Another week coming off another disappointing loss, another tough matchup to prepare for on Saturday.
This week, the Colorado Buffaloes will try to save their tailspin of a season against the No. 10 Washington State Cougars, a matchup that will certainly — stop me if you’ve heard this before — be the Buffs’ toughest test yet.
There really is no one excuse or area of this team to point your finger at amidst this four-game losing streak. Sure, the Buffs lost their Heisman Trophy candidate and apparent heartbeat of the team in Laviska Shenault Jr., whose absence due to turf toe, weirdly enough, coincides with the current four-game skid.
Sure, injuries have crippled not only the team’s offensive production, but also its has-been defensive dominance.
But those are all excuses.
“Yeah, it’s been tough,” head coach Mike MacIntyre said. “We set the expectations high and we played really well. I cannot control game-day injuries … But as I’ve always said, nobody cares, you still have to find a way to win. We’ve been close in the last three, we just didn’t get it done. Hopefully we’ll get it done Saturday.”
Nobody cares is right. Not the fans, not the polls, not the committee who will (or at this point, maybe won’t) pick CU for a bowl game. The only person that probably does care is head athletic director Rick George, whose job it will be to evaluate this coaching staff’s performance after the season.
The coaches’ seats are getting warm and the Buffaloes’ 2018 season is getting colder as the barely-flickering flame of this season fades faster than the self-proclaimed “Folsom Fast” offense has these past four weeks.
With three games left on its schedule, Colorado can only hope for one more win. At least then this season can be saved in the form of a bowl game, albeit at this point, it would likely be a low-tier, mediocre one.
It won’t be easy this week. The Cougars come to town sporting a 8-1 record (5-1 in the Pac-12) and a shiny No. 10 ranking in front of their names. The first priority for the Buffs will be stopping Washington State stud and former Alabama-commit, quarterback Gardner Minshew II.
“Their quarterback is one of the best quarterbacks in the country right now,” senior linebacker Rick Gamboa said. “He’s playing lights out. Basically everybody on their offense is a weapon … Their O-line is good, they give their quarterback some time to make throws and their quarterback leads the offense … He controls the game for them.”
Minshew currently leads the country in passing yards with 3,517 and owns the country’s best yards-per-game average with a whopping 390.8 per contest. The grad-student QB stands sixth in the nation with 27 touchdown passes. He leads the Wazzu offense that owns the nation’s best passing attack (397.4 per game).
He’s also the Pac-12’s best quarterback and it’s not even a close contest. Minshew’s 3,517 yards is over a thousand more than the next closest QB in the Pac-12. He completes an impressive 70.8 percent of his throws, again top in the conference, and paces the Pac-12 field in touchdowns thrown.
“He’s done really well,” MacIntyre said. “He has mobility, he’s making throws … Overall, his team is really good and he’s executing the offense really well and he makes a lot of plays.”
For the Buffs’ defense, getting to Minshew certainly won’t be an easy task, especially considering that Wazzu’s offensive line might very well be the best in the country.
“I think their offensive line has gotten better every year,” MacIntyre said. “I think their offensive line is the best offensive line they’ve had since we’ve gone against Washington State.”
Lucky for the Buffs, the defense — aside from its depleted, dismal defensive backs — has been one of the few glimmers of hope for this team. Colorado’s front seven has been able to sack opposing quarterbacks 25 times this season, second only to Washington State in the Pac-12, and No. 25 in the nation.
This game is nearing do-or-die territory for the Buffs. With only a handful of games left on the season, Colorado needs to step up.
“I would definitely say there’s a big sense of urgency,” Gamboa said. “We’ve got three games left, us seniors have two games left at Folsom, so I think there’s a big sense of urgency in what we want to do [and] what we want to accomplish these last three games.”
There’s still plenty on the line for Colorado, as the Pac-12 South is still very much up for grabs. Believe it or not, the Buffs can still get to the Pac-12 Championship, albeit in a very unlikely scenario.
Despite their 2-4 record in the Pac-12, the Buffaloes remain only two games behind Utah, Arizona and USC with three games left to play, one of which will be against Utah at Folsom Field next week. USC has current No. 3 Notre Dame on the docket; Arizona has only two games left in their season, one of which is against this tough Washington State team; and again, Utah plays Colorado next week after going against a stout Oregon squad this Saturday.
It’s possible, however unlikely. Either way, one more win gets the Buffs into a bowl game, though a mediocre one it may be at this point. Whatever, it still counts.
Colorado takes on Washington State Saturday, Nov. 10 at 1:30 p.m. in what is the penultimate game at Folsom Field this season. It’ll be nationally televised on ESPN, no less. All eyes on you, Buffaloes.
Contact CU Independent Sports Staff Writer Scott MacDonald at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @ScottTopics.