BOULDER - The Colorado Buffaloes fell flat in their first Pac-12 bout of the season, dropping a 37-10 decision to the Washington Huskies. This week, CU will look to bounce back on the road against UCLA, an opponent that has averaged 45 points per game through its first four matchups.
The offensive line has to improve
Bottom Line. This group needs to protect Steven Montez, who was sacked five times last week, and create lanes for lead rusher Phil Lindsay, a potential Heisman candidate who has yet to break loose on an opponent.
It's no secret this highly-touted Buffs offense has struggled this season, with a quarterback that threw three interceptions against Washington and a trio of starting receivers who have yet to live up to expectations. This week, that group will be faced with a difficult task - keeping pace with the Bruins explosive offense. The CU offensive line needs to give Montez more time in the pocket and more time to let big plays develop if the Buffs have any hope of outscoring UCLA.
The Bruins run defense has been porous this season, and Buffs running back Lindsay should feast on that weakness. Good blocking from his offensive line would make his job a lot easier, potentially allowing him to finally break free on an opponent.
The secondary needs to answer the bell
Sure to be tested by a quarterback that tosses the football 50-60 times a game, the vaunted Buffs 'Moneygang' has to step up in a big way. Isaiah Oliver, Afolabi Laguda, Ryan Moeller, Evan Worthington and Trey Udoffia have each had great games so far this year, but will need to put it all together to stop UCLA's high-powered offense.
This game might come down to how many times CU's secondary can take the ball away from Bruins quarterback Josh Rosen. If they can win the turnover battle and prevent Rosen from tossing seven touchdowns, they will give Montez and the 'Black Out Boyz' a real shot at keeping up offensively.
The defensive line has to pressure Rosen
This will be a big factor this weekend, after the CU's defensive line was bullied by Washington's offensive line for the duration of the game. Leo Jackson and Drew Lewis have both been impressive this season, dominating opponents and flashing athletic ability at every turn.
But the Buffs will need the rest of the line to step up as well, because letting Rosen breathe is not an option.
Not necessarily a key to victory, but it's worth noting that a big play from special teams could turn the tide for the Buffs. Laviska Shenault returned a kick for a score in week two, and K.D. Nixon looked explosive last week. Either one of them could be on the brink of a breakout special teams performance, something that could give CU an edge in a game where they may be outgunned on offense.
This game comes down to two things - containing Rosen and the UCLA offensive weapons, and matching the Bruins uptempo offense. An exceptional defensive performance gives the Buffs the best chance at coming away with a win at the Rose Bowl.