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Keys to Victory: Colorado at Arizona

Sam Weaver Avatar
November 10, 2016

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BOULDER – The 7-2, No. 12 ranked Colorado Buffaloes will visit the 2-7 Arizona Wildcats on Saturday in a Pac-12 South showdown. While the Buffs lead their division, the Wildcats are dead last and winless in the conference. Arizona heads into the weekend hoping to prevent their sixth consecutive loss of the season. The Buffs, who have secured a winning season and bowl game eligibility for the first time under head coach Mike MacIntyre, are looking to build on the momentum of their three game win streak. Their dominant defense and electric offense have the Buffs eyeing a potential Pac-12 Championship bid and more down the stretch. As the two teams meet in Tuscon this weekend, there are a handful of matchups that will be most important to keep an eye on.

Colorado’s Defense vs the Wildcats’ Wildcats

The Buffs’ secondary is a topic of discussion every week, and the group that leads the No. 12 ranked defense in the country is at the forefront once again. Defensive back Chidobe Awuzie, safety Tedric Thompson and the rest of the secondary will turn their attention to Arizona’s wide receiving corps, led by Nate Phillips and Trey Griffey. The Buffs’ will also look to contain whichever quarterback combination they are faced with, as Brandon Dawkins, Anu Solomon and Khalil Tate each had a hand in their last game against Washington State.

Arizona will also have to deal with an elite Coloado pass rush this weekend. The defensive front will include the return of defender Jimmie Gilbert, who missed the majority of last week’s matchup after being ejected for targeting. The front seven includes several key Buffs’ playmakers, including linebacker Kenneth Olugbode, who nabbed an interception against UCLA. The Buffs’ defense is one of the best in the country, and they certainly have the upper hand against a struggling Wildcats’ offense.

Colorado’s Run Game vs Arizona’s Run Defense

Phillip Lindsay should have a big performance against Arizona’s No. 96 ranked run defense this weekend. The Buffs’ running back has 818 yards and ten touchdowns so far this season, and has been a key piece of the offense. Lindsay has a dream matchup this week, as he faces off with one of the worst defenses in the country. He should give the Wildcats’ a fair amount of trouble on the ground, allowing quarterback Sefo Liufau some freedom in the passing game. However, it was thought that Lindsay would have a big week last week and the play calling did not feature the talented back.

Colorado Special Teams

Last week, special teams showed up in a big way for the Buffs when Isaiah Oliver returned a punt for a touchdown. Awuzie also blocked a field goal attempt in the matchup. After struggling in this area for much of the season, Colorado is hoping to get all three aspects of the game going this weekend, and a successful performance from special teams would help to seal the deal for the Buffs.

Sefo Liufau vs Arizona’s Defense

Liufau struggled last week against UCLA, committing three turnovers. Backup quarterback Steven Montez, stepping in briefly to relieve an injured Liufau, and he tossed an interception of his own as well. Liufau was 19-of-30 with 143 yards and no touchdowns against the Bruins. This week, he faces off with an Arizona defense that has struggled all season to contain offenses.

This week, Liufau will need to take his play to the next level. In his last four matchups, he has been held to one touchdown while throwing two interceptions. Getting big plays out of wideouts Shay Fields, Bryce Bobo and Devin Ross will be just as important this week as it always is, even with so many issues on the Wildcats’ defensive side of the ball. Despite their recent low score performances, the Buffs’ offense will have the advantage on the offensive side of the ball. Arizona’s defense has been gouged repeatedly this season, and Colorado should be able to exploit their weaknesses.

Colorado’s biggest opponent in this game may well be themselves. After forfeiting 128 yards on 12 penalties last week against UCLA, the Buffs have a bevy of mistakes to clean up. Better ball protection will also be a focus for Colorado on Saturday, as they look to bounce back from four turnovers in their last bout. In the end, the Buffs’ dominant defense should hold their ground in Tuscon this weekend, and the offense more than capable of racking up points against the Wildcats.

Prediction: Liufau will toss a touchdown, Lindsay will find the end zone at least once and the dangerous Colorado defense will take care of the rest, as the Buffs beat the Wildcats on the road, Colorado 21, Arizona 7.

Kickoff is at 8pm mountain time and the game is on FS1, make sure you check out the Blake Street Tavern for the official CU Buffs Watch Party


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