This might be the shortest and best way to describe the effort the University of Colorado football team (3-1) will need to put forth this Saturday to take down the Oregon Ducks (2-2).
Anyone reading this most likely knows that Oregon will come to Boulder this weekend, reeling after their second loss of the young season, a 62-20 blowout at home in Eugene at the hands of No. 10 Utah. That loss leaves Oregon unranked for the first time since 2009, and desperate to get in the win column and stay there for the remainder of the Ducks’ conference schedule.
The Ducks looked rough against a Utah team that eviscerated their secondary for five receiving touchdowns and limited Oregon to three scores despite 400 yards of total offense. Oregon leaves that game with a secondary that gave up a number of wide-open looks to Utah receivers, and a question mark currently sitting at QB1 on their depth chart after redshirt junior Jeff Lockie replaced senior Vernon Adams early on in the loss to Utah. Both played poorly.
But this is still Oregon we’re talking about, AKA last year’s Rose Bowl victor and the runner-up in the first ever College Football Playoff. This team has size, speed and a whole lot at stake in this upcoming game.
Colorado would be wise to keep the ball in the air and exploit the same deficiencies in the Oregon secondary that Utah did last Saturday. Junior quarterback Sefo Liufau has got plenty of talent to spread the ball, be it to Colorado’s all-time leader in catches and receiving yards senior Nelson Spruce, the Buffaloes standout sophomore trio of Shay Fields, Bryce Bobo and Devin Ross, or even redshirt freshman Jay MacIntyre, who recorded his first reception and touchdown last week.
A concern for Colorado on offense will be whether Liufau can alleviate the issues he had throwing the ball in Saturday’s 48-0 win over Nicholls State, when he was 13-of-21 on passing attempts with some seriously off-target throws mixed in. Those issues presumably stem from a separated shoulder that Liufau sustained against Colorado State two weeks ago; Liufau admitted the shoulder was bothering him after the game but also made a point to address a need to focus on his fundamentals. Wherever the problem lies, Colorado is going to need the junior to address it in a hurry and be in peak form come Saturday.
Either way, Colorado can hopefully help Liufau out with another strong week of running the football. Sophomore Phillip Lindsay is beginning to establish himself as a standout among the Buffaloes’ stable of backs, and Saturday against Nicholls St. he had another big game, with 17 carries for 113 yards and two touchdowns. Between Lindsay’s shiftiness and senior Christian Powell’s ability to move the chains in short-yardage situations, Colorado’s running game has impressed thus far and will need to remain strong to help keep pressure off of Liufau.
On defense, the opportunistic Buffaloes will need to buckle down in the secondary against an Oregon receiving corps that will be the fastest they’ve seen this season. Oregon’s top receiver is junior Bralon Addison, who has been kept relatively in check so far this season but showcased his explosiveness in Oregon’s loss to Michigan State when he ripped off seven catches for 138 yards. On the ground, Oregon has been led thus far by sophomore running back Royce Freeman, whose 6.5 yards per carry and five touchdowns at this point in the season paint the picture of a man who is not easily brought down.
Overall, Colorado may look like a solid bet on paper with their three-game win streak pointing the Buffaloes in the right direction. But these Ducks are no pushovers. The Buffaloes will need to execute a flawless game plan and minimize mistakes, two things that have been definite strong points for Colorado thus far.
Above all else, the Buffaloes should hope for some heroics, because a win against a team like Oregon could push Colorado a long way on the road back to college football relevancy.
Colorado hosts Oregon at Folsom Field in Boulder this Saturday at 8 p.m. MST. The game will be broadcast on ESPN.
Contact CU Independent Sports Editor Sam Routhier at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on twitter @samrouthier.