CU v. Arizona: “T.I.P.S.” for CU’s Trip to Autzen

… Related … If you prefer your predictions verbally, “CU at the Game Podcast: “T.I.P.S.” for CU at Oregon / Post-Mortem on Cal Debacle / Mitch Rodrigue: Fall Guy, or First Domino to Fall?” 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.

I was looking at the ESPN Football Power Index projections for Colorado at No. 7 Oregon. The FPI gives the Ducks with a 92.6% chance of winning the game Saturday.

Which begs the question: Under what scenario would anyone – or any computer – think CU has a 7.4% chance of winning this game?

The Buffs right now are horrible. Chuck Fairbanks baby-blue uniforms losing to Drake horrible. Dan Hawkins opening with a loss to Montana State horrible. Jon Embree … against pretty much everybody horrible.

Or perhaps even worse.

Which just boggles the mind.

Less than 12 months ago, the Buffs, under the same head coach and offensive coordinator, were 4-0 and nationally ranked. Since then, the Buffs have gone 2-7 and have taken huge steps backward.

Arizona, on a 19-game losing streak dating back over two calendar years, has actually been playing better than Colorado. The Wildcats are playing competitive football, and seem to have the program moving in a positive direction. The Wildcats had a two-score lead over Washington in the fourth quarter last weekend, and were within shouting distance of BYU, Oregon and UCLA late in those games.

Can anyone say that about the 2021 Colorado program and its games against all but one of its FBS opponents?

The Death March to an all-too-likely 2-10 record continues this week, with the Buffs a 26.0-point underdog to No. 7 Oregon.

Can the Buffs keep it close? Can the Buffs score double digits?

Let’s find out …

This Week’s “T.I.P.S” for CU at Oregon – Saturday, 1:30 p.m., MT, Fox

T – Talent

Want a prop bet for this weekend?

Which will be higher: Kayvon Thibodeaux’s tackles for loss? … Or CU’s point total? … Or perhaps Oregon tackles for loss v. CU first downs?

Thibodeaux, No. 5 in your program, is a likely top five NFL Draft pick next April (Mel Kiper currently has him as the No. 1 overall pick), and has been terrorizing even good offensive lines this season. Considering how disorganized the CU offensive line was against a poor Cal defense, it’s not a stretch to believe that Oregon defense will have more tackles for loss than CU will have points … or even first downs.

Assuming the Buffs can get the ball past the line of scrimmage, keep an eye out for No. 1, who is linebacker Noah Sewell, who leads the teams in tackles.

“I can’t quite put a finger on that”, said Karl Dorrell when asked about CU’s offensive line woes. “I’m trying to figure that out. We’re going to have to really look at that and see what’s going on there. We’ve had some issues up front. At this point in time, we should have some of those things cleared up. Apparently, we’re still struggling with doing some things. We’ve got to go back and really analyze what our issues are and try to get those things fixed in a hurry. There are a lot of guys (on the offensive line that) have played a lot of football. It’s hard to put a finger on it.”

Not super encouraging when the head coach can’t even identify the issues, much less have a plan for dealing with them.

On the offensive side of the ball, Oregon, not surprisingly, has many weapons.

Quarterback Anthony Brown has thrown for 1,490 yards so far this season (Brendon Lewis has thrown for half that total, 792). Brown completed 29-of-39 passes for 296 yards against UCLA, but threw two costly interceptions. Brown’s inconsistent play in the passing game has been offset by his contributions in the running game. Brown had 85 yards on only six carries against the Bruins, including a touchdown. CU has had a problem for years against mobile quarterbacks, so look for Brown to take advantage.

Running back Travis Dye should also have a great game against the Buffs, as he is an elusive back who runs away from defenses. Dye has 562 yards rushing for the season, and set an NCAA record last weekend with touchdowns on four straight carries.

Look for the Ducks to control both lines of scrimmage, and subsequently the game.


I – Intangibles

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

When asked about the locker room after the humbling 26-3 loss to Cal, wide receiver Brenden Rice said, “People are too nice. People are way too nice and that’s all gonna change this week. … It’s not the coaches, it starts with the players. It’s time to take that next step … If you’re not bought in, you might as well just leave. There’s no room for anybody who’s trying to be out or trying to excuse themselves from the team. We need to all be bought in in order for us to take the next step.”

Rice wasn’t done. “Yeah, we all do practice hard, but we’re not practicing hard enough. We need to take it up to the next level in order to push it to that next level in the game … You see that some people are buying in and some people are not fully in. We need a full buy-in just to head towards that goal.”

With Colorado 130th – dead last – in the nation in total offense, there is bound to be dissension in the locker room. The defense, while not dominant, has played well enough in most games to give the team a chance to win. The offense, by any measure, is not holding up its end of the bargain.

How well the coaching staff finds a way to keep the locker room together will play a significant role in whether the Buffs are competitive in their final five games of the season.

Meanwhile … in the Oregon locker room … the hard part is keeping the players interested in blowouts in the making.

The Ducks have risen to the occasion this season in big games. posting road victories in the only two games in which they were underdogs – against No. 3 Ohio State (a 35-28 victory in Week Two) and against UCLA (a 34-31 win last weekend).

What the Ducks haven’t been is dominant against lesser foes:

  • Fresno State in the opener … 31-24, with the Ducks trailing, 24-21, in the fourth quarter;
  • Stony Brook … 17-7 at halftime. (What Buff fan wouldn’t take that score right now?);
  • Arizona … 24-19 at the start of the fourth quarter;
  • Stanford … lost 31-24;
  • California … trailed 17-10 in the fourth quarter.

Not sayin’ that the Ducks are not going to be prepared to dominate CU from the opening kickoff, just that it actually would be consistent with their 2021 pattern to allow CU to hang around longer than expected.


P – Preparation/Schedule

If only CU was competitive …

Two months ago, CU at Oregon looked like a trap game for the Ducks.

A home game against Colorado, sandwiched between two tough road games: the reunion game against Chip Kelly and UCLA; then a trip to Seattle to face No. 20 Washington, likely for the Pac-12 North title. If the Buffs were a decent team, they might have had a chance to sneak into Autzen and come away with a victory while the Ducks weren’t looking.

And now? Not so much.

Yes, it was a tough, physical game for the Ducks last weekend in Pasadena. And yes, the rivalry game against Washington is still a rivalry game.

But …

Washington is a shell of what was expected from the Huskies in August. Washington opened the season by fall on its face in a home loss to Montana, and stand at 3-4 on the season, with wins coming over Arkansas State, Cal and Arizona.

The Huskies will certainly be up for the game, and the Ducks are certainly looking forward to their trip to Seattle.

But so much that they will completely ignore Colorado? … Probably not.

Meanwhile, Colorado is following a pattern which has plagued the program since joining the Pac-12.

In ten seasons, the Buffs have been on the road for back-to-back Pac-12 games ten times. The Buffs have never swept their two road opponents, have managed a split three times, and have been swept seven times.

This just in … the Buffs lost the first game of their back-to-back road games this year.


S – Statistics 

Fair warning: The below section may not be suitable for younger readers … or those who have a short fuse when it comes to the current state of CU program.

Stats to make you smile … Hard as it is to believe, even the 7th-ranked team in the nation has some categories in which they are ranked 100th in the nation or lower. Not many, mind you, but a few:

  • On offense … 103rd in time of possession (28:10). Not the track meet of the Chip Kelly years, but scoring can come quickly (Oregon is 32nd in scoring offense, at 33.9 points/game);
  • On defense … 1o9th in passing yards allowed (266.6 yards/game) … 115th in third down percentage defense (.445) … 110th in first downs defense (174);
  • Other … 114th in penalties per game (7.86) … 122nd in penalty yards per game (76.43) …

Stats to make you cringe … You can feel free to skip this one, if you are squeamish … Categories wherein the Buffs are ranked 100th in the nation or lower include:

  • On offense … 130th (last in the nation) in total offense (238.1 yards/game) … 127th in passing offense (117.0 yards/game) … 125th in scoring offense (15.1 points/game) … 118th in third down conversions (.314) … 130th in first downs (96) …
  • On defense … none … CU’s beleaguered defense is down to No. 36 in the nation in scoring defense (20.7 points/game) … and 63rd in total defense (376.6 yards/game) …
  • Other … 118th in third down conversions, offense (.314) …122nd in time of possession (26.44) …

Stats to watch (i.e, stats which will decide the game)Creating Opportunities … How’s this for over-simplification? Colorado is 2-0 in games in which the Buffs win the turnover battle; 0-5 in games in which they do not. This is not to say that if the CU offense is turnover-free, and the CU defense generates a turnover or two, that the Buffs have a chance. But, for an offense which only scored points against Cal after a 67-yard kickoff return by Brenden Rice … Penalties … Another category which could create some “luck” for the Buffs. Getting some pass interference calls to move the chains, and some offensive holding calls against the Ducks to thwart their drives – could be huge for a team trying to keep the score close …


Prediction … 

I was in Autzen in 2012 when the Buffs went to face Oregon for the first time as a member of the Pac-12. The Buffs were 47-point underdogs favorite at against the No. 2 Ducks. The seven-touchdown spread was an embarrassment for the CU program, but not half as embarrassing as the fact that the Ducks covered … by halftime.

Oregon ran through, around, and over the Colorado defense, scoring touchdowns on all seven first half possessions en route to a 56-0 halftime lead and a 70-14 rout. The Ducks amassed a ridiculous 425 yards rushing, with 617 yards of total offense, holding the inept Buff offense to 245 yards of total offense. The game was so out of hand that Oregon’s backup quarterback, Bryan Bennett, out-scored the Colorado offense, three touchdowns to two.

We could see something like that this weekend, though I doubt it.

The 2021 Ducks don’t have the fire power of the 2012 Chip Kelly version, and don’t have the same swagger. While style points could help Oregon impress pollsters, destroying one of the worst teams in the country likely won’t get much more than a shrug from the voters.

Better plan for the Oregon coaching staff: get ahead earlier, then run the clock and try and get through the game without injury, so that the team can focus its attention on the rivalry game against Washington.

It won’t be close. It won’t be pretty. But it shouldn’t be record-setting …

Prediction … No. 7 Oregon 45, Colorado 3

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
  • Colorado 24, Arizona 17 … Actual: Colorado 34, Arizona 0
  • Colorado 24, California 17 .. Actual: California 26, Colorado 3


11 Replies to ““T.I.P.S.” for CU at Oregon”

  1. Buff defense rallies around injured comrade Nate Landman, secure three turnovers and hold the Oregon offense to a single touchdown (on the first series). Autzen fans boo the offense; Christobol has a meltdown and leaves the stadium before halftime. The CU offense turns the three Oregon turnovers into…….9 points. Buffs 9, Ducks 7.

  2. Ducks’ backups make a few mental errors and allow us to get two late field goals.

    Nike Ducks: 59 CU (when are we ever going to stop being a “young team”) Buffs: 6

    1. Bless you, Darin. If I could pick against my Buffs at all, I might go with your 48, and cut it to 45, but on the other side, go w/ a 2. But I simply cannot do that. I mean. You know?

      Go Buffs

  3. I just don’t want to see an “up the middle run on short yardage”….Not even once!!
    Go Buffs.

    Note: Chev, lets get to the 30 points you promised eh?

    1. My fun mental stat for CU this year has been “screen plays”: By my count CU has run 10 screen plays this year, and only one of them has gained literally any yards at all, and none of them have been ‘successful’ plays

      It’s like they don’t practice anything correctly at all?

    2. My thought exactly, VK. I’ve been preaching for umpteen weeks and nothing changes (Like they would laugh their A$$ off if I dropped into the locker room and said, I’m going to call plays today). We might have a little bitty bit more chance of winning than with Chev’ calling plays, tho’.

      If I see another middle of the D-line run on 2nd or 3rd and 17, I think I’ll….. P-U-K-E. Or…. turn the TV off and try convincing myself we just won a bowl game, which we have as much of a chance doing that as beating anyone else in the PAC.

      I really feel sorry for Ralphie ! I really do ! I would bet she’s TOTALLY DEPRESSED…..probably crying most of the time. Poor Girl.

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