CU's defense stops a pass from being completed against the Oregon State Beavers at Folsom Field on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2016. (Jackson Barnett/CU Independent)

Coin Toss: Should Steven Montez Start for the Buffs?

The University of Colorado Buffaloes will travel to Los Angeles this Saturday to take on the USC Trojans. Before they do so, they’ll have to decide who will play as quarterback: Senior Sefo Liufau or redshirt freshman Steven Montez. Our two sports writers, Kyle Rini and Chase Howell, weigh in on who should get the start.

Kyle Rini: People can call me a heretic, but I honestly believe Montez could be Colorado’s best option at quarterback. Montez has wowed everyone in his first two starts, going a combined 42-59 for 626 yards and six touchdowns. Add in 163 yards rushing and another touchdown on the ground, and you’ve got performances just as good, if not better, than the ones Liufau had against much worse teams. Before I get burned at the stake, what do you think, Chase?

Chase Howell: This has been a very hot topic on #BuffsTwitter, and the whole idea seems crazy to me. It was only two weeks ago we watched our chances of beating Michigan go right out the window after Liufau went down with the ankle injury and Montez went 0-7 on passing.  I think we saw the work that Liufau put in on the offseason on display when he played CSU, Idaho State and even Michigan. At Michigan, he looked pinpoint on the deep ball and threw some great corner routes for touchdowns to both Bryce Bobo and Devin Ross.

KR: While Liufau got to pad his stats against CSU’s and Idaho State’s defenses, Montez has shined against actual Pac-12 competitors in Oregon and Oregon State. That’s not to mention the solid performance Montez had cleaning up against the lowa Bengals or the mountains of praise he continues to get from coaches and observers at practice.

Obviously, Montez’s performance against Michigan is his biggest blemish, but that 0-7 stat line doesn’t account for the Buffs’ offensive line collapsing in the face of the best D-line in the nation. Montez had no time to make plays. It also doesn’t account for the several critical drops made by the receivers, including junior George Frazier letting go of a sure touchdown off a beautiful throw from Montez.

CH: Liufau is the biggest leader on this football team, and when he’s out there it makes the whole team better. I think we’ve watched a guy that has gotten better every year that he’s been a Buff. He’s the most prepared to face the competition in the Pac-12.

KR: There’s no doubt that Liufau came into the season as the team’s leader, but there hasn’t seemed to be any problems with the unit rallying around Montez and his impressive play. These Buffs are fired up and motivated to win regardless of who’s under center. The fact that Montez can lead this team effectively in only his first year speaks to his massive potential.

Montez is a guy who has been highly touted since being recruited out of El Paso — he’s a dual threat with a strong arm and quick feet. He’s proven that he can perform even without the extra years of maturity that Liufau benefits from. In his two games a starter, Montez had quarterback ratings of 89.8 and 96.9. Compare that to Liufau’s QBRs of 70.4, 96.9 and 60.6 in the first three games.

CH: I have to ask: What kind of defenses has Montez played against? The Oregon defense is ranked 117th in the nation in total yards against and 109th in total points for. The Oregon State Beavers are ranked 87th in the nation in both yards and points against.

KR: While Oregon and Oregon State’s defenses may not be extremely impressive, they are no doubt better than CSU’s and Idaho State’s. We expect a good quarterback to shred bad defenses, and that’s exactly what Montez did. Letting him take on the Trojans and their 65th-ranked defense will give the Buffs a chance to evaluate what their future quarterback can do against a tougher unit. It will also allow Liufau to get more rest on that ankle to make sure he’s 100 percent before coming back.

I don’t think it’s realistic to think Montez should become the starter for the rest of the season, but I think playing him against USC would definitely be a beneficial move for these Colorado Buffaloes.

CH: Look, they both have been top-10 quarterbacks in the nation this year, in terms of QBR, so it’s not like you can go wrong with either choice. But if you had to choose one over the over, I would pick the guy that has the most experience and leadership, and that’s Liufau.

Contact CU Indepndent Sports Writers Kyle Rini and Chase Howell at kyle.rini@colorado.edu and chho2296@colorado.edu.

About Kyle Rini

Sports Writer Kyle Rini is a Colorado native born and raised in Monument, CO. At CU, he pursues a bachelors in Journalism with a minor in Political Science.

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