The whole scheduling thing has left me hungry to get into Folsom and get my first real good look at what's going on this year. Sure, I've seen the broadcasts, but a live, in-person look is always preferable.
But, that also means I'm changing up what had been a winning pattern; me not going to games. So, should the Buffs stumble on Saturday, you'll all know the reason -- I jinxed them with my presence. I apologize in advance.
Hype Music for the Week: "Your Time is Gonna Come" by Led Zeppelin
Led Zeppelin, one of the monoliths of music history, penned this ditty of emotional revenge, which I find fitting. With the Buffs on the Rise, it's time to pay back some of our conference brethren for the shames of recent history. Their time has come.
Kickoff from resplendent Folsom Field is set for 12:30 MT on Saturday. The Buffs will be going for something wholly unprecedented in the Pac-12 era: a two-game in-conference winning streak. Remember to wear white! There's a slight chance of rain in the forecast, but nothing to be too worried about. Coverage for those unable to attend is on Pac-12 Networks, with the radio call on 850 KOA.
Click below for the teaser...
Just a year ago, these two teams were playing for the right to not be the worst team in the Pac-12; Colorado, in fact, was simply trying to win anything against a conference foe, carrying a 14-game in-conference losing streak into Corvallis. Of course, the Buffs would go on to snap that streak with a gritty, ugly 17-13 win over State, capped by a Chidobe Awuzie interception on a desperation 4th down play. It was endemic of a performance where the defense had all but eliminated the Beaver offense in the 4th quarter, holding them to 5-16 passing for 36 yards, a sack, and an interception over their final four offensive drives. On a night where the Colorado offense was taking a siesta, the defensive performance was exclamatory and necessary.
|The Buffs got defensive last year in Corvallis. From: CUBuffs.com|
So, I won't dwell too long on the recent past here, instead looking forward to this weekend in earnest. The Beavers come to Boulder with a 1-2 record, having lost to each of their two FBS opponents on the year. Their one win, over FCS Idaho State (incidentally, one that broke a 10-game losing streak across two seasons), makes for an interesting study, though, as it's against a common opponent with CU (the Bengals headed out to Corvallis the week after visiting the Buffs). Whereas Colorado stomped ISU into the ground with little to report from the Pocatello boys, Oregon State showed some signs of struggle in what appears on the surface to be a breezy 37-7 win. The Bengals were able to get 5.1 yards per play against the Beavs, and held them to just 4 of 16 on third down. As you see a lot with OSU, what explosiveness there was appears in the margins -- forcing five turnovers (four interceptions), scoring on a 92-yard run when the game was already in hand, and filling a pick-six in a similar situation. Elsewhere, it all looks very pedestrian, particularly on offense. In fact, if you take away that 92-yard run, they probably should've ended up with fewer than 350 yards of offense; remember, CU had to put in their 3rd string defense to avoid a 600-plus yard day. Meanwhile, on defense, the Beavers allowed a decent performance, sans turnovers, from a team Colorado held to under 100 total yards. Believe me, even though the gap on the scoreboard looks big, this wasn't a complete whitewash.
|State's performance against ISU looks better on the scoreboard than it does in the box score. From: GazetteTimes.com|
It's all a nod in the direction of a very ugly overall picture from Oregon State. 110th in total offense (340 yards per game) and 63rd in total defense (385 yards allowed per game), they struggle on both sides of the ball. The offense is particularly worrying, coming near last nationally with just 52 first downs earned (though they have played one fewer game than many other schools). It's all about quarterback play, where the Beavers really come short of generating anything of note. Hell, there are option teams out there who can still average over 200 passing yards per game, something the Beavs are just shy of this year. Head coach Gary Andersen left Wisconsin for this?
|Gary Andersen has really struggled in his tenure at Oregon State. From: Youtube|
The shame of it is that the Beavers have a number of interesting offensive pieces elsewhere if they could just figure out the quarterback spot. Senior WR Victor Bolden, for example, is a unique, explosive talent, and should be giving the Colorado defense plenty of worries in film session. The diminutive 5-9, 183 lbs speedster can play multiple positions, and will feature heavily in special teams, where he already has a kick return for touchdown on the year. He's got nearly double the yards of any other Beaver after three games, and essentially is their offense. Elsewhere, running back Ryan Nall could be a very good all-down option if he just had something to change-up off of. He had to fight for the right to remain in the position, and has play-breaking ability. Finally, big wideout Seth Collins is a guy, if he had a big arm tossing to him, that could really push the frightening CU secondary. He's an elite talent - last year's starting QB as a freshman, in fact - and can do so many electric things with the football. But, out wide, how do you get it to him enough times to make it count? The entire equation is missing a very important variable.
|Bolden is a legit talent. From: @BeaverFootball|
Defensively, OSU has some nice numbers, particularly in the passing game, but much of that success is pumped up by the effort against Idaho State. All four of their interceptions and one of their four fumbles came in that game, taking a lot of shine off of what could, otherwise, be considered a solid unit. I re-watched the Boise State game, and the first half was a horror show of linemen getting pushed around and linebackers getting beat of cut-backs and reversals of field. On some level we should expect improvement from that awful showing this week, but it's still a unit that I feel the surging Colorado offense should be able to move the ball well against, regardless of who ends up taking the snaps.
|Decoud is a star in the defensive backfield. From: his twitter profile|
Now, with all that in mind, let's look at the lines...
My 2016 record: 3-1. Against the spread: 1-2. Optimistic/pessimistic: CU -1.5 pts/gm.
Line as of Tuesday @ 8pm - CU -18, O/U 60.5
Looking to this game, for the life of me, I'm struggling to envision a scenario where Oregon State wins. I know, I know. I'm tempting fate; this isn't the way a CU fan should look at any game. I'm sorry, it just wouldn't make any sense, based on what we've seen to date from both teams, to see the Buffs take a loss. Really, the only nightmare scenario I can think up is a special teams implosion that even surpasses the Michigan effort, but that seems unlikely to be repeated in such dramatic fashion so soon after the Ann Arbor immolation. Even so, in that scenario, I think all that happens is that the Buffs get a scare.
Yes, I think the Beavers are more capable then they were last year, if barely, but they're still a solid series of steps behind the surging Buffs. As long as Colorado 'shows up' on Saturday with anything resembling focus and preparation, they should win handily.
CU 41 - OSU 17
GO BUFFS! PROVE ME RIGHT, AND POUND THE BEAVERS