In preparation of Saturday’s matchup at Folsom Field between the University of Colorado and the University of California, the CU Independent sports section predicts what will happen. Here’s what the writers had to say.
Zoe Collins Rath, sports staff writer: The Buffs are coming off a tough 28-0 loss to Washington State while the California Golden Bears travel to Boulder after a heartbreaking loss to Arizona in double overtime.
The quarterback controversy for the Buffs may be in full swing after freshman Sam Noyer came in for Montez in the second half against the Cougars last Saturday. Expect Montez to start this game. Their backs are essentially against the wall, trying to make a bowl game with four games to go in the season. But Montez and Co. are going up against a Cal secondary that loves to ball hawk, as they lead the Pac-12 in interceptions with 13.
With Montez still struggling to consistently go through his progressions and the offensive line thriving more on the run block than the pass block, don’t expect the Buffs to challenge the Cal secondary. Colorado will once again rely on Lindsay’s explosive talents, as he’s already eclipsed 1,000 rushing yards this season. He will be the key to a Colorado victory come Saturday.
But this Cal team is balanced and, like Colorado, fighting for a bowl game. I think that this Cal offense will be able get past a Colorado defense that’s been subpar for most of the season.
I’m taking the Bears in this matchup, but the Buffs will keep it relatively close. Props to Cal head coach Justin Wilcox for surpassing his expectations in his first season — no one really saw this coming from the Golden Bears.
Final score: California 27, Colorado 21
Jack Stern, sports staff writer: It’s no secret that Lindsay has carried the Buffs’ offense the whole season. The Tasmanian devil has racked up 40 percent of the team’s total yards and has set the entire tempo on offense.
In several games, most notably his 41-carry performance against Arizona, he literally put the team on his back. The Buffs’ biggest strong point plays into one of the Bears’ biggest weaknesses: stopping the run.
The Bears defense ranks seventh in the conference against the run. It will have its hands full against the second-best running back in the conference. I fully expect Cal to try to stack the box to make CU throw the ball.
A home game with fair weather should help Montez defend himself as the starter. Cal’s defense will put pressure on Montez, the same way it did against Falk two weeks ago when it forced Falk to throw five interceptions.
However, I think Cal’s defense will get a heavy dose of Lindsay. He’ll carry the ball at least 30 times. Hopefully they’ll look to him more in the passing game as well. Last Saturday, Lindsay had just one catch for zero yards.
Finding Lindsay in the flats or with screens could be a good way for the Buffs to switch it up on offense and for Montez to get a rhythm going. The key for this one on defense is going to be the ability to create turnovers.
The Buffs dropped some interceptions last week, and while the rain can be blamed, there’s no doubt Buffs need to capitalize when Bowers makes mistakes on Saturday. Bowers has thrown 10 picks this year with just 12 touchdowns.
Sophomore defensive back Dante Wigley is the player to watch on defense — if junior lockdown corner Isaiah Oliver can’t suit up after suffering a possible hamstring injury last week. Wigley had three passes defended last week and was one of the few bright spots on defense.
In addition to forcing turnovers, the Buffs need to prolong drives — they were 1-of-17 on third downs last week. The Buffs don’t have much room for errors on Saturday.
Enter the boys from Berkeley, who are 4-4 on the season (1-4 Pac-12). They are coming off a 45-44 loss to Arizona, very similar to the one Colorado suffered three weeks ago.
The California Golden Bears’ pass rush was key in taking down the Cougars and it will likely play a big role again when the Bears come to Boulder on Saturday. Colorado’s offense has become one-dimensional, relying on senior tailback Phillip Lindsay for yards while everyone else struggles.
This gives Cal the opportunity to put pressure on Colorado’s offensive line and force the Buffs to throw, something CU proved utterly incapable of doing against Wazzu. Whoever wins this week’s quarterback controversy will have little time to make decisions. Unless MacIntyre and his coordinators find a way to properly adjust to that (they haven’t so far), it could be another bleak performance on offense.
The Buffs’ defense will have its own set of challenges too. The Bears offense is not incredible, but it is balanced. Cal has solid skill players in Bowers, Laird and Wharton III. All three will present a challenge for the Colorado defense and its nonexistent pass rush.
The CU secondary will have to shut down Bowers’ options in the pass game. Even if it achieves that, it’ll be shifting the workload to a front seven that’s looked terrible against the run and scrambling quarterbacks.
Overall, I think Colorado’s problems are too big to be adequately fixed in time for this homecoming game. The Buffaloes’ stagnation on offense and shortcomings on D are too big of obstacles for them to win Pac-12 games, even at home. It hurts, but I’m taking the Golden Bears in this one.
Final Score: California 24, Colorado 14
Yama Radtke, sports staff writer: Well here we are Buffs fans. The team sits at 4-4 but don’t get too dismal on me. I think everyone had a gut feeling that this was the type of season that was coming considering all the players the Buffs lost on defense and offense — most notably Sefo Liufau.
Now the Buffs have a chance to woo fans as the California Golden Bears come to town during homecoming week. Colorado is coming off a loss to the Washington State Cougars, in which they were shut out for the first time since 2012. Both teams are evenly matched if you look at them on paper. However, Cal is a football team that absolutely blew out Washington State 37-3. Needless to say, they’re no joke.
I really want to say that the Buffaloes are going to win this one. Considering that Colorado has been struggling as a team overall, getting blown out against Washington State and just squeaking out a win versus the Oregon State Beavers, I think they will lose.
California does not have a quarterback that necessarily jumps off the stat sheet, as Bowers has 1,997 yards passing with 12 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. These are not statistics that scare me, but California plays well as a team and is carrying much more momentum than Colorado is.
The Buffs are searching for an identity and possibly a quarterback if redshirt sophomore quarterback Steven Montez can’t pull it together. The Golden Bears know who they are and I think they’ll win this one.
Final Score: California 30, Colorado 20
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