CUI Staff Picks: Colorado at Arizona

Dante Wigley celebrates after scoring a touchdown for the Buffaloes. The Buffs would go on to lose the game in OT. Oct. 27, 2018. (Fiona Matson/CU Independent File)

The Colorado Buffaloes and Arizona Wildcats face off for a Pac-12 South showdown on Friday, Nov. 2 in Tucson. In preparation for the game, the CU Independent sports section gave their weekly predictions on how the Buffs will fare.

Alex Pepper, Sports Staff Writer:  After showing up to the game last weekend and watching the Buffs jump out to a 24-3 halftime lead against the Oregon State Beavers, I left. Smug as ever, I strutted out of Folsom Field assuming the Buffs were 6-2, bowl-bound, and atop the Pac-12 South standings. Well, as it turned out, none of those things were true. All I knew for sure was that I was sad.

Before I bring myself to tears, let’s talk about how CU can rebound in their upcoming matchup against the Arizona Wildcats. Colorado lost a now-famous game to the Wildcats last year, in which then-backup quarterback Khalil Tate entered the game and gashed the Buffaloes for an NCAA record 327 rushing yards en route to a 45-42 Arizona win. The defense will have its hands full this Friday as the Buffs try to combat Tate, but CU can’t forget about the run game either.

Arizona running back JJ Taylor, who stands at just 5-foot-6 but has already surpassed the 1000-yard mark on the season, is nothing for the Buffs to turn their nose up at. Colorado’s front seven has been solid this year, but there’s no doubt they’ll be tested on the road this week against the potent one-two punch of Tate and Taylor.

With head coach Mike MacIntyre arguably now in the hot seat and the season crumbling before their eyes, the Buffaloes need to right the ship, and quickly. The dynamic Wildcats will give the ailing Buffaloes a run for their money, but I think MacIntyre and Co. are desperate enough to escape Tucson this week with a narrow win.

Score Prediction: Colorado 27, Arizona 24

Max Troderman, Sports Staff Writer: The only way the Buffs have a shot at winning is if they can block out the bad vibes of last week. Just the bad vibes though, they need to remember the issues they had last game so they can make sure not to repeat the same mistakes twice. Still, that might not be even enough against a pumped up Wildcats team that’s coming off a staggering 44-15 win against University of Oregon. An interesting thing to note is that these teams are coming into this match up with completely different mindsets.

What I mean by this is that since CU is coming into this game after a heart-wrenching loss, the energy may be low and the attitude is serious. On the other hand, Arizona is riding high after blowing out a strong Oregon team. There will be smiles all around as they try to repeat what they did the previous week.  

Another item to note is that CU may be getting their star receiver back from injury this week. Despite missing two games with a toe injury, sophomore wideout Laviska Shenault, Jr. still leads the team in receptions (60), receiving yards (780), receiving touchdowns (6) and total touchdowns (11). If he is available this week, Colorado’s chances of winning soar. The Buffaloes will also have to execute on defense to hold back a tough Wildcats offense. CU senior linebackers Rick Gamboa and Drew Lewis have been solid this season, combining for 79 tackles, but clearly as last week showed, they are not perfect by any means. If these two men, as well as sophomore Nate Landman, can continue to make plays, it will certainly help CU’s chance of winning.

In the end, I think Arizona will be too much for CU, despite the Buffs being desperate to break their losing streak.

Score prediction: Colorado 20, Arizona 35

Justin Guerriero, Head Sports Editor: I hope that the Buffs have done some collective soul searching this week following their humiliating loss to Oregon State last Saturday. I can’t imagine a worse game to be coming off of before a game on the road, and on the other side of that coin, it’s hard to imagine how Arizona could be any more confident after their thrashing of the Oregon Ducks over the weekend.

Colorado’s front seven has played solid, yes, but consider this: if J.J. Taylor and Arizona’s run game was able to bash Jim Leavitt’s Ducks defense as effectively as it did, expect at least some of the same this Friday vs. Lewis, Gamboa and Co.

Offensively, the Buffaloes have a heck of a lot to remedy before hitting the road for Tucson. The last three weeks have proven that CU’s offense suffers from multiple personality disorder. Which Buffs offense will we see on Friday? Will it be the one we saw in the first half versus Oregon State that actually was able to muster points? Or will it be the offense that was present on the field against the Washington Huskies a few weeks ago, when despite countless chances, handouts and divine intervention from the football gods, could not find any traction whatsoever?

The unstable way that the offense has performed has made it terribly difficult to gauge in any capacity what it will do in upcoming games. I suppose we’ll just have to hold our breath and wait. I for one feel that it’s now or never for the 2018 Colorado Buffaloes. If CU fails to pick up its sixth win this Friday, god save this football team. The road gets harder after this weekend.

I predict that the stinging humiliation that’s still lingering following the OSU loss will get the boys angry and enhance their overall play. Colorado will win on Friday. It simply must.

Score prediction: Colorado 34, Arizona 30

Scott MacDonald, Sports Staff Writer: After starting the season 5-0, the Buffs have unfortunately had a very tough stretch of schedule these past three weeks. I mean, cut them a break, the Buffs were playing absolute powerhouse teams. USC is tough to beat, sporting an absolute dominate 4-4 record. The perpetually-ranked Washington Huskies are certainly no easy feat, despite their unranked 5-3 record, and don’t even get me started on the big, bad Oregon State Beavers. Hey now — I know what you’re thinking — so what if Oregon State hasn’t won on the road since 2014, they’re pretty much the Alabama of the West Coast. Everybody knows that.

But I digress.

In all seriousness — my, oh my, how the mighty fall! Colorado is absolutely blowing it. After easily what is the worst loss in the Mike MacIntyre era — and is tied for the biggest blown lead in CU’s 128-year football history — fans, donors, and alumni are practically knocking on MacIntyre’s door, pitchforks and torches in hand, calling for his firing. At this point, we’re all praying for just one. more. win. At least then we’d save this downward spiral of a season by getting into a bowl game.

Oregon State was supposed to be the easy sixth win of the season to break Colorado’s losing streak and to earn their second bowl eligibility in three seasons. Instead, the Buffs are now looking down the barrel of a tough-schedule gun. The remaining four games on the docket for the Buffs reads this: No. 10 Washington State, No. 16 Utah and then a Cal-Berkeley team that may be heating up after beating Washington last week. But first, it’s Arizona this Friday.

Despite their 4-5 record, the Wildcats may be catching fire after coming off an offensive thrashing of a then-ranked No. 19 Oregon this past week. Arizona is a very offensive team that the Buffs defense may have a tough time controlling. Other than Tate, Arizona has another dangerous runner in the little-engine-that-could, Taylor, who is second in the Pac-12 and fourth in the FBS with over a thousand rushing yards.

I imagine this game will be a trading of offensive possessions and scores, maybe not akin to the 45-42 final score that it was last season at Folsom Field, but probably pretty close. I’ve lost confidence in this Buffs team, and I expect the slide to continue this week in a tough away game in Tucson that boasts a very rowdy student section, likely even rowdier given it’s a Friday night game.

Score prediction: Colorado 31, Arizona 34

Jack Carlough, Sports Staff Writer: As in most sports, short term memory can play a key factor in the success of a team over the course of a season. The Buffs will certainly have to exercise this as they attempt to overcome one of the worst losses in program history. We were all shocked to see the then 1-6 Beavers come into Folsom Field and completely dismantle the Buffs in the second half. For the sake of our sanity, and for the future of the program, it’s best to move forward, because the Buffaloes do have a winnable game here against Arizona.

For the game to indeed be winnable, the Buffs must do a better job of controlling another key factor: momentum. After starting the season off 5-0, they have not been able to recapture the momentum these last 3 weeks. Albeit they were up against two solid teams: USC, which had a 19-game home winning streak, and a strong 5-3 Washington Huskies team.

I’m going to be an optimist here and say it’s not time to press the panic button just yet. While Arizona has had a more difficult schedule than the Buffs, the Wildcats come in at just 4-5. Trying to be positive here again, they also lost to a UCLA team whom the Buffs fared very well against not too long ago.

Unfortunately, momentum still rides with Arizona coming off a 44-15 win against No 19. Oregon. Their leader, Tate who threw for three touchdowns during their win, must be stopped by an ailing Buffs’ secondary. Not only can Tate throw the ball, but he can also run a bit. While I am trying to emphasize short-term memory for the Buffs, it’s worth noting that Tate rushed for an FBS quarterback record 327 yards when the Wildcats came to Boulder last year.

I’m crossing my fingers here because as we learned last week, anything can happen in college football, but I’m confident that an improved Nate Landman should help control Tate in the pocket.

For the Buffs to win in Tucson, it is imperative that they have a short-term memory, control momentum and keep Tate away from open space. Let’s pray to God that Laviska gets healthy soon.

Score prediction: Colorado 21, Arizona 20

Griffin Rucker, Sports Staff Writer: It’s hard to have any faith in the Buffs at this point. The second half of Sunday’s debacle was a continuing trend of the offense failing to put together prolonged drives and the defense being unable to get off the field. September’s hot start is starting to feel like a fluke compared to the past three games.

That said, I think CU should be able to make this a competitive game. Coming off a two-game losing skid, Arizona’s annihilation of Oregon was almost as unprecedented as Colorado’s collapse to OSU. Both teams are having very similar seasons with inconsistent play on both sides of the ball and both have struggled more on the road with each team only winning one game away from home.

It’s understandable to feel pessimistic with the Wildcats coming off their best win of the season, but the Buffaloes should prove to be a tough test.

No doubt that Arizona’s dual-threat backfield of Tate and Taylor will give the Buffs problems, but Steven Montez and Travon McMillian should be equally feared. Montez isn’t the athlete that Tate is, but he’s certainly capable of breaking a few big runs. The Wildcats are giving up a whopping 183.4 rushing yards per game, so Colorado should be able to move the ball and stay on the field as long as they can avoid penalties and turnovers.

I consider myself to be an optimist, so I believe we’ll see a motivated Buffs team out to prove that they’re better than the team we’ve seen of late. Unfortunately, I don’t know if that’ll be enough. With Shenault’s playing status still uncertain and Arizona having home field advantage, I think CU will play well but falter late.

Score prediction: Colorado: 30, Arizona: 35   

Zoe Collins Rath, Assistant Sports Editor

In a perfect world, the Buffs beat Oregon State in overtime, KD Nixon would be the talk of the town, and we would be fantasizing about what to pack for a bowl game. But this is the real world, and the Buffs need to figure out what to do in their final games because maybe, just maybe, there is a sliver of hope to win a few more games. This Saturday, however, the Buffs play Arizona.

As Mr. Pepper noted before, the game last year against Arizona was stolen from the Buffs by Khalil Tate’s performance as he earned an NCAA rushing record. The Buffs could not stop him then and I am concerned they may not be able to do it now because no defense should be complacent when the lead is as big as it was on Saturday.

Seriously, what defense gives up a 21-point halftime lead? There is a chance the Buffs can pull off a win and do something to get back on track. If they pay attention to the film and minimize any damage Tate could do, they should be fine.

Members of the defense who were there that weekend remember how hard it was to stop Tate, so those memories should fuel their fire to get a W in Tucson. However, the team is not playing the way they should, and it will take a lot of work to get back to where they were before they started spiraling. 

Score prediction: Colorado 27, Arizona 28

Contact CU Independent Sports Staff Writer Alex Pepper at alex.pepper@colorado.edu.

Contact CU Independent Sports Staff Writer Max Troderman at max.troderman@colorado.edu.

Contact CU Independent Head Sports Editor Justin Guerriero at justin.guerriero@colorado.edu and follow him on Twitter @TheHungry_Hippo.

Contact CU Independent Sports Staff Writer Scott MacDonald at scma0899@colorado.edu and follow him on Twitter @ScottTopics.

Contact CU Independent Sports Staff Writer Jack Carlough at jack.carlough@colorado.edu.

Contact CU Independent Sports Staff Writer Griffin Rucker at grru4045@colorado.edu.

Contact CU Independent Assistant Sports Editor Zoe Collins Rath at zoe.collinsrath@colorado.edu and follow her on Twitter @zoerath99.

Justin Guerriero

Head Sports Editor Justin Guerriero is a city boy from Pittsburgh, PA, who fell in love with the mountains upon touring CU Boulder for the first time prior to his freshman year. He is a diehard Pittsburgh sports fan and covers whatever needs to be covered at the CUI. Justin is a junior majoring in broadcast production with minors in history and communication. Follow him on Twitter @TheHungry_Hippo

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