CU at No. 23 UCLA: “T.I.P.S.” for a sold out Rose Bowl

… Related … If you prefer your predictions verbally (and from more than one voice), “CU at the Game Podcast: “T.I.P.S.” for CU at No. 23 UCLA, can be found at Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or pretty much wherever you download your favorites. Or, if you would prefer, you can listen to this week’s UCLA preview podcast here .

Still despondent over CU’s second half collapse against Stanford?

It’s okay. I’m still a little melancholy myself, lamenting what it would have been like to be 5-2 heading into the second half of the season.

Colorado will face a minimum of three ranked teams in the final five games (we’ll see what happens with Arizona and Washington State over the next few weeks), and are likely to be underdogs in every game to close out the season. This weekend? The Buffs are 17.0-point underdogs to No. 23 UCLA.

But, as we look at the uphill climb the Buffs are facing to close out the season, keep your eyes on the prize. CU picked up a commitment from its quarterback of the future this past week, with four-star pro-style quarterback A.J. Hill picking the Buffs over almost every other Power Five team in the country.

Not enough?

How’s this … Colorado will be joining the Big 12 next season. With the Four Corners schools being added, and Oklahoma and Texas leaving, the Big 12 will have 16 teams in 2024.

How are those 16 teams faring in 2023? Currently, only one of the 16 – No. 13 Utah (6-1)  – is ranked in the Top 25, while ten of the other 15 teams slated to play in the Big 12 next fall have as many or more losses as Colorado. Only Oklahoma State, Kansas State, BYU and Kansas (all 5-2) have had a better first half to the 2023 season … and none of those teams are world-beaters.

The message: Better days are ahead, Buff fans!

Now, if we can just figure out a way to get through the rest of 2023 with another win or two …

Let’s find out …


This Week’s “T.I.P.S” for Colorado at No. 23 UCLA – Saturday, 5:30 p.m., MT, ABC

T – Talent

He’s baaaack! … (Or is he?)

Ethan Garbers, once upon a time, was a four-star recruit who was going to be a Washington Husky. He eventually landed at UCLA, only to play behind Dorian Thompson-Robinson. Over the past few seasons, Garbers has seen limited playing time (though he did get a garbage time touchdown pass against CU last fall in the 45-17 rout in Boulder).

This fall, Garbers was to get his chance … and he did get the start in the opener against Coastal Carolina, but then split time with freshman phenom Dante Moore. Garbers sat for most of the next five games, but, with Moore struggling (three straight games with a pick six), Garbers was given the start against Stanford, and did his part, going 20-for-28 for 240 yards and two touchdowns, as UCLA rolled to a 42-7 victory.

For what it’s worth, UCLA head coach Chip Kelly refused to name a starter for the CU game … but it would make sense if Garbers got the first snaps.

The hero of the Stanford game, though, wasn’t Garbers, but running back Carson Steele, who had three touchdowns on 20 carries. For the season, Steele has almost 600 yards rushing (CU has 604 as a team), with six rushing touchdowns (CU as a team has nine rushing touchdowns). Steele is not the only running back the Buffs have to worry about, though, as T.J. Harden has 68 carries for 388 yards and four more touchdowns.

Overall, the Bruins are going for over 215 yards per game on the ground, 8th in the nation … so the Buffs have their work cut out for them trying to stop the UCLA offense.

Oh, but that’s not the worst of it.

While UCLA has struggled at times finding its identity on offense, the defense has played well. The Bruins are giving up only 14.86 points per game – 10th in the nation in scoring defense.

Want another cringe-worthy stat? UCLA is No. 1 in the nation in rushing defense, giving up only 68.6 yards per game. Not good news for a CU team which is averaging only 86.3 rushing yards per game.

UCLA boasts two first-team All Pac-12 performers on defense. With CU last in the nation in sacks allowed, expect to hear the name Laiatu Latu early and often on Saturday. Linebacker Darius Muasau, meanwhile is living up to his preseason accolades, leading the team in tackles (with 38), finding time to post four sacks and an interception.

The UCLA pass defense is not great (50th nationally), so the CU game plan might be Shedeur … or bust.


I – Intangibles

How will the Buffs react? … There are two ways for the Buffs to go after the record-setting come-from-ahead loss to Stanford.

The team can rally, and, play with a chip on their shoulders, determined to prove to the nation that the double-overtime loss to the Cardinal was an aberration.

Or … the team can implode, with the loss sending the team into the same spiral of losing that derailed the 2018 team (the Buffs were 5-2, and had a 31-3 third quarter lead against Oregon State before going on to lose to the Beavers in overtime. CU went on to lose the last five games of the season to finish 5-7).

With a new team, complete with a new coaching staff and a complete roster overhaul, the mood of the CU locker room is anyone’s guess. You would like to think that, with all of the professional experience in the coaches’ room, Coach Prime & Co. would be able to handle the loss. The coaches had the players back at practice on Saturday morning after the loss – despite the upcoming bye week – to try and get the Buffs to move on quickly. One of Coach Prime’s after-practice speeches this week talked about “we lost one we shouldn’t have lost. We’ll have to steal one we’re not supposed to win”.

The Buffs will likely come out of the gate against the Bruins ready to play well. That’s one aspect.

But … what happens when the game gets underway? What if the Buffs face early adversity? Will they be able to stay focused and rebound, as they did against CSU and Arizona State?

What if the Buffs actually have some early success? Will doubts creep in? If a 29-0 lead isn’t safe … what lead is?

Buff fans have suffered through the bye week, anxious to put the Stanford game behind them.

But we are not nearly as anxious as the Colorado coaches and players …

Home Sweet Home … UCLA’s last home game a few weeks ago against Washington State should have been a hot ticket. The Bruins were 3-1, with the undefeated and 13th-ranked Cougars coming to town. A 1:00 p.m. local time kickoff, playing under sunny skies … what’s not to like?

And yet, even with a healthy contingent of Cougar fans, the UCLA/Washington State game drew a crowd of … 35,437.

With the Prime show coming to town, however, that total will be doubled. A sell out crowd of over 70,000 is expected (the previously announced capacity of just over 67,000 was raised after UCLA ditched some of its tarps to accommodate demand).

How many of those extra fans will be there to cheer on Colorado? How many of those extra fans are UCLA fans just interested in seeing the must-see Buffs lose to the home town team? We’ll see.

Last Saturday, UCLA played before a “crowd” of 30,225 against Stanford (Stanford stadium capacity: 50,424), and won handily.

The last two times the Bruins played before packed houses – at Utah and at Oregon State – they lost.

Just sayin’ …


P – Preparation/Schedule

Bye week benefits … The bye week has to help, right?

Certainly, it’s a bonus to get a week for CB/WR Travis Hunter, OT Savion Washington, LB Juwann Mitchell, S Trevor Woods and a host of other starters who have missed games to get healthy.

But does a bye week actually translate into a better chance to win the next game?

I looked back at the last few seasons of CU football, and looked at how the Buffs fared after a bye week. To my surprise, the Buffs (discounting the COVID year of 2020, when there was no bye week), are actually 3-1 coming off of a bye.

  • In 2022, the Buffs won their only game of the season coming off of a bye (and the firing Karl Dorrell), defeating Cal in overtime, 20-13;
  • In 2021, the Buffs went 4-8. Nonetheless, after a bye, CU defeated Arizona, 34-0, the Buffs best game of the season;
  • In 2019, a 5-7 campaign, the Buffs came off of a bye and lost a heart-breaker to Arizona, 35-30;
  • In 2018, another 5-7 season, the Buffs came off of a bye week to defeat UCLA, 38-16, again perhaps CU’s best game of that campaign.

So, past results have no bearing on the future. New coaching staff, new players, different arena (all four of the above games were played at home), but there is some comfort in noting that CU, in their last four games coming off of a bye, have played their best game of the season …

Looking ahead? … UCLA last played at home in the Rose Bowl on October 7th, and won’t play at home again after this Saturday until November 11th. This stretch of one home game in over a month is likely fine with the Bruins, considering their overall schedule. UCLA somehow managed to get as schedule missing both Oregon and Washington, and were in prime position to make a run at the Pac-12 title. Losses to Utah and Oregon State (both on the road) likely derailed those hopes, but UCLA still has a chance at a 10-win season. With USC collapsing, the chances for the Bruins to run the table – Colorado; at Arizona; Arizona State; at USC; Cal – have significantly improved.

The Bruins have only one true road game remaining – at Arizona next weekend – and, with CU’s collapse against Stanford fresh in their minds as they prepare to take on the Buffs, it may be only human nature for the UCLA players to be looking ahead to facing Arizona next weekend as their last true stumbling block to ten wins and a possible New Year’s Day bowl berth.

Buff fans can only hope …


S – Statistics 

Why bother? … The biggest mismatch of the game will be the Colorado rushing attack (126th in the nation) against UCLA rushing defense (No. 1 in the nation). Anyone want to bet that CU’s leading rusher against the Bruins will be Shedeur Sanders (on scrambles)?;

Can we play Stanford again? … A week after CU turned a 29-0 halftime advantage against Stanford into an overtime loss, UCLA turned a 21-0 halftime lead against Stanford … into a 42-7 victory. The dominating 35-point win represented the Bruins’ biggest road win since 2015, when they beat Oregon State by 41;

Road warriors … When the Buffs upset No. 17 TCU in the season opener, it represented the first time CU had defeated a Top 20 team on the road since 2002, when the Buffs traveled to the Rose Bowl and upset No. 20 UCLA, 31-17;

Discipline, please … After committing 17 penalties for 127 yards against Stanford, the Buffs are 129th in nation in penalties, at 9.86/game, and 126th in penalty yards, with 80.0 yards marched off in the wrong direction per game;

— Shedeur Sanders records watch … Shedeur Sanders is on pace to reset most of the single season passing in CU history, and is among the national leaders in many categories. As the season has passed the halfway mark, it’s time to track how Sanders is progressing:

The numbers to date …

  • Passing yards: 2,420 (4th in the nation)
  • Passing touchdowns: 21 (3rd)
  • Passing attempts: 303 (1st)
  • Completions: 219 (1st)
  • Completion percentage: 72.3 (T-9th)
  • Quarterback rating: 160.26 (19th)

Now take a look at how Sanders is faring against every other quarterback to ever wear the black-and-gold of the University of Colorado …

  • Passing yards: 2,420 … CU single season record: 3,200 … Sefo Liufau, 2014 (Sanders’ total is currently 13th on the list – after seven games)
  • Passing touchdowns: 21 … CU single season record: 28 … Sefo Liufau, 2014 (Sanders’ total currently tied for third)
  • Passing attempts: 303 … CU single season record: 498 … Sefo Liufau, 2014 (Sanders’ total currently 16th)
  • Completions: 219 … CU single season record: 325 … Sefo Liufau, 2014 (Sanders’ total currently 9th)
  • Completion percentage: 72.3 … CU single season record: 68.4 … Koy Detmer, 1995 … If maintained, Sanders will set a new school record


Prediction … 

Colorado has been a double-digit favorite twice this season, and it hasn’t played out that well, with both of those games going into double overtime.

Colorado has been a double-digit underdog three times this season, going 1-2.

This weekend, the Buffs opened as a 17.0-point underdog to No. 23 UCLA, CU’s fourth ranked opponent of the 2023 campaign. The Bruins have been good at times, and suspect at times. Their freshman quarterback star-in-the-making, Dante Moore, has been benched in favor of Ethan Garbers, and that actually could be bad news for Colorado.

Moore has been erratic, and threw pick-six interceptions in three consecutive games (that’s got to be some sort of record). While a threat to run, Moore’s up-and-down play would have given the Buffs a better chance at victory. Garbers is more of a game manager – he won’t win the games in spectacular fashion, but he won’t lose them for you, either.

I’m looking for UCLA to try and methodically wear down the CU defense. Last weekend against Stanford, the Bruins ran the ball 54 times (for 221 yards and three touchdowns), holding the ball for almost 37 minutes of game clock. That should be the game plan against CU’s defense, which will frustrate the Buffs and their fans … and keep Shedeur Sanders and the Buff offense on the sidelines.

I’m looking for the Buff offense to have its moments, but it won’t be enough …

Prediction … No. 25 UCLA 34, Colorado 2o

2023 Predictions: Straight up: 5-2; Against the Spread: 4-3

  • Prediction: No. 17 TCU 33, Colorado 21 … Actual: Colorado 45, No. 17 TCU 42
  • Prediction: No. 22 Colorado 34, Nebraska 21 … Actual: No. 22 Colorado 36, Nebraska 14
  • Prediction: No. 18 Colorado 42, Colorado State 17 … Actual: No. 18 Colorado 43, Colorado State 35, 2OT
  • Prediction: No. 10 Oregon 40, No. 19 Colorado 17 … Actual: No. 10 Oregon 42, No. 19 Colorado 6
  • Prediction: No. 8 USC 45, Colorado 24 … Actual: No. 8 USC 48, Colorado 41
  • Prediction: Colorado 31, Arizona State 21 … Actual: Colorado 27, Arizona State 24
  • Prediction: Colorado 31, Stanford 17 … Actual: Stanford 46, Colorado 43, 2OT

  • 2022 Predictions … (Straight up: 10-2; Against the Spread: 9-3) …
  • 2021 Predictions … (Straight up: 9-3; Against the Spread: 7-5) … 


6 Replies to ““T.I.P.S.” for CU at No. 23 UCLA”

  1. So I have believed that since the Oregon game we have fixed our run defense. It is not perfect, but it is substantially better. USC averages 157 yds/gm got 96 on us. ASU averages 93 got 57. Stanford averages 127 got 124. I have a feeling we are going to do ok against the run. I suspect we are goi g to see the 4-3 a lot with woods playing as a line backer. That is a 7 man box and very difficult to run into. UCLA is going to have to spread out the field to pull 2 of those linebackers out of the box and my bet is like they did with Stanford Woods will edge in and take the inside cutting reciever. I expect we may see Perry back in the line up as he is a sure tackler between the tackles. I really hope they play Hunter predominantly on the defense, with 1/2 offense. He fell off big time in the Stanford game and had a sure fire pick if he was not tired. We have offensive weapons without him and I feel like Sheduer starts to only look at Hunter as his #1 instead of reading the field at times. Sheduer is going to need to get the ball out much quicker. I suspect we will see 2 deep safety, press coverage a lot. This hinders the, two step drop fire a fade (though I think our speed on the outside is so good and there ball skills are so good I would risk a couple. I also want to see Dylan in the flat. I would also see if you can run straight at their pass rushers. See how they hold up.

  2. Road game against tough defense and proven coach. CU: horrible defense, one dimensional offense, and leading country in penalties. My head does not see any wins in the next 5 games given the tangible (weak lines) and intangible (focus) deficiencies but will continue to hope for 2 more wins. Buffs, prove me wrong!

    UCLA 45 CU 21

    1. Easy Skita (aka Tskitishvili), Prime and CU are more the the Joker/Malone than D’Antnio! For CU, you do not know what is going happen for one Q to the next, but 2 1/2 to 3Q together and it is a Strong Vic and message.

      CU 31 – UCLA 17– South Central shows up in Black and Gold, and Prime rides high, high, high out of SoCal as the new Savior of college football on the WC. Lincoln Riley quits mid-week: “it sucks to think of next year’s travel schedule . . . I’m staying on the beach for now!”

  3. CU 28 UCLA 42. Their ground attack will beat us down. Shedeur will again run for his life and make spectacular plays. It won’t be enough. But as always. GO BUFFS!!

  4. I think you meant wear down the defense, Stuart. and you should be right about that. Their QBs arent anything special. You didnt mention anything about their WRs so that may not be as big a threat either.
    The key of course is the Buff’s D. If the coaches cant seem to get them to focused maybe the social media, which seems to be a distraction for this team, was negative enough it will. Playing Woods at linebacker seems like a good idea. With his coverage skills he might be the answer to those short passes over the middle. You know Kelly, Chip that is, will be trying that a time or 2 after the last game. I didnt watch the Bruins Stanford game but if Stanford tried the same thing against them, the Bruins handled it quit well.
    On O this will be another game where it all rides on Shedeur’s arm and the WRs hands and legs. Be nice if they can come up with some new ways to get Edwards into open field. He should be due for some breakaways. Maybe some screens to neutralize their pass rush and maybe some designed rollouts for Shedeur. Keep him injury free please. He has to be the target of the hardest hits possible by the opposing D as the is the entire offense is sunk without him.
    I’m just bracing myself for the run straight into the line for a yard, sack, sack and punt (sigh)

  5. Hoping to see a team that fights until the end, and paid attention to detail the last 2 weeks-reducing ridiculous procedure calls adn PFs.
    But until I see it
    UCLA-45 CU-27
    ATS 4-3, SU 5-2

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