30 p.m., MT, Pac-12 Networks), the Wildcats are returning home for a Friday night tilt against Washington. The home game against the Huskies will be televised nationally on ESPN2 (though the kickoff will be at 10:30 p.m., Eastern time, so the audience will be limited to the Pac-12 After Dark crowd).

A chance for a big win at home before a nationwide audience? While CU is relegated, once again, to the afternoon game on the Pac-12 Networks?

It may be a small thing, considering that Arizona has to look at every game as an opportunity to break its losing streak. That being said, 18-20 year olds are what they are, and the UCLA game was on ESPN late last Saturday night, and the Wildcats will again be on ESPN next weekend.

Perhaps this game is a slightly bigger deal for the Buffs than it is for the Wildcats?


S – Statistics 

The following section should be rated “R” instead of “S”, as these are numbers which are not suitable for younger audiences.

Suffice it to say, these are two poor teams.

You have been warned …

Stats to make you smile … As you might expect from an 0-5 team carrying around the weight of 17 straight losses, the Arizona stats sheet leaves much to be desired. Categories wherein the Wildcats are ranked 100th in the nation or lower include:

  • On offense … 107th in rushing offense (112.2 yds/game) … 123rd in scoring offense (16.8 pts/game) … 114th in red zone offense (.722) …
  • On defense … 122nd in rushing defense (219.4 yds/game) … 104th in scoring defense (31.6 pts/game) … 117th in red zone defense (.933) …
  • Other … 128th in turnover margin (-1.28/game) … 115th in penalties per game (8.0) …

Stats to make you cringe … As you might expect from a 1-4 team which has played poorly for the past three weeks in succession, the Colorado stats sheet leaves much to be desired. Categories wherein the Buffs are ranked 100th in the nation or lower include:

  • On offense … 127th in passing offense (100.4 yds/game) … 129th in total offense (239.6 yds/game) … 129th in scoring offense (13.8 pts/game) …
  • On defense … none … CU ranks between 61st (scoring defense) and 78th (rushing defense) in the major defensive categories …
  • Other … 123rd in third down conversions (.295) … 105th in penalty yards (65.6 yds/game) … 114th in time of possession (27:19) …

Stats to watch (i.e, stats which will decide the game)Possessions … Arizona has stayed in games by shortening them. Witness the drive chart from the UCLA game. The Wildcats had four drives of over ten plays (with a fifth, going for nine plays, resulting in their only touchdown). Keeping the ball away from the opposition is Arizona’s best defense. It doesn’t help CU’s cause that the Buffs are terrible at third down conversions and time of possession … Creating Opportunities … CU has generated only three turnovers on defense in five games, while Arizona has given up 12. Something has to give here … Taking advantage of opportunities … Arizona is 114th in red zone offense and 117th in red zone defense. Both teams struggle to score. The team which can convert red zone opportunities into touchdowns instead of field goals will win the game.


Prediction … 

The Arizona game will likely be the last contest of the season in which Colorado is favored. And, barring significant improvement from the CU offense, the last time I will pick CU to win.

Both Colorado and Arizona struggle to score on offense. The Buffs are averaging only 13.8 points per game; the Wildcats are not much better, averaging 16.8 points per game.

Which leaves us, most likely, with a very low scoring game.

The Buffs are terrible at throwing the ball, but, fortunately for CU this weekend, they don’t have to be good, as Arizona is terrible at stopping the run. On the other side of the ball, the Wildcats were showing signs of life behind quarterback Jordan McCloud, but he is now out of the season, replaced by a far less mobile Gunner Cruz. While Cruz was thrust into the UCLA game with no warmup, he was awful against the Bruins when the game was still in doubt.

And then there is this … if Cruz had the confidence of the coaching staff, he never would have been yanked in Game Two.

So … Arizona is heading out on the road … with a 17-game losing streak … and a starting quarterback who isn’t giving his team or their fans warm fuzzies.

If this were the scenario for CU, there is no way we would give the Buffs a chance at a win.

But … we know our Buffs, and it’s hard to have confidence in the product we’ve been watching.

The over/under for this game is 47. With the Buffs a touchdown favorite that works out to a 27-20 game. Anyone have confidence either team can reach 20 points this weekend?

If you want a safer bet? Take the under …

Prediction … Colorado 24, Arizona 17

Previous predictions …

  • Colorado 38, Northern Colorado 17 … Actual: Colorado 35, Northern Colorado 7
  • No. 5 Texas A&M 38, Colorado 17 … Actual: No. 5 Texas A&M 10, Colorado 7
  • Colorado 21, Minnesota 20 … Actual: Minnesota 30, Colorado 0
  • Arizona State 27, Colorado 13 … Actual: Arizona State 35, Colorado 13
  • USC 27, Colorado 17 … Actual: USC 37, Colorado 14


20 Replies to “CU v. Arizona: “T.I.P.S.” for Buffs v. Wildcats”

  1. I’ve lost a lot of confidence in the coaching staff. Lose this game, and the remaining confidence goes out the window for this season. As I said in another post: “I’ve got a bad feeling about this”. Hope I’m wrong. But still can’t bet against the Buffs:

    CU 17 AZ 16

    1. Agreed-Same as I wrote below, lose this game and more will will be lost, not sure there is any coming back from a L here

  2. So the only change I really want to see is Carter starting. I would be excited about us going off the deep end and moving to a wishbone, or led school triple option, but that is a leap to far for Dorrell and that I can accept. But trying out a back up qb that should not be a leap too far.

    Here is the issue though. Arizona has seen how to stop our offense under Lewis, you go blocker +1 in the box. This gives you favorable head count against zone and stretch plays. You pinch your db’s in. This can’t be done on against every formation or coverage but it can be done enough against our formations or offense it brings another run stuffer into the box and accounts for the quarterback run game. You line up 1 deep safety and there first read is still pass but they are filling hard to clean up gaps. You rush 4 and drop 7. This floods the zones and gives the quarterback a confusing read, makes him hold the ball a bit longer. Your tackles against Phillip takes an inside rush route (Filip’s should is still dinged and he gets no power off an inside rush route – maybe two weeks off helped). The defense is easy to set. We have not beaten this set consistently this year becuase you cannot run stretch or zone into this defense effectively. Sure you can crease them every once in a. While but not consistently. You have to crack this with passing. And you have to crack it with passing at 10 yards, which becuase the line is only holding up for about 3 seconds means you have to throw before the receiver is out of his break. Lewis has done that like 2 times all year. I don’t think he can. Start Carter and see if he can. The strangest thing is, if you can crack this defense with a modicum of passing, the run game is going to open up wide again….. I literally think if Lewis can throw in 2.8 instead of 3.2 seconds, throw right as his recievers are making a break instead of when they are out of their breaks, the offense at least goes back to what it was last year and we win some games.

  3. Those details are a mystery now aren’t they. I wonder if they will even be noticeable. Some say it is not his offense by HCKD’s. I think not although he certainly does have input, at least he says he does.
    What has not changed is the predictability of Chevs play calling. 2019 by the middle of the season everyone the Buffs played knew the tendencies and easily stuffed the Buff offense. And in 2020 in the last two games the two good teams had him totally figured out and shut him down. Better players maybe. Better offensive scheme? Absolutely. Better adjustments at half time. Yup.

    Chev may have been a receiver coach on a spread offense but the total package of the spread offense was a void to him.

    Anyway this year will be what it is.

    Next year there will be a new OC.


  4. 6-3

    Unsure who gets the six and who the three.

    But somehow Buffs win.

    Go Buffs

    PS- this seems more like a Dorrell offense than a Chiaverini offense. Schematically, at least. Chev was may more spread based in his other stints. This is very much like last year’s offense with worse results. Fix it, fellas. Little tweaks I guess?

      1. Hiding nothing. Just giving you something to look forward to. Whoever you are. Since it certainly isn’t Saturdays. I’ll get to it.

        Go Buffs.

  5. For 1 week, and 1 week only I will divert from a 38-3 loss for the Buffs. Lose this game, then you’ve lost it all- support, recruiting etc.
    Must win, Buffs 20 Cats 17

  6. Can’t predict it.
    No idea what “30 point” ( )
    will show up with.

    Is it gonna be 2 runs up the middle, then incomplete pass, then punt? He has a really good plan for that. Old fashion offense in the modern world.

    I do predict this:
    There will be minimal change in the scheme.
    There will be minimal change in the play calling
    There will be minimal change in the results.

    Chev is out to prove his “Corvair” offense is valid.
    Even though it is 129th in the nation.
    He blames it on the players, especially the qb. You heard him say it.

    Too bad Buffs

    1. I actually blame the qb as well. 3.2 seconds…. The average time Lewis holds the ball before throwing. 2.8 seconds was the average time Noyer held the ball in the same offense. .4 seconds is a lifetime in football.

      1. Yo RobO,

        What might the reasons for that .4 second extra delay? Just curious. There have to be many.
        QB doesn’t know the reads
        QB is slow to see play development
        Play development is slow.
        The play design, route tree is easily defensed.
        Receivers do not run the routes crisply and correctly or the right routes.

        Has to be lots more.

        I don’t believe the .4 is all on the qb.

        I start with the coaches.


        1. I don’t say this often becuase the vast majority of the time it doesn’t mean squat but in this case it does. I made a division 1 team. It wasn’t a great team at the time but it won some games. In practice, I was solid, I knew my reads I could execute them just fine. In the last scrimmage before the season started I got some time in real live reps. It was a blur. The reads were so much faster, everyone was moving at a pace that I literally could not process it. I distinctly remember the first play. I was playing middle linebacker, the tackle does that little sidestep where the guard blocks the guy over the tackle and the tackle pulls around to seal me off. My feet literally did not move. I didn’t advance I didn’t go backward, I literally did not move. Becuase I did not move I was I. The wrong place and the tackle didn’t even bother to block me he ran by and blocked the backside linebacker. The running back comes barreling out of the backfield and again, I am still processing where the hell the lineman went. He blasts by me on the other side. My feet finally move and I start chasing the running back from behind…..
          I tell this story because it was literally a blur. In high school, I knew the play within sub second of the ball being snapped, I was running to where I needed to be. But as a freshman in college at a d1 program I could just not process fast enough. Seeing the play on film, I knew the read, and I knew where I needed to be at the college level, I just could not process it fast enough. There is no amount of coaching that could have provided that. I needed reps to see if I could develop it, but I will tell you it was a blur in game time. So I see what Dorrell is trying to do in just giving reps to Lewis, he may develop the processing speed. I am sure they are coaching him to single pre snap read and throwing to a spot. They have to be. He is just not able to process fast enough and our line is not able to hold long enough for him to process. But watch the game on dvr I know that is hard but try it. On any pass play count to three slowly and then freeze the dvr. The vast majority of the time there is someone open. It depends on the defense they are running and the route combinations but someone is open, the ball needed to be in the air already though for it to be a completion becuase the windows are so small. And becuase it is not, and becuase our line play is so bad they are getting pressure in just over 3 seconds with just 4 the reads are confusing with 7 defenders. I get Lewis’s issue, I have been there, but I tell you if I would have started a game my freshman year it would have been a disaster for a very long time. I just did not have it. On the other side was another freshman who, got it. He was amazing. He got it and could process. He wasn’t smarter, he just could process the game faster at that point. We need to give Carter a chance. From what I saw Carter is either processing faster or just makes a decision pre snap and goes with it no matter what and has the arm talent to make that work. Either way it is better than Lewis right now.

        2. “The play design, route tree is easily defensed”
          Thats pretty much it. Diversity is not in Chev’s vocab and the opposing DC can make reservations for dinner, schedule a team meeting and text the wife during the game.
          Rob is right ….high school was easy. As a free safety I had to make more reads than the QB…who probably never had to make a read. Of, course I played in the stone ages where the only different formation than The full T backfield was putting one them in the slot.
          It sounds to me like the only read Rob was making in college was who was going to hit him first. Doing that of course you couldnt make a post snap read in a sub sub sub sub second. what would that be? 0.0004 seconds? Sheeesh.
          As a middle linebacker he had to either make a pre snap read and/or make sure the rest of the D was lined up according to the DC’s call…..but I digress. How did a middle linebacker become an expert on QB reads?
          Putting all your eggs into the 2.8 to 3.2 basket and thinking its all Brendon’s ability to process is way too presumptuous, simple and easy. Yeah Lewis may be holding the ball a little long but there are more than one reason for it.
          First of all not every route is a throw it before the cut and if chev is calling too many of them thats a big mistake. Thats a lot to ask for a lot of D1 QBs. Thats where Noyer got in trouble throwing picks into zones.
          Secondly not every play is handled by the opposing D. There are a few kernels worth digesting in Rob’s analysis. Pre snap coverage disguise is one of them and one that is easy to use given Chev’s predictability. I have my doubts if Lewis has been prepared for these sorts of things well enough in practice. Its also obvious he is scared to death to throw a pick and I feel that is also in the coach’s lap.
          And you can also blame the inexplicable regression of the O line in combination with all the other things.
          And because of all that I doubt if Carter has been prepared any better. Maybe he will play a little looser not letting the coach or the coaching sit on his shoulder.
          But ya know what? If we can just pare that 3.2 down to 3.0 we might be off to a bowl game….right? arggghhh

          1. Rob and ed, correct me if I am wrong, but doesn’t the west coast offense, which is basically what we have because it is Karl’s offense primarily, rely entirely on the ball being thrown to a spot, and leaving the qb’s hands before the receiver gets there? I could be wrong, but that was entirely the magic of bill and joe, right? Pioneering 35 yrs ago. Bill’s daughter Liz is an alum. Maybe she knows?

            Go Buffs

          2. There are very few routes in college football that are not more successful for the ball to be in the air before the receiver is actually open especially against zone defenses. Against man, it is more of a mixed bag, but because our opponents are dropping 7 we never get cover 0 so there is always an element of zone.
            The slant pass should be in the air before the wide receiver clears the linebacker becuase it needs to fit in between the play side linebacker in zone. Against man with no middle zone element it is a bit more flexible.
            The curl and out routes need to be thrown right as the receiver is making his break against zone or man to stop the db from driving on the pass and give the receiver some space to catch and potentially run.
            The seem route will always have to be thrown to a spot as you have to clear the under coverage while fitting it under the top side safety coverage
            The backside shoulder literally throws the receiver open before the break
            The fade, the corner and the post deep routes are probably the only routes I can think of where you don’t really throw the ball before the receiver makes a break. In those cases though you are mostly throwing to a spot that you have a read on the defense that should be open and Lewis is clearly not making that read either.

            As for my personal experience I largely tell the story becuase it is funny. The speed of the game at the college level is so far beyond what happens at the high school level. And some people can handle it and some cannot. It doesn’t mean that those that cannot will never develop it, but I will tell you it is not a coaching thing. Your brain can either process it or it cannot. Maybe reps help, I would never find out as my college career ended about 10 snaps later with an all big east lineman damn near ripped my shoulder off when I tried a high school move in a college scrimmage. So that I don’t have any personal knowledge of. I assume you can as very smart football people are trying to give Lewis reps to overcome. I just think they are wrong. Lewis looks like I felt. Everything is a blur on the field. When you get to practice or the film you can easily diagnose and process, even thinking back on the memory you can as well. But in real time, it was literally a wash of color……. And there are some people that even as freshman don’t have that. The other freshman linebacker came in and immediately played and played pretty well. You have to at least try Lewis in my opinion.

          3. Thanks Rob. Sounds like a fair assessment, to me. And, we know you meant Carter, in your last sentence.

            Hey, on the bright side, one of Karl’s mantras has been “we want to process quickly and accurately”. So, he knows what he’s looking for, it seems. Now, does he have them? In certain spots, yes. Landman, obviously. Can he get them to CU? Let’s hope so.

            I still lean on Carter’s pretty high level basketball skills, in that as a point guard, you’re processing and anticipating a lot. I hope we get to see him Saturday. I don’t think the offense can do any worse. I mean, maybe not moving the ball and instead turning it over chronically w/ interceptions, would be worse? But, just call them punts. The scoreboard can’t get much worse. We’ll see what we see, I guess.

            Go Buffs

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