In light of Saturday’s showdown at Folsom Field between the Colorado Buffaloes and No. 10 Washington State, the CUI’s Justin Guerriero chatted with Ryan Mosher, sports editor of Wazzu’s Daily Evergreen, to get some insider information on the Cougs.
Justin Guerriero: Cougs’ quarterback Gardner Minshew leads the nation in passing yards per game and is sixth in the country with 27 passing TDs. Last week versus Arizona, Colorado’s secondary allowed completions of 20-plus yards to six different wide Wildcat receivers. Does this matchup between CU and Wazzu come down to the following question: Will Minshew inevitably make it rain on Colorado’s secondary?
Ryan Mosher: I really think the secondary will be the most important position group this week. Leach’s air raid offense will pick apart a defense that lets big plays through, and if Evan Worthington remains on the sideline, it could be over very quickly. However, if Laviska Shenault Jr. is ready come game time on Saturday, I see him posing a huge threat to WSU’s secondary.
JG: Minshew is a bonafide stud, that goes without saying. But can you give me some other playmakers, on both sides of the ball, that the Buffaloes will need to keep tabs on?
RM: Watch out for James Williams, he can do it all: run hard downfield, catch passes out of the backfield, and is an important red zone option on the ground and through the air. And of course, his strongest attribute is that he is a speedy, elusive running back who can make impact plays at any moment. Easop Winston Jr. has a penchant for catching passes in the corner of the end zone, despite him not being a traditional big body receiver red zone threat (he’s small and fast). Others include Dezmon Patmon, who’s emerging as a top target for Minshew, and the defense as a whole makes clutch impact plays like interceptions and sacks. Especially good in coverage are DB’s Hunter Dale, Jalen Thompson and Darrien Molton.
JG: I have serious and warranted doubts regarding CU’s ability to win Saturday’s game. I fear its secondary is too weak and offense too temperamental to keep pace with the certain air raid that Wazzu’s offense will deliver. Try to convince me otherwise. How can Colorado win this game? What weaknesses do the Cougars have that the Buffs could exploit?
RM: I also see this game going WSU’s way … unless Shenault, Worthington, or both are healthy by Saturday this could be a pretty one-sided affair.
JG: Washington State rides a five-game win streak heading into its matchup with Colorado. However, does that streak tell the whole picture? The last two weeks have seen the Cougars win by a combined nine points. How sound or convincing have Wazzu’s victories been this season, in particular, the last few weeks?
RM: The first few were very convincing over lower caliber teams, however lately they have faced tougher Pac-12 competition making for closer games. One thing of note: WSU outscores opponents 116-32 in the fourth quarter, which is why the team has some narrow wins. Whether they’re down, tied or narrowly lead, the Cougs will beat you on both sides of the ball in the fourth quarter. They seemingly feed off pressure.
JG: Is there anything that worries you about Colorado? How confident are you that the Cougars will march into Folsom Field and win comfortably?
RM: I have had my eyes on Shenault since he established himself as the nation’s top receiver. If he enters Saturday’s game, he could make all the difference.
JG: You are close to the Cougars football program. For us looking in from the outside, head coach Mike Leach has a reputation of being an unorthodox play-caller, not afraid to push the envelope in terms of the quirkiness of his plays. He also apparently loves live mascots, i.e., the Buffs’ live mascot, Ralphie. What’s your overall impression of him as a guy and as a coach?
RM: Leach is undoubtedly one of, if not the most interesting man in college football. He has an off the charts intelligence for football, yet seemingly hates talking about it in interviews. He is much happier to answer questions about his dreams of being a garbage man in small-town Wyoming or whatever weird thing he’s asked that isn’t football. He will certainly go down as an innovative genius within the sport as his air raid offense spreads to different teams around the country and is even starting to show up in the NFL. In a word, Mike Leach is interesting. On and off the field.
JG: Final question: what’s your score prediction? Briefly, who wins and why?
RM: WSU wins 35-21 without Shenault or Worthington seeing the field. Otherwise, I don’t think the Buffs can keep pace with the offense and the defense will make enough stops defensively for a lead to be established. If Shenault returns, especially if he is joined by Worthington, I think it will look closer to WSU 42-38.
Contact CU Independent Head Sports Editor Justin Guerriero at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @TheHungry_Hippo.
Contact Daily Evergreen Sports Editor Ryan Mosher at email@example.com.