Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Colorado Buffaloes-Arizona State Preview and Oregon Ducks Recap...

The Buffs did what many thought they'd do against the Ducks, they laid an egg.  Hopefully it hatches into a first down or a 100-yard running effort by a back or a stop on third and long or... there are many things the Buffs need to hatch out of that egg.  There is light at the end of this dark tunnel, unfortunately it comes in the form of Charleston Southern on October 19th instead of this weekend against Arizona State.  Before we talk about the Sun Devils, let's talk about the Ducks.

Oregon Ducks Recap
The Colorado Buffaloes went in with fire and confidence against Oregon.  It was evident early when Colorado's defense held Oregon to a rare 3 and out.  Colorado then had a quick strike 55 yard pass to Paul Richardson to open up Colorado's first drive.  After getting the ball to the 16, the Buffs had 3 quick passes go incomplete and settled for a field goal.  Playing Oregon, there is no settling for a field goal if you want to have a shot.

Oregon proved that point scoring within their typical 2 minutes on a 75 yard drive that ended in a Marcus Mariota play fake boot.  Colorado was down 8-3, but a well thought out trick play had Paul Richardson throw his first collegiate pass to DD Goodson who scampered downfield for a touchdown.  Suddenly it was 10-8 Buffs and halfway into the first quarter there was a hey this could be fun thought coming to Buffs fans.  Wrong!!!

The Ducks then had a barrage of scoring to end the first quarter with an exclamation point touchdown after an ill-advised Connor Wood pass and the 10-8 lead turned to a 29-10 deficit.  The flap of the Duck wings put out the fire the Buffs had lit.

The Buffs then opened the 2nd quarter after two 20+ yard passes ended the first quarter with a third 20 yard pass.  The Buffs were within striking distance, but instead of putting their foot on the pedal, the brakes slammed hard and they once again decided to take the 3 points instead of going for the touchdown.  Colorado's defense responded and stopped the Ducks in flight and freshman Addison Gillam continued his amazing start to the season with a sack of Heisman trophy candidate Marcus Mariota.  But the Buffs offense took good field position and a strong start to their drive and fell flat on their face and once again settled for a short field goal.  The Buffs were down 29-16.  The Ducks still had complete control of the game.  Both teams had scored 4 times and a score that could  have been 29-28 and a game was instead just a respectable 29-16. 

Oregon doesn't settle and 29 quickly became 36-16 and then 43-16.  The Buffs defense was spent and the offense knew their was no shot, so it went into hibernation mode.  That was evident when the Ducks came out and scored on their first two drives making it 57-16 which turned out to be the final.  The Ducks just played to eat clock and prevent Colorado from scoring.  A respectable showing turned into a typical Colorado blowout loss.  But there are positives to take away along with the many negatives.

First, the negatives:
  • The Buffs went 0-15 on third down which is their worse performance ever.  They did convert a fourth down but to have 15 opportunities and not get one first down shows there are issues from play calling (the conservative draw on a manageable 3rd and 12 or less is awful in my opinion).
  • The Buffs allowed 755 yards which are the second most in school history. The Ducks could have put over 800 easily but had their subs in most of the fourth quarter.
  • The Buffs third down defense has been hit or miss.  They allowed 50% conversion which usually spells a loss.  Their 3rd and longs that they give up are the most frustrating thing to see as a fan and as could be seen by the knocked over pylon on his way out, Head Coach Mike MacIntyre feels the same way.
  • The Buffs continue their submission to the domination of the Pac 12.  They are averaging 50.5 points allowed to 16.5 points scored, a difference of 34 points a game.
  • Settling for 3 when you need 7.  The coaches needed to pressure an offense like Oregon to HAVE to score. 
  • The offensive line where Connor Wood was pressured constantly.  Woods also has not looked comfortable the first two games of the Pac 12 after looking like the seasoned veteran the first two weeks.  Tougher competition will do that.
The Positives:

  • The special teams units.  Punt and kick protection has been much better and the kickoffs were really good on Saturday after being a nightmare in the first two games.  The return units had better returns though the speed is lacking for any potential game changing play. 
  • Paul Richardson-Not much else to say.  This guy is unreal.  As seen in Richardson's One-Handed Catch and his playmaking ability in general, he is one of the few elite players on this Buffs roster.
  • Chidera Uzo-Diribe-This senior captain has been huge.  While he only has 1 sack, he has six tackles for loss that are as good as a sack.  He is a constant problem for opposing teams and forces the opposing quarterback to rush decisions.  His four forced fumbles in four games is equally impressive but he has taken well to good coaching by Jeffcoat.
  • Christian Powell and Michael Adkins II-Powell finally ran with some pop and authority and Adkins II had some solid plays.  They should see some yards the next few weeks with a pourous Arizona State defense and FCS opponent Charleston Southern followed up by fellow Pac 12 bottom feeder in Cal.
  • Addison Gillam-A true freshman leads the Buffs in tackles and has as many unassisted tackles as the second leading tackler.  He has 2 sacks, 4 tackles for loss and 5 zero yard tackles to go along with 11-3rd down stops.  There is not enough praise to put on the play this young man has had in his young career.  He plays sideline to sideline, reads well, takes good angles and is a sure tackler.  He is the diamond in the rough that MacIntyre and crew used to build San Jose State into a power. 
  • Greg Henderson-He now has four interceptions on the year.  He doesn't get challenged much but when he does the drive usually ends early with a solid 3rd down stop, pass break up or interception. 
Arizona State Preview
ASU is 3-2 after losing to Notre Dame in Texas.  It was a chance to put themselves solidly in the Top 25.  Instead they sit outside of it again and are looking to rebound before a shot at redemption by hosting #16 Washington.  Arizona State can put points on the board, averaging 42.2 per game for the season and not being under 32 in any game this year.  They have also allowed 30+ points against all teams they have played on the FBS level.  

Arizona State has a strong passing attack (something that has been the norm for what seems like since my youth) led by Taylor Kelly.  Kelly has a full year under his belt and looks comfortable in 2013 in his second year as the man at ASU.  His favorite receiver is Jalen Strong whom has 569 yards on 39 receptions.  His longest catch is only 36 yards, so he is a first down machine more than a big play guy like Paul Richardson.  He is averaging over 8 catches and 125 yards the past four weeks.

Arizona State returned 17 starters from an 8-5 team and with the addition of Strong appears to be headed in the right direction to be around 8-5 again or improve potentially to 9-4.  The Sun Devils biggest issue remains from last year, while they have a better receiving corp than 2012, they lack that big play threat.  Put Paul Richardson on the Sun Devils and they are likely 5-0 instead of 3-2.  All that said, their game against UCLA will probably determine the South Division representative in the Pac 12 game if both teams do what they should over the remainder of their schedule.

Arizona State does play the pass well, but they have faced many run reliant teams and had close games that kept their passing yardage allowed low.  The fact they give up 30 points a game is a good sign for the Buffs who need a kick start and a tight game.  Arizona State doesn't wow you but they play good football and are well coached. 

This is a who cares sort of game for Arizona State.  They are focused on putting together a string of victories before they play at UCLA on November 23rd and with only Washington currently ranked, a big upset of Washington is probably more on their minds than a Colorado team they have dominated over the past decade. 

Colorado on the other hand is on the ledge.  They have played like the 2011 and 2012 Buffs the last two weeks.  Things have to change in order to make this season not start looking like the previous two. 

Arizona State reminds me of Oregon State.  Solid quarterback play, solid receiving group with one main guy and a defense that wants a statement game against a Pac 12 opponent.  I believe Colorado's coaches are pissed on how the last two weeks went.  It is not the same team they saw in the fourth quarter in games they got behind.  I think Arizona State allows Colorado to finally have a respectable game again.  They have played the last two weeks, came back down to Earth and realized they aren't the 2-0 team they thought they were and know they aren't as bad as the last two weeks.  They are somewhere in the middle, wherever that may be only the season will tell.

The Buffs have not held a Pac 12 opponent to under 35 points since allowing 34 in their only win of 2012 against Washington State.  In order to compete against Arizona State, they are going to have to do the same.  I don't see the Sun Devils being 35 points better than the Buffs as they were last year.  If the Buffs hold the Sun Devils around 30, they have a shot to win.  If the Sun Devils score their 42 point average, it's another loss.  The Buffs have to settle their third down woes of the past couple weeks and take some pressure off their defense.

All that said, I think the Buffs fight much harder than the past two weeks but lose 40-30 with a late TD to make it closer than it appears.  Paul Richardson should get to over 750 yards on the season.  This is kind of that make or break game for Connor Wood.  If he continues to trend towards making bad throws and putting the Buffs in a hole, they may have to make the difficult decision of burning Sefo Liufau's redshirt early and see what he can do.  Wood needs to deal with the pressure like he did in the first two weeks and make quick, smart decisions. Turning to Sefo means the season is pretty much over and it's time to prepare for 2014.  I think a 40-30 game would show some progress back to what the Buffs should be heading into two games at home.

Season Outlook
I am sticking with 6-6, though as little as 4 wins as I originally predicted is easily predicted.  I believe the Buffs have a 3-2-3 schedule.  3 games are where they have 1 game that they should win, one they should be competitive in that could go either way and one they should lose sandwiched by two games that could be as bad as Oregon-Oregon State were in UCLA & Washington on the road. 

Should lose to Arizona State and USC based off talent alone.  Competitive games against Arizona and Utah.  Games they should win against Cal and Charleston Southern, though both will be looking to make the Buffs game the game they get a much needed win and a shock the big boys late season win respectively.