The leaves are turning, the World Series is on TV and it’s getting colder. It must be November.
For the Colorado Buffaloes, November brings on four opportunities for the Buffs to prove themselves against the PAC-12’s best. The Buffs’ focus is on Oregon this weekend but will face USC, Washington and Utah in that order this month.
In last week’s homecoming game against Arizona State, Colorado showed a willingness to fight when they were down by 22 points late in the fourth quarter. They’re going to need all of that fight and then some with the number eight team in the country coming to Folsom Field this Saturday in the Oregon Ducks.
The Buffs are 31.5-point underdogs heading into Saturday’s game, even with the odds stacked against them, Colorado’s interim head coach Mike Sanford doesn’t expect his team to back down from the challenge.
“It’s all about ignoring the noise outside and playing harder than our opponent and playing to our maximum potential,” Sanford said. “That’s what ultimately yielded the results defensively against Cal.”
The reality of the situation however is that Oregon is much better than Cal. Oregon is currently ranked third in the nation in total yards per game (525.8) and fifth in the nation in points per game (42.4).
Colorado’s offensive line coach, Kyle DeVan, views this weekend’s game as an opportunity to see how the Buffs matchup against one of the stronger teams in the country when it comes to talent in the trenches.
“This will be one of our, if not the biggest challenge for us up front,” DeVan said. “We’re not backing down, we’re not going to show up scared. We’re going to go out there and do our job. Each play is going to be a battle and if we win enough battles we can win a war.”
Gerad Christian-Lichtenhan has emerged as the Buffs left tackle after getting his first start a month ago against Arizona.
The 6-foot-10, 315-pound sophomore is expecting some fierce competition from Oregon’s EDGE defenders this weekend but also spoke about how Colorado can expose them.
“They definitely have a strong edge presence, their rush ends are pretty solid guys,” Christian-Lichtenhan said. “We know that sometimes they can get out of position and we’re going to capitalize on that.”
On the other side of the ball, defensive lineman Jalen Sami was named the defensive player of the game for the Buffs against Arizona State. Sami along with the rest of Colorado’s front will have their hands full trying to defend Bo Nix and Oregon’s talented group of playmakers.
“I look towards these big teams that we’re going to face,” Sami said. “It’s just another opportunity to be an underdog and show them that we are not to be messed around with.”
With the Buffs facing their toughest opponent to date this weekend, coach Sanford had some encouraging news on the injury front.
Anthony Hankerson and Alex Fontenot dressed in full uniform last week but did not play against Arizona State. Both could return from injury this weekend against Oregon. Saturday could be Fontenot’s first game action since week 2 when he suffered a chest injury against Air Force.
With all the injuries in Colorado’s backfield, Deion Smith carried a heavy workload against Arizona State but it resulted in his first career 100-yard rushing game. Smith carried the football 24 times for 111 yards and one touchdown.
Quarterback J.T. Shrout had his most productive day passing the football against Arizona State but it was very boom-or-bust for the sophomore. Shrout only completed 38.2% of his passes but his 222 passing yards were a career-high.
Coach Sanford spoke about Shrout and what he needs to do to improve his efficiency.
“It’s more about simplifying his pre-snap thought process and allowing his natural abilities as an elite arm talent player to take over,” Sanford said.
In order for Colorado to stay in the game and push the Ducks this weekend, Smith and Shrout will need to set career highs again.
The Buffs are getting healthier and seem to have the right attitude entering Saturday’s game, we will see how well that translates on the scoreboard against Oregon.