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Deion “Coach Prime” Sanders and the Colorado Buffaloes are on a short week but are getting healthier ahead of Friday night’s matchup with Stanford. Once a Pac-12 powerhouse, the Cardinal are looking to avoid their worst start since 2006 when they started that season 0-9. After spending last year in the cellar of the Pac-12, Coach Prime has the Buffs on the rise and two players should give Colorado a much-needed boost to be dominant against Stanford.
After taking a brutal late hit against Colorado State, Travis Hunter has returned to the practice field without a gold non-contact jersey and has been fully participating in practice. Coach Prime spoke about Colorado’s best player at his weekly press conference on Tuesday.
“There’s a tremendous chance he could play,” said Coach Prime. “It goes by how he performs in practice, how his wind is. He has to be in shape. I don’t want him to be a liability. I want him to always be a tremendous asset. Travis came to me [Monday] morning saying, ‘What more can I do to help us get to the point that we need to get to?’ So I love the team aspect of Travis. But I hope he can play.”
We won’t know for sure until before the game on Friday if Hunter will be able to suit up against Stanford, but the Buffs are preparing as if he will be able to be himself against the Cardinal.
“He’s cleared,” said Coach Prime. “He wouldn’t be practicing if he wasn’t cleared. He’s cleared. And he has protection to secure those areas. But the game is the game. The game is a violent game. It’s a very physical game. But Travis is also physical.”
While Stanford is at a talent disadvantage, they are a physical football team that will rely on their running game against CU. The Cardinal have gone over the 150-yard rushing mark in three of their five games so far this season. Colorado’s linebackers will play a crucial role this weekend in keeping Stanford’s rushing attack in check. Last weekend against Arizona State, Brendan Gant and LaVonta Bentley started and played most of the game for Colorado at linebacker.
CU’s third-leading tackler, Juju Mitchell, was dressed for last weekend’s game against the Sun Devils but did not see game action. After practice on Wednesday, linebackers coach Andre Hart revealed why Mitchell was held out against ASU.
“It’s not performance saying that [Mitchell] did anything wrong it says that [Gant] was doing things right and there’s no need to make a change,” said Hart. “I don’t really believe in changing people if things are going smooth.”
Despite being held out last week, Coach Hart said we should expect to see Mitchell back out on Folsom Field on Friday.
“Absolutely I expect Juju to get some more action,” said Coach Hart. “It’s competition so it’s based on practice, based on our grading, who’s going to be out there and who is going to play for us come Friday.”
Coach Hart also revealed that one of CU’s prized transfers and overall fastest players on the team has been starting at linebacker this week ahead of the matchup with the Cardinal.
“[Demouy Kennedy] should be getting in this week as long as he keeps continuing the progress like he has been,” said Coach Hart. “He had his leg injury he was coming back from and we were trying to be careful with that.”
Kennedy has played throughout the season on special teams and has seen some late-game action at linebacker but now it’s time for him to be fully unleashed.
“We think it’s time to give him a shot to play in the actual game,” said Coach Hart. “His eyes have been good, he’s been running around, I can’t wait to see that man.”
Coach Prime also gave an update on running back Alton McCaskill who only has seven total touches through six games for the Buffs.
“You are going to see [McCaskill] this week,” said Coach Prime. “You’re definitely going to see him this week.”
Colorado has a loaded backfield and on Tuesday, Coach Prime called his running backs the best collective group on the team. Dylan Edwards has not scored since his four-touchdown performance against TCU in Week 1 but Coach Prime also mentioned that they need to give him more touches moving forward.
Anthony Hankerson has emerged as CU’s lead back over the last two weeks and has amassed 26 carries for 132 yards in that time. Colorado has struggled to establish a legitimate rushing attack this season but will have an opportunity to put up some stats on a Stanford defense that is allowing 139.4 rushing yards per game.
Shedeur Sanders and the Buffs will be going up against one of the worst defenses in college football and should be able to take advantage of the many weaknesses the Cardinal have shown. Stanford has the worst third-down defense in the country and is allowing a conversion rate of 55.6% on third down. They are the only Pac-12 defense to allow opponents to convert over 50% on third down. Stanford is ranked last among Power 5 teams in points allowed (34.6 ppg) and is the fourth-worst FBS team in the country in passing yards allowed (305.8).
Meanwhile, Shedeur Sanders has led a CU offense that has become one of the most lethal aerial attacks in the country. Colorado is currently averaging 33 points per game and has scored 35+ points in four of their six games this season. CU leads the Pac-12 in passing attempts (258) and completions (187) and has the most third-down conversions in the Pac-12 (41).
The all-time series between Colorado and Stanford is tied 6-6 and Friday’s winner should hold the series advantage for the near future as both teams move on to different conferences next season. Stanford’s last win over Colorado was back in 2015 when Christian McCaffrey and Kevin Hogan were leading the way for the Cardinal.
The Buffs are favored by 11 points heading into Friday’s game marking this matchup as the first time CU has been favored over Stanford since joining the Pac-12. Coach Prime and the Buffs have been defying the odds and proving doubters wrong since Week 1 and with a win on Friday, Colorado will be in prime position for a bowl game this winter.