CU v. No. 23 Arizona: “T.I.P.S.” for Senior Day at Folsom

… Related … If you prefer your predictions verbally (and from more than one voice), “CU at the Game Podcast: “T.I.P.S.” for CU v. No. 23 Arizona, 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 Arizona preview podcast here .

Is Arizona a model for CU?

Arizona head coach Jedd Fisch took over a Wildcat team which had gone 0-5 in the COVID-abbreviated 2020 season.

In his first season, Fisch and the Wildcats went 1-11.

In 2022, Arizona improved to 5-7, including a 43-20 win over Colorado in Tucson.

In 2023, Arizona has been a pleasant surprise. After a slow start, including a loss to Mississippi State and a one-point win over Stanford, the Wildcats have played well. Buff fans are griping about CU having to face three straight ranked teams since inexplicably losing to Stanford, but the Wildcats are coming off of a stretch of playing five straight ranked teams.

And in that stretch, Arizona has … a one-score loss to Washington; a three-overtime loss to USC; a dominating 44-6 road win over Washington State; a 27-24 win over Oregon State, and a dominating 27-10 win over UCLA.

Arizona is 6-3, has three straight wins over ranked teams, and hasn’t been beaten by more than one score all season.

Now the Wildcats get a breather, with a game against an unranked – and reeling – CU team which has lost five of its last six games.

Arizona is a 9.5-point favorite to post win No. 7, and spoil CU’s final home game of the season.

Will the Wildcats continue their unexpected roll … Or will the Buffs surprise?

Let’s find out …


This Week’s “T.I.P.S” for Colorado v. No. 23 Arizona – Saturday, 12:00 p.m., MT, Pac-12 Networks

T – Talent

The name Jayden de Laura may sound familiar to many Buff fans. He is the quarterback transfer from Washington State who was last year’s starter at Arizona. He was also the starter for the Wildcats to open the 2023 season. Against Stanford a month ago, de Laura suffered an ankle injury … and hasn’t been seen since.

And, even though de Laura is now healed, don’t expect to see him in Boulder Saturday.

Freshman quarterback Noah Fifita stepped in for de Laura, and hasn’t looked back. Fifita is completing over 76% of his passes, going 144-for-189 for 1,521 yards, with 14 touchdowns and only four interceptions. In Arizona’s 27-10 over UCLA, Fifita was almost perfect, completing 25-of-32 passes for 300 yards and three touchdowns.

Fifita has two main weapons at his disposal.

Wide receivers Tetairoa McMillan and Jacob Cowing between them have over 120 receptions for over 1,200 yards and 16 touchdowns (for comparison – CU’s two leading receivers, Xavier Weaver and Jimmy Horn, have just over 110 receptions for almost 1,300 yards … but only nine touchdowns). Overall, Arizona is averaging over 287 yards passing per game, a healthy number which ranks the Wildcats 22nd in the nation (CU is 7th nationally, with just over 320 yards passing per game).

While Arizona and Colorado are fairly comparable in the passing game, Arizona – like pretty much every team in the nation – has a better rushing attack. The Buffs don’t have a single back with over 300 yards rushing through the first nine games, but the Wildcats have two. Jonah Coleman has 565 yards and three touchdowns, while DJ Williams has 314 yards and two scores. Arizona’s 150+ yards per game rushing isn’t in the top half of the national rankings, but it’s miles ahead of CU’s 69 yards/game (129th in the nation).

What’s problematical for the Buffs is that the Arizona defense is almost identical – at least in terms of total yards allowed – to the Oregon State defense which just held the Buffs to a minus-seven yards rushing last Saturday night.

The Wildcats are giving up less than 20 points per game, and just held its last three opponents – ranked teams all – to a total of 40 points. UCLA had only one touchdown last weekend in a 27-10 loss, with the Bruins held to 271 yards of total offense … on only 24:46 of time of possession.

Oh, yeah, and Arizona beat all three of those ranked opponents.

Numbers which don’t bode well for the Buffs this weekend …


I – Intangibles

Perspective … CU is under .500 for the first time under Coach Prime, and the Buff Nation – if message boards are a barometer – are losing patience with Coach Prime and the product the Buffs are putting on the field.

While there plenty of reasons for consternation – CU’s lack of a rushing attack; CU’s inability to protect its quarterback; questionable time management; lack of depth along the defensive front; play calling; etc. – there is also reason for perspective.

Brian Howell of the Daily Camera pointed out … We’ve gotta remember this is year one with this staff and turnarounds are rarely quick. In FBS history, only 13 teams have had a winning record after losing 11 games the year before. Only five of those were led by a first-year coach. It’s even harder in Power 5. Only three times has a Power 5 team lost 11 games and had a winning record the next year. In each of those three cases, the head coach lost 11 games in Year One and led the turnaround in Year Two.

There has to be a breakthrough at some point, right?  … Coach Prime has been talking about the Buffs playing a complete game for the past two months. There have been games where the offense has played well, and has been able to move the ball at will (remember the TCU game?). There have been games where the defense forced numerous turnovers, and kept the Buffs in the game (especially the Nebraska game). There have even been games where the special teams have made their presence known (the last few minutes of the Arizona State game stand out).

This is the home finale. The Buffs haven’t had to travel the past two weeks, so they should be rested. The game is on the Pac-12 Networks, with a noon kickoff.

No national attention … no celebrity watches along the sideline … a decent kickoff time …

Why not put it all together before a sold out Folsom Field crowd on a crisp November afternoon?


P – Preparation/Schedule

“Senior Day” … The connotation of “Senior Day” has lost much of its meaning in the era of six- and seven-year seniors and graduate transfers. This weekend’s game against Arizona will be CU’s final home game of the season, and, if tradition holds, there will be a run out before the game of all of CU’s players who will be running out behind Ralphie for the final time.

On paper, there are only a dozen Buffs who will be using up their eligibility this season. Now, everyone, including everyone inside the Champions Center, knows that there will be a number of players – perhaps a significant number – who will be moving on after the season.

Contributors who are seniors/graduate transfers … Running back Kavosiey Smoke … Wide receivers Xavier Weaver and Javon Antonio … Offensive lineman Landon Beebe … Defensive linemen Leonard Payne and Taijh Alston … Edge rusher Jordan Domineck .. and … Linebacker Brendan Gant …

Two for the road? … Colorado hasn’t finished with two games on the road since 2015. You remember 2015, right? That was a 4-9 season, with the Buffs losing eight of nine games after a 3-1 start. The Buffs started off in fine fashion, with 3-1 start including a win over Colorado State (in overtime, no less). The Buffs then played Oregon to open Pac-12, with a loss to the Ducks turning the season in a negative direction.

The last two games of the 2015 season? On the road against Washington State and Utah … just like this season. The results of those two games? Washington State 27, Colorado 3 … and Utah 20, Colorado 14.

Can’t say you haven’t been warned …


S – Statistics 

Why bother, Part III? … Two weekends ago, the Buffs were coming off of a bye week, and were determined to find a way to run the ball. The result? CU gained 25 yards on 24 carries in the Rose Bowl.

So, Coach Prime demoted offensive coordinator Sean Lewis, and handed over the play-calling responsibilities to analyst Pat Shurmur. The result? Minus-seven yards rushing.

After just 11 handoffs to running backs in 67 offensive plays against at UCLA, the Buffs had just 11 handoffs to running backs in 58 offensive plays against Oregon State.

Turnovers … If Colorado is to have a chance at upsetting the Wildcats, the defense is going to have to help. Not only in keeping the Arizona offense out of the end zone, but by making it easier for the CU offense to score. Arizona is 99th in the nation in turnover margin (-0.44 turnovers/game), while Colorado is 5th in the country (+1.22 turnovers/game). So, if the first nine games of the season are a guide, the Buffs should be able to gain more turnovers Saturday than they surrender.

Helpful hint to the defense: You might want to try and score yourselves when you do get a turnover. The Buff defense forced two fumbles out of the Oregon State offense last weekend, giving the Buff offense the ball at the OSU 38-yard line and the 19-yard line, respectively. What did the CU offense do with those two gifts? Five total plays; nine total yards; no first downs; one fumble lost; one field goal.

So, yea, defense, you’re going to have to get a scoop-and-score or a pick-six for the Buffs to win this 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: 2,882 (3rd in the nation)
  • Passing touchdowns: 24 (5th)
  • Passing attempts: 385 (1st)
  • Completions: 270 (1st)

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: 2,882 … CU single season record: 3,200 … Sefo Liufau, 2014 (Sanders’ total is currently 5th on the list – after nine games)
  • Passing touchdowns: 24 … CU single season record: 28 … Sefo Liufau, 2014 (Sanders’ total currently second)
  • Passing attempts: 385 … CU single season record: 498 … Sefo Liufau, 2014 (Sanders’ total currently 7th)
  • Completions: 270 … CU single season record: 325 … Sefo Liufau, 2014 (Sanders’ total currently 4th)
  • Completion percentage: 70.1 … CU single season record: 68.4 … Koy Detmer, 1995 … If maintained, Sanders will set a new school record
  • Total offense (plays): 478 … CU single season record: 567 … Sefo Liufau, 2014 (Sanders’ total is currently 5th)
  • Total offense (yards): 2,885 … CU single season record: 3,336 … Sefo Liufau, 2014 (Sanders’ total is currently 7th)


Prediction … 

Colorado has scored 35 points in the past two games. Of those 35 points, 21 came in the fourth quarter of those games, after the Buffs were already behind by two or more scores, with little or no hope of a comeback.

With the games still in doubt? 14 total points … four field goals and a two-point conversion on an opponent’s extra point attempt.

That’s not good enough to win. And, with Shedeur Sanders hobbled and the CU rushing attack non-existent, it’s difficult to see things changing before the end of the season.

There is hope for a victory late Saturday afternoon, but things will have to fall just right. The offense will have to have some early – and then continued – success. The defense will have to force turnovers, either scoring on its own or putting the offense in point-blank range. Special teams will need to excel, with a long return or a turnover flipping the field.

Arizona, coming off of five straight games against ranked teams – three wins and two one-score losses to top ten teams – is playing with confidence.

The Buffs will have to play their best, most complete game, in order to win.

I’m not seeing it …

Prediction … No. 23 Arizona 31, Colorado 17

2023 Predictions: Straight up: 7-2; Against the Spread: 6-3

  • 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
  • Prediction: No. 23 UCLA 34, Colorado 2o … Actual: No. 23 UCLA 28, Colorado 16
  • Prediction: No. 16 Oregon State 30, Colorado 2o … Actual: No. 16 Oregon State 26, Colorado 19

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


9 Replies to ““T.I.P.S.” For CU v. Arizona”

  1. I’ve refrained from posting any game predictions so far this season. So in my mind I have this sneaky hunch that CU finds a way to prevail and make it 3 out of the last 4 against the Cats. Buffs 34-30 over AZ.

  2. Obviously this season has been tougher than expected after the 3-0 start, but there are many positives compared to last season. Rome wasn’t built in a day and I believe that if Coach Prime can bring in some help on the lines this offseason, the talent on the outside will be able to shine. I still believe that this thing is turning.

  3. It just has to be hard to put an offensive line together in a few short months, and a line short on talent/depth no less. You can change coordinators and try new plays and scheme all you want but the bottom line is this is about the 129th best offensive line in the country. We can keep it respectable but don’t see a W because AZ is that good.

  4. “a dominating 44-6 road win over Washington State; a 27-24 win over Oregon State, and a dominating 27-10 win over UCLA.”

    This right here says a lot, two teams that handled the Buff’s offensive line like they were a G5 team lost to UofA. Until the O-line can block and the offense can score like they did at the beginning of the season, the Buffs aren’t beating anyone in the PAC12 for the rest of the season.

    If the Buffs had beaten Stanford, I would be more positive about the WSU game, but since the second half of that game, it seems everyone has figured out the Buffs O-line and can just harass Shedeur at will.

    Prove me wrong Buffs.

  5. Someone has had to ask about the ‘obvious’ schematic changes to the offense that we all have been harping on since CSU (including announcers for our past two games)…but can’t seem to find anything?!?! What am I missing?

  6. Lest people think fifita is a freshman phenom, he’s a redshirt freshman phenom. Saturday could get ugly. But? The kid is due for a bad game. Looking for the db’s to hold steady in coverage against their undersized wide receivers.

    Run defense will hold steady.

    Offensively? Who knows? Gotta be more productive than the last two games.

    Go Buffs

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