COLORADO SECOND-YEAR head coach Jon Embree is officially living on borrowed time. Losing to an FCS opponent was the expected low point in a very bad season, but CU didn’t just struggle against Sac State (and Colorado State), they were flat-out humiliated against Fresno State last week. The Bulldogs, who had looked fairly tame before that point, roasted CU for 55 points...in the first half.
Youth abounds in Boulder, but confidence has faded fast on a Colorado team just trying to stop the bleeding.
THE BUFFALOES ON OFFENSE
| Cougars (2-1) vs Buffaloes (0-3)|
AT A GLANCE
1:00 pm Pacific Time
Martin Stadium (33,522)
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WSU is favored by 18.5
2011, WSU won 31-27.
WSU is 3-4 in the series.
Cougs 48, Buffs 17
Players to Know
Jordan Webb, QB: The first year Buffalo and Kansas starter has been the team's primary QB but given the struggles, the waterboy could start this week and nobody would blame Embree for trying something new. Webb has averaged just 147 passing yards per game and is not particularly mobile. Texas transfer Connor Wood and sophomore Nick Hirschman are the primary backup options, combined they are just 7-for-19 passing in brief appearances this season.
Christian Powell, RB: Powell has been the best of the worst backfield CU has seen in ages. He leads the team with 199 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns. The 175 pound Tony Jones was expected to bring some speed to the backfield but has been running mostly sideways.
The Buffs are a struggling with ineffective quarterback play and no threatening playmakers to help out. CU disappointed last year despite having one of their all-time leading rushers in Rodney Stewart, a fairly deep corps of receivers, and capable quarterback play from Tyler Hansen. With Stewart, Hansen, and every relevant receiver needing to be replaced, the cupboard was simply dry for 2012. CU rushers are averaging just 2.9 yards per rush and Buffalo QB's are completing just 47% of their throws.
Whatever offensive philosophy CU would choose for itself has been thwarted by the fact that they've been outscored 45-14 in the first quarter this season. The classic CU running game, which has been lousy anyway, has been abandoned and they have thrown their hopes behind a very weak passing attack. The Cougs can expect to put high emphasis on run defense while the game is in doubt, but should be quick to double-cover possession receiver Nelson Spruce and deep threat Tyler McCullough if they get a substantial lead.
4.26 yards per play: The Buffs ranks 118th in yards per play and more than 1-plus yard worse than the much bemoaned Cougar offensive attack.
THE BUFFALOES ON DEFENSE
Players to Know
Jon Major, SLB: The 240-pound senior is one of the few bright spots and is a tackling machine, but he's been working overtime this season. Poor defensive line play and an abysmal secondary have simply left too much ground to cover.
Will Pericak, DT: The senior one of the few positions of experience on a defensive line littered with freshman and sophomores.
Yuri Wright, CB: One of the highest rated recruits CU has landed in several years was thrown right into the mixer at a position of desperate need. He ought to have a noteworthy matchup with another true freshman in Gabe Marks.
The Colorado defense has been an unmitigated catastrophe. By halftime last week they already trailed Fresno State 55-7 and had surrendered 500-plus yards. So far in 2012 they are surrendering numbers comparable to those of the epic fail WSU defenses of 2008-2009. They are giving up 7.0 yards per play and 9.91 yards per pass attempt. But to put the bleak nature of these numbers into proper perspective we must remember that the Buffaloes have yet to face a BCS conference opponent.
If WSU cannot move the ball effectively, very effectively, against this defense, fan fears over Mike Leach having lost his touch may actually gain some credibility.
7.91 yards average surrendered on first down: A team with a week defensive line and a porous secondary has little defense against a team with an open playbook.
THE BUFFALOES ON SPECIAL TEAMS
Darragh O'Neal has been productive on his many punting attempts (44.3 avg). Will Oliver converted his only field goal this season (30).
-Colorado lists 10 freshmen and sophomores in their starting lineup.
-As with UNLV, expect the Buffaloes to fight all the way to the finish, as WSU might be all that separates them from an 0-12 season. But the Cougars appear to be picking up speed, just as the Buffaloes are sputtering out.
-This will likely be the last game where WSU has the clear advantage at the line of scrimmage, but it should be substantial on Saturday. CU is on pace to give up 52 sacks this season (vs 24 for opponents) and average just 2.9 yards per rush (vs 4.85 allowed). Expect Travis Long to continue an impressive statistical campaign.
-Vegas is favoring WSU by 18.5 points, the largest margin since Idaho in 2007 (-24) and only the second time WSU has been predicted to win a conference game by the odds makers in the past five years (OSU last year). Since 2007, WSU is has been favored to beat just six FBS opponents, going 4-2 in the process (both losses to the Beavers).