Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Friday, November 11, 2016

2016 CU vs Arizona Football Teaser

The Buffaloes enter this game in an awkward position.  They are the undisputed, heavy favorite in a road conference game for the first time in... essentially forever.  There is no reason, on paper, that they should fall victim to the Wildcats, having shown to posses superior talent and execution throughout the year.  Arizona even enters a largely broken team, having lost every Pac-12 game this year.  Yet, the game still needs to be played.  Colorado still needs to go on the road, in what will surely be a dead environment, and play-out the 60 minutes against their 'inferior opponent.'  It's enough to make a serial worrier like myself nervous.  Yep, despite everything to the contrary, I smell a... what's the word?

Ah, yes.  A trap.  Thank you, Admiral.

Gird you loins, people.  This one could get weird.


Hype Music for the Week: "Ride On" by ACDC

If you really appreciate ACDC, like I do, you know the power of Bon Scott.  The late, second lead singer of the everlasting metal heavyweight gave that band a soulful, blues-hearted sound, simply not replicable.  That is not to disparage current singer Brian Johnson, just that this was a different group, with a different vibe before Bon's untimely death in 1980.

I chose 'Ride On' from the 'old' ACDC to highlight the depth of the group.  Soul-searching and powerful.  If this doesn't hit you, make you feel something... I don't know, man.


Kickoff from Arizona Stadium in Tucson is set for 8pm Saturday evening.  Should be clear and cold after sunset in the desert.  If you're down in the Grand Canyon State for the game, be mindful of the temperature drop when the sun dips.  For those stuck at home, coverage can be found on FS1, with the radio call on 850 KOA.

Click below for the teaser...

The Buffs were close in this fixture last season, taking a tie into their locker room on Homecoming against the Wildcats.  Arizona, though, switched out an ineffective Anu Solomon in the second half for the more scramble-minded Jerrard Randall at quarterback.  This did the trick, and gave the visitors the spark they needed to steal the win from an otherwise game group of Buffaloes, 38-31.

The 'Cats only carry more quarterbacking uncertainty with them into this one.  With injuries and poor performance, they've tried out a number of quarterbacks this season, including 17-year-old true freshman Khalil Tate.  When that didn't work, they went in the direction of mainlined peyote, putting up reserve tight end Matt Morin under center late in a blowout against USC -- I guess that's the football response to a position player pitching in baseball.  Anyway, neither Tate or Morin were the answer, and, with health returning to better options, Arizona has gone back to a rotation of Brandon Dawkins and Solomon in recent weeks.
The QB situation at Arizona has been beyond awkward this year.  From: the AP
It hasn't helped matters.  The Wildcats have only continued to lose with those two quarterbacks out there, including a monumental 69-7 ass-whupping sustained last week in Pullman.  Soloman, once a freshman star for the program, has only tread water since his rookie campaign. Dawkins had, at times, looked to be the more dynamic, credible threat this year, but, after a rib injury and a concussion cost his a month of football this year, has looked 'rusty' the last two weeks.  Regardless of who starts, they will both probably see action against the Buffs Saturday.  I don't know which of them would be better able to take on the CU defense, but I'm not sure Leavitt's kids care.

The QB controversy in the desert is just the most obvious symptom of a wholly dysfunctional team from Tucson.  They're 71st nationally in total offense, 117th in total defense; believe me, it's not a fluke that they're where they are in the standings.  Their stat sheet is littered with ugly numbers and rankings, and it's to the point that I'm struggling to build a case for the continued employment of coach Rich Rodriguez.  There have been some injury issues, sure.  Roster turnover, and the typical other excuses, like youth. But it doesn't look like anyone in Tucson is on the same page; that has to fall on the head coach, right?
How much longer will Rich Rod get in Tucson?  From: the Big Lead
That's not to say they haven't, at times, competed this year.  Arizona started the season 2-1, losing a tight opener to BYU before rebounding to beat Grambling and Hawai'i.  They even followed those efforts up by taking Washigton to overtime in the desert, a result that, even in defeat, looks damn impressive right about now.  That was right about the time Dawkins suffered his rib injury, though, and the whole thing began to fall apart.  Maybe (just maybe) if Brandon can shake that residual rust off, the 'Cats can turn the season around over the final three games.  He's certainly a dynamic piece, and still leads the team in both passing a rushing yards, despite all the missed time earlier this year.

Elsewhere in the offense, their run game is still trying to sort out the mess with Nick Wilson out injured.  The running attack is really the only statistical category that the Wildcats shine, coming in 37th nationally with 210 yards per game.  Without Wilson though, the spread option running attack is relying on makeshift backups like senior Samajie Grant, who was moved over from receiver.  It's an odd situation, and one that didn't do them a lick of good last week against Washington State.  On the edge, their best receiver still lining up at the position is Shun Brown, but he's just not targeted enough (25 catches on the year for 406 yards) to be that scary.  No, Colorado should be keying on the quarterback/running back mesh point to stop the run.
What is Samajie Grant doing at running back?  From:
Defensively, it's just an absolute mess.  Arizona is surrendering over 475 yards per game, and allows opponents to convert on every other 3rd down opportunity.  Players like corner Jace Whittaker, attacking safety Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles, and strong-side linebacker DeAndre' Miller are decent pieces, but the whole thing leaks like a submarine with a screen door.  While the CU offense has struggled their last two games against Stanford and UCLA, there is absolutely no excuse for them not to move the ball against the Wildcats.  On the ground, through the air: you name it, the Buffs better utilize it freely.

So, with all that in mind, let's look at the lines...

My 2016 record: 7-2. Against the spread: 4-4. Optimistic/pessimistic: CU -2 pts/gm.
Line as of  Thursday @ 8pm - CU -16, O/U 58

CU missed on an outright cover for the first time all year against UCLA.  Such a shame, that. Anyways, fears of a trap aside, you have to like Colorado to cover this week.  Their offense should return to form, and the defense will do their normal black ops job. I'm fully prepared to have to sweat this one out, but my money is still going on the Buffs.

CU 41 - UofA 17


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