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CU@Game CU At The Game: CU v. No. 9 Stanford – A Preview

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    Colorado v. No. 9 Stanford – A Preview – “T.I.P.S.” for Breakfast with the Buffs




    This just in … Christian McCaffrey was never coming to Boulder.

    The four-star running back from Valor Christian high school in Highlands Ranch may have been from Colorado, but he was never going to attend Colorado. The son of a Stanford graduate, McCaffrey committed to the Cardinal in May of his junior year in high school.

    There. Feel better? So when you hear commentators this weekend talk about the “local star that got away”, just let it go. If you can’t help yourself, here’s a sampling of what you’ll hear before, during, and after the game:

    – “Pine Creek coach knows well what CU faces when Stanford’s McCaffrey takes the field” … from the Colorado Springs Gazette

    – “Stanford football: McCaffrey goes back home” … from the San Jose Mercury News

    – “Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey giving Colorado lots to think about” … from the Denver Post

    There’s more, but you get the idea.

    Fortunately for the Buff Nation, this will be McCaffrey’s one and only trip to Boulder, as the sophomore will face CU next year in Palo Alto. If McCaffrey decides to return for his senior season, however, the Pac-12 rotation will pit him against Utah, with the Buffs moving on to a home-and-home with Cal.

    So, if McCaffrey is to make a big splash in front of his local fans, he’ll have to do it this weekend.

    Uh-oh.



    Here are this week’s “T.I.P.S.” for No. 9 Stanford’s visit to play Colorado (11:00 a.m., MT, Pac-12 Networks)





    T – Talent


    Lineage aside, Christian McCaffrey is a force to be reckoned with. McCaffrey is averaging 244.3 all-purpose yards per game while leading his team in rushing yards per game (132.5), receiving yards per game (38.9) and kickoff yardage per return (29.4).

    “He’s extremely fast”, said Mike MacIntyre. “He’s able to pull away from guys that have angles on him, able to gain some more yards. He doesn’t tiptoe. He doesn’t hesitate. He’s a tough runner. Then they move him out at receiver because he has excellent hands. He’s an all-purpose guy.”

    “With a back like him that’s shifty — just like we had last week with UCLA’s back (Paul Perkins) — they’re so shifty and they’re so quick, you can’t let them reverse field on you,” said CU defensive lineman Leo Jackson III. “When the first guy hits him, he’s got to wrap him up, and we’ve got to rally to the ball. We’ve got to swarm.”

    Last weekend, Washington State focused on stopping McCaffrey. The Cougars were largely successful, with McCaffrey held to a relatively pedestrian 107 yards on 22 carries.

    The problem for Washington State was that, with all of the attention focused on McCaffrey, quarterback Kevin Hogan ran roughshod over the Cougars in the second half, going for 112 yards and two touchdowns on only 14 carries.

    A dominating runner and an elusive quarterback … not a good combination for the Colorado defense, which is ranked 102nd (201.6 ypg.) in rushing defense.

    When the Buffs have the football, they will have a difficult time matching the offensive production from a week ago (red zone failures notwithstanding). Colorado went for 554 yards of total offense against UCLA, but Stanford is the Pac-12’s best defense. The Cardinal is giving up a league low 352.1 ypg., and is third in the conference in scoring defense (21.5 ppg.).

    No. 9 Stanford is likely the highest-ranked team Colorado will face this year (unless No. 13 Utah is able to move up after taking down Washington, Utah, and UCLA in succession before facing the Buffs), so the Buffs will have to play their best game of the year to keep up.





    I – Intangibles


    … And maybe … just maybe … they found their mojo Tuesday night.

    The team watched “The Gospel According to Mac” on ESPN’s 30 for 30 (if you haven’t had the time to watch it, find time to do so. It is an absolute must see for Buff fans):


    On Wednesday, Mike MacIntyre tweeted:

    Last night’s #30for30 moved our players; they chose to change the uniform plan and honor the legacy with our traditional uniforms

    and

    We appreciate the history of our football program and are inspired to play in the spirit of those who have gone before us! #foreverbuffs

    Coming out in the traditional black-and-gold may prove inspirational to the players, and it will certainly be well received by the fans.

    Whatever it takes, Buffs.

    Whatever it takes.





    P – Preparation/Schedule


    Stanford’s only loss of the season was in the season opener, a 16-6 loss on the road to Northwestern. The Cardinal was a ten-point favorite, but couldn’t get its offense going.

    Kickoff for that game was 11:00 a.m. local time … a 9:00 a.m. start for the Cardinal.

    Kickoff for Saturday’s game in Boulder will be at 11:00 a.m. local time … a 10:00 a.m. start for the Cardinal.

    Not much to go on, but an advantage is an advantage.

    The downside of having such an early start is that the CU student section, notorious for arriving late, should not be counted on to arrive early for a morning game. The forecast (53-degrees, sunny) is about all you can hope for this time of year, but the stands will be far from filled.

    The CU athletic department is at least trying to get the students in a little earlier. They are running a promotion this week where they are offering a $5 “Invite a Friend” promotion for the Stanford game. They will also be selecting 50 random students – from who are in the stands by 10:00 a.m. Saturday – to run on the field with Ralphie and the Buffs.

    Not sure I’d want 50 students on the field with Ralphie … but I do admire the effort to get students to the game more quickly.

    One other little benefit to the Buffs in the scheduling area … Stanford’s next game is against Oregon. The Cardinal will be looking to take down the Ducks, who are down this year, but have been playing better of late.

    It wouldn’t hurt if the Cardinal players were looking past Colorado, even if just a little bit.





    S – Statistics


    Last season, Colorado set all manner of offensive records (Sefo Liufau alone broke or tied 54 records; Nelson Spruce 34), but couldn’t keep up defensively (ranked in the 100’s in most important defensive categories, including total defense (111th) and scoring defense (116th).

    This season, the Buffs are back within the realm of respectability on several important defensive categories … but the offense isn’t holding up its end.

    Colorado is 6th in the conference in scoring defense, giving up 26.8 points per game, while the offense is 10th in the league, scoring 29.9 points per game.

    It will come as no surprise to Buff fans that Colorado is 112th in the nation in red zone offense. The Buffs have made 40 trips to the red zone, scoring touchdowns just over half the time (21), with nine field goals. That gives CU 30 scores in 40 trips, with the Buffs failing to net any points one out of every four trips to the red zone, or a .750 success rate (compare: no other team in the Pac-12 is below 80% success; Stanford is at 86.5%).

    Another disconcerting statistic heading into Saturday is how well Stanford does on third downs, both on offense and on defense. The Cardinal is 2nd in the conference (and 28th nationally) in converting third downs into first downs, and is also second in the league in stopping the opponent on third down. Colorado, meanwhile, is 8th in converting third downs, and 10th in stopping the opposition.

    Clearly, the Buffs are going to have to reverse these trends if they are to have a shot at an upset against Stanford.





    Prediction … Colorado and Stanford haven’t met on the field in over three years, last playing in Boulder on November 3, 2012. The result of that game was CU’s most recent shut out: Stanford 48, Colorado 0.

    The year before, in Palo Alto, the results were similar: Stanford 48, Colorado 7.

    Mercifully, no one believes that the game this year will be a repeat of the first two games between the two teams as members of the Pac-12. Stanford is a 16-point favorite over Colorado, which isn’t bad considering last weekend, the Buffs were 22.5-point underdogs to UCLA (falling 35-31), while the Cardinal was a 10.0-point favorite over Washington State, escaping with a 30-28 win when the Cougars missed a field goal on the final play of the game.

    A far from scientific sample, but the Buffs were better last week than was predicted, while the Cardinal did not fare as well as anticipated.

    Emotions are a large part of college football, and perhaps the Buffs will be charged up after watching “The Gospel According to Mac”.

    Matchups are also a large part of college football, and the strengths of Stanford – strong rushing game; strong defense – will be matched against some of CU’s most exposed weaknesses.

    I do believe that the Buffs will play hard. I don’t believe that there is any quit in this team.

    But I also don’t see a scenario – barring Stanford turnovers and/or injuries to key offensive players – which will allow for an upset.

    … No. 9 Stanford 34, Colorado 17 …

    —–

    Stuart
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