The college football coaching carousel has gotten off to a compelling start and while Deion “Coach Prime” Sanders’ name has been floated around, Colorado’s head football coach is locked in on Washington State. While the Cougars are hardly a familiar opponent to Colorado’s current coaching staff and roster, Washington State and Colorado are parallels.

“They’re so similar to us statistically, physically,” said Coach Prime. “They’re really similar, they really are when you look at this team and what they’re capable of doing.”

Both WSU and CU earned AP Top-25 rankings after blazing-hot starts to the season but have since fallen into a losing rut. Shedeur Sanders and Washington State quarterback Cam Ward are great friends off the field and have proven themselves to be two of the best quarterbacks in the nation despite also being two of the most sacked QBs in 2023. Shedeur has only passed for 17 more yards than Ward on the season as the duo have had to try and carry their teams to wins without the threat of an efficient running game.

Colorado’s running game is now the worst in the nation according to rushing yards per game (69.9) and freshman Dylan Edwards has been a non-factor since his breakout performance in Week 1 vs. TCU. Against the Horned Frogs, Edwards had 135 receiving yards and shredded TCU’s defense with his speed and receiving skills out of the backfield. Since then, Edwards has only eclipsed 20 receiving yards in a game three times.

Sep 2, 2023; Fort Worth, Texas, USA; Colorado Buffaloes running back Dylan Edwards (3) scores the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter against the TCU Horned Frogs at Amon G. Carter Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

“I don’t think it’s ups and downs regarding Dylan we got to figure out ways to get him the ball in space,” said Coach Prime. “Dylan is not a between-the-tackles type of guy. That’s on us to figure out ways to get him the ball in space and allow him to do what he’s capable of doing. I think in that first game you see him explode because all those plays, dern near were from the tackle out. That’s what we’ve got to do a better job of, get him the ball in space so he can be who he is. Phenomenal player.”

Although Colorado is still battling through some offensive inconsistencies, the Buffs’ defense has stepped up since the bye week. CU’s defense has held three of their last five opponents to 30 points or fewer. While the Buffs’ have been prone to giving up yardage throughout the season, on Wednesday defensive ends coach Nick Williams spoke about the progress he’s seen from the defense when watching back the tape.

“If you go back and look at the explosive plays that we give up, you’ll see that someone did not do their job and if they had done their job then it would have been a gain of nothing or a minimum gain,” said Coach Williams. “So I just think it’s been more buy in and the coaches have done a better job at putting the burden of responsibility on the players.”

Safety Cam’Ron Silmon-Craig shared his thoughts as to why Colorado’s defense has improved since the bye week.

“Honestly, everything,” said Silmon-Craig. “As a unit, we slipped a little towards midway through the season, but for the most part, everybody is just really dialed in. People take it for granted but it took us a minute to really gel and really learn each other and learn who was who so we kind of learned and got more close-knit with each other and it really just helped the whole defense as a whole.”

CU and WSU possess lethal passing attacks and average over 30 points per game. The over/under for Friday’s game is set at 62.5 at DraftKings Sportsbook and the forecast for Friday night suggests that the ball will be flying around for both teams. It’s no secret that these are two of the best offenses in the country despite their deficiencies, so whose defense is going to be able to step up and make a play that could decide the game?

Colorado continues to work on limiting big plays but still is one of the best teams in the country at forcing turnovers and limiting turnovers of their own. The Buffs boast a +11 turnover ratio and have only given the ball away more than once in a game this season (Colorado St.). Shedeur Sanders carries a 26/3 touchdown-to-interception ratio and has only lost one fumble going into Friday night’s game. CU defensive tackle Amari McNeil was asked about what he’s seen from Cam Ward on tape and how he compares to Shedeur Sanders.

“I think Shedeur’s more of a better quarterback but Cam, he does put the ball on the ground a lot,” said McNeil. “So the plan this week is to just get back there and just cause havoc. He’s quick and they do score, they can score so he’s a good quarterback. But has a lot of turnovers so.”

Ward has certainly flashed as a passer with NFL upside again in 2023 after a strong first year at the FBS level last season. Through ten games this year, Ward has thrown for 20 touchdowns and five interceptions while completing 67% of his passes but has fumbled the ball 11 times with seven of those resulting in turnovers.

Both teams are desperate for a win after their recent losing streaks and bowl eligibility is on the line for both teams. On Thursday, Brett McMurphy of the Action Network reported that if the favored teams win all their games the last two weeks of the regular season there will be at least three 5-7 teams going bowling this year.

While Coach Prime’s first season as Colorado’s head football coach is widely considered a success, a win over Washington State could bring the Buffs back to their first bowl game since 2020. Given how the season has gone for both Washington State and Colorado, the stage is set for an all-out brawl with bowl eligibility on the line.


Jake Schwanitz was born in Harlingen, Texas and was raised in Albuquerque, NM. Jake attended the University of New Mexico earning a bachelor's degree in journalism in 2016. He gained experience in analytics and scouting while working as a Football Video Scout at Sports Info Solutions in 2017 and 2018. Jake became an intern at DNVR in 2020 and became the full-time CU Buffs beat reporter for DNVR starting with the 2022 football season.