The University of Colorado (4-5) football team plays their final home game of the season against No. 21 the University of Arizona (6-3) on Saturday. With only limited opportunities remaining on their schedule, the Buffaloes will look to get back in the win category after losing their last three games.
Unfortunately, Colorado looks to be running into a buzzsaw this weekend in the Arizona Wildcats. While the Buffs have lost their last three games, the Wildcats have won their last three games – against ranked opponents. This has earned them a spot in the top 25 of the country. That being said, Colorado is no stranger to ranked opponents, having played five already this season, and should see this as yet another chance to prove themselves.
What to watch for on the Colorado side:
Pat Shurmur’s offense– In the days before the Nov. 4 game against the University of Oregon State, head coach Deion Sanders decided to make a switch at offensive coordinator by replacing Sean Lewis with Pat Shurmur. The decision came as a surprise, as many believed that the main issue with this Colorado team was not the offense, a unit that ranks in the top 50 of the country, but the defense, which ranks second worst in the country. Frustratingly, these roles seemed to reverse during the ensuing OSU game. The defense consistently made stops and the offense consistently punted the ball right back to Oregon State.
“We needed to try something else. That’s what we did and I don’t look back on it, I don’t second guess myself whatsoever,” said coach Sanders about the decision after the game.
Coach Sanders kept to himself about his opinions on the job Shurmur did against Oregon State. However, Buffs fans will be hoping the offense looks more like themselves this weekend.
Shedeur Sanders finishing the season strong– Quarterback Shedeur Sanders, similarly to his father, had no answers for how the offensive coordinator shift affected the team.
“I mean, at that point, you just asking me a set-up question. You just want a headline. I’m not even going to answer that,” he said when asked who he’d prefer calling plays for him moving forward.
However, there is no doubt that Shedeur and his offense have struggled since the first half of the Stanford game. They’ve been held to under 20 points the past two games, granted against two of the Pac-12’s best defenses, and Shedeur was held to less than 250 passing yards in both contests. Heading into those games, the team averaged over 34 points per game, and Shedeur Sanders had around 350 passing yards. The Arizona defense, ranking No. 72 nationally in passing yards allowed per game, isn’t anything special against the pass. Against the Wildcats, Sanders will have an opportunity to recreate some of the success he had earlier this season.
What to watch for on the Arizona side:
Fifita and McMillan’s connection– Ever since freshman Noah Fifita took over at quarterback after Arizona’s week four game against Stanford, the Wildcats have gradually become one of the best teams in the country. Part of this can be attributed to the fact that his best friend since middle school just so happens to be his teammate, and one of the best receivers in the nation. Sophomore receiver Tetairoa McMillan leads Arizona in receiving this season with 753 yards and seven touchdowns. He and Fifita both played at Servite High School in Anaheim, California before coming to Arizona, dating their relationship as teammates back seven years.
Since taking over the starting position, Fifita’s go-to man has been his old friend. McMillan has led the Wildcats in receiving yards in three of Fifita’s five starts this season.
“Like it has been the last seven years, I just throw it to him and he makes me look good,” said Fifita about McMillan. The long-fostered chemistry of the two will be a tall task for the Buffalo defense on Saturday.
One-time Buffalo Taylor Upshaw– Coach Sanders relied heavily on the transfer portal this offseason. In fact, nearly 90% of the week one roster was new to the team. To make space for the newcomers, coach Sanders told the program back in December 2022, “Go ahead and jump in the [transfer] portal… because the more of you jump in, the room you make.”
Forty three players left after not securing a starting role following the spring game in April, Arizona’s Taylor Upshaw being one of them. Arriving in Boulder in January from Michigan and leaving by May, Upshaw never played a game for the Buffs. Despite this, he has proven to be a highly useful player for the Wildcats as he leads them with 7.5 sacks on the season. Upshaw’s breakout year represents a missed opportunity from a wild offseason full of roster turnover and it will be unfortunate to see him in an Arizona uniform on Saturday.
Vegas has Arizona favored by 10.5 this weekend, but expect a close game. The Buffaloes have a habit of rallying in the fourth quarter.
The Buffs will play at 12 p.m. MST on Saturday at Folsom Field. The game will be broadcast live on the Pac-12 Network.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Charlie Hewitt at firstname.lastname@example.org