Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Thursday, December 1, 2016

2016 CU vs Washington Football Teaser -- The Pac-12 Championship

When the season schedule was first released, confirming that Colorado wouldn't have to play the Washington Huskies in the regular season, I breathed a sigh of relief.  UW was going to be a good team this year, now in their third season under head coach Chris Petersen, and it seemed like one fewer hurdle to clear in the pursuit of a bowl bid.  As the season progressed, skipping the Dawgs appeared to be even more of a blessing, as they started ripping through teams on a weekly basis. By Week 5 they were in the top-5 nationally, and have been in constant pursuit of a berth in the CFP ever since.  'Good for them,' I thought, 'at least CU won't have to face them... unless the Buffs make the Pac-12 Championship Game, which would never happen.'

Well, miracles doth occurred, and here we are.  Ducking the best all-around team in the league is no longer a possibility, and Colorado has to put their new-found reputation on the line in a showdown. Win, and at least they're slated for the Rose Bowl.  Lose, and they could end up being forced into a trip to Texas.  *shudders*  Better just win, baby.


Hype Music for the Week: "The Imperial March" by Epica

The Buffs are in the all-whites this week?  Ah, the storm trooper look.  With Colorado getting all Imperial, where else to go by John Williams' classic musical rendition of evil? I prefer Epica's version, as it confirms that double bass improves anything.  The Dutch symphonic metal band does the piece justice, and revels in the brassy outro.  Enjoy!


Kickoff from Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara is set for 7pm MT.  Those making the trip will be pleased to know that the forecast is calling for clear skies and mild temps, though the thermometer is going to dip severely after sundown.  Those not making the journey out west can catch the action on FOX's national broadcast, or with the radio call on 850 KOA.

Click below for the teaser...

Let me start off by saying every fear-inducing thing you've heard about Washington is true.  They are a superior football team, clearly worthy of their status as one of the country's top-four squads.  Only Alabama is more deserving of a bid to the CFP at this point, and UW is, without a doubt, the favorite to win the Pac-12 crown on Friday.  They are every bit as good as Michigan and USC, the two teams that have dealt Colorado a loss this season. If you aren't worried, if you're heading into Santa Clara thinking the Buffs will be able to win this in a rout, you're a damn fool.
Here come the Dawgs.  From:
The Huskies are top-25 nationally in both offense and defense, gaining, on average, about 160 more yards then they surrender in any given contest.  They're also 3rd in the country in scoring, averaging nearly 45 points per, yet only allow about 18.  You can scoff and say that some of those numbers came against a light schedule, as they played three cupcakes (Rutgers, Idaho, and Portland St) in non-conference, but their performances have stayed mostly consistent in Pac-12 action, as well.  Outside of a weird result against Arizona, where the woeful Wildcats took them to overtime, and a loss to USC, just as the Trojans were hitting their stride, they've been beating the crap out of teams. Stanford by 38, Oregon by 49 (LOL), Cal by 39; sit up and pay attention!  Their most recent outing, in Pullman against the very capable Washington State Cougars, was only another blowout, coming by 28.  This is a balanced, explosive team that can put the hurt on any foe on any given Saturday -- it's no wonder they placed nine players on the Pac-12's All-Conference 1st team.

If they're so good, then how do you go about beating them?  Well, the Trojans gave us the only blueprint available earlier this month when they stormed into Seattle and thumped them. USC leveraged two things perfectly that night: an efficient passing game and a cut-throat defense.  With the ball, Southern Cal got 2/3rds of their first downs through the air, repeatedly converting on 3rd down.  On defense, they were ferocious, sacking the quarterback three times, forcing two picks, and limiting the Huskies to 46% passing.  The offensive performance may not be replicable for the Buffs, considering the current state of the 'O,' but the defensive one is. CU has muted good passing attacks before, and it'll be incumbent on the Money Gang to keep up their championship-level play on Friday if Colorado wants to hoist the trophy.
USC managed what no one else has this year: beat Washington.  From: CBS Sports
It won't be easy, though.  USC did something wholly remarkable in their early-November performance, completely disrupting the nation's second-most efficient passing attack.  Led by Heisman candidate Jake Browning, they're getting about 280 yards per game through the air,
along with about 2/3rds of their touchdowns.  The sophomore from Folsom, CA, and newly-minted Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year, has a professional caliber arm, and the disposition to match.  He rarely makes mistakes, and will shred even the best of teams if given time to survey his options.

It doesn't help matters, from Colorado's perspective, that he has some of the best receiving targets in the region to play with.  Headlining the corps out wide is junior John Ross; a 1st Team Pac-12 performer, and Biletnikoff Award candidate.  A speedy, elite pass catcher, Ross has compiled 72 catches for over 1,000 yards on the year, to go along with 16 touchdowns -- that's second nationally in scoring by a receiver, btw.  He's good for at least one big grab per contest, and will be the biggest test to-date for whichever of Ahkello Witherspoon and Chido Awuzie gets the assignment. At John's side is another outstanding wideout, Dante Pettis.  Just as much of a game-breaker as his teammate, Pettis has 14 touchdown catches on the year, and also features as the team's impact punt returner.  In that vein, you may remember his big return against Utah that essentially won the game (despite a few blocks in the back...).  One of these two will go off, I can guarantee it; the trick will be limiting the damage.
Browning and Ross are worth the price of admission.  From: the Houston Chronicle
If the passing game wasn't enough, the offense also features a dangerous running back.  Sophomore Myles Gaskin has nearly 1,200 yards on the year, getting about six yards per touch.  He's fast, agile, and can show off all the video game moves you remember from those years of NCAA football; no wonder he earned 1st Team Pac-12 honors. While I think Utah's Joe Williams may be a better overall back, the challenge Gaskin poses, combined with the aerial attack, is unique.  Even his backup is good; junior Lavon Coleman has 750 yards on over eight per touch this season.  Seriously, this offense is no joke.  If the Buffs aren't getting any penetration at the point of attack, Washington could put up buckets of points.

But Colorado has played, and beaten, teams with great offenses this season.  What sets UW apart from the rest in the Pac-12 is their elite-level defense.  They're just a few yards per game behind CU for best-in-the-conference status, statistically, and are every bit as aggressive and capable as their counterparts in Black and Gold.

The defense is led by junior defensive back Budda Baker.  The Seattle-area product earned 1st Team All-Pac-12 honors this year (getting a little redundant, isn't it?) as the dynamic, play-making safety at the heart of the formation.  He has 61 tackles, including nine for loss, a pair of sacks, and two picks on the season.  He will be everywhere on Friday, wreaking havoc on seemingly every play; you will grow to hate hearing his number called.  Joining him in the backfield is fellow junior Sidney Jones, who also earned 1st Team Pac-12 honors this past week.  Better to just avoid throwing to his side on offense.
Baker is an outstanding DB.  From: the Seattle Times
Up front, a very good defensive line is anchored by massive 6-1, 321 lbs hoss Elijah Qualls.  The junior creates great push in the trenches, and eats up blocks.  He earned, guess what, 1st Team Pac-12 honors this week, to little surprise.  At his back is a feature LB, Azeem Victor.  Fantastically disruptive, you will see him on Sundays.  Yet another 1st Team All-Pac-12 honoree, he leads Washington in total tackles on the year, and has the size and the speed to play well against both phases.

Hey, at this level, at this point in the season, these are the kinds of teams you're going to face.  No, the 2016 Washington Huskies are not of the caliber of, say, the 2005 Texas Longhorns, but they're still a damn good squad.  The Buffs, with all due respect to them, are going to have to play the game of their lives to beat UW.

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

My 2016 record: 10-2. Against the spread: 6-5. Optimistic/pessimistic: CU -1.64 pts/gm.
Line as of Thursday @ 8pm - CU +7.5, O/U 58

Everything I look at tells me that Washington is going to win Friday.  They have the flashier talent, have produced better performances throughout the season, and seem to have gotten their groove back after the USC disaster.  More to the point, I just don't think the Buffs will be able to move the ball efficiently against them, and their special teams are worth at least an extra score on their own.  Still, we've all come too far for me to jump off the CU bandwagon now.

Defying all logic, I'm taking the Buffs to win in a squeaker.  Blood is thicker than money, or something like that.

CU 35 - UW 31


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