BOULDER - The Colorado Buffaloes have found themselves in an all too familiar position - at the bottom of their division looking up. Just a season removed from a Pac-12 Championship appearance, the Buffs are now fighting to stay afloat long enough to punch another ticket to a bowl game. This is it - CU has to win and they have to win now.
A matchup with the Oregon State Beavers gives the Buffs one last opportunity to right the ship. They are allowed three more losses before they are eliminated from bowl game eligibility, and they still have several Pac-12 powerhouses on their schedule. This game is a must-win for CU, and they will have to succeed in areas where they have struggled to come away with a victory on Saturday.
The Buffs have to stop the run at every position
Last week, Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate steamrolled CU for 327 yards and three touchdowns. In total, the Wildcats managed over 400 yards on the ground, something that cannot happen at Oregon State this weekend.
OSU's greatest offensive strengths are their running back Ryan Nall and their multi-threat options at quarterback in Darell Garretson and potentially Seth Collins, a wide receiver who could take some snaps at quarterback as the Beavers look to take advantage of CU's issues with the run. OSU's passing game won't be able to beat the Buffs secondary, with Isaiah Oliver, Afolabi Laguda and Evan Worthington all having impressive seasons, so the Beavers will almost certainly lean on their lead rusher to get the job done on the ground. If they want to come away with a win, CU has to find a way to stop the run.
CU's passing offense has to get going and they need to do it right now
Last season, everyone doubted whether or not the 'Rise' would last in Boulder. But the majority of concerns lay with a defense that saw a mass exodus to the NFL in April, not with an offense that returned the majority of its starters. While Phil Lindsay continues to take the weight of the team on his back, the Buffs passing attack has fallen to pieces. Not only has a disappointing wide receiving corps been a factor in every loss, but it has rippled through the offense as a whole.
Bottom line - the Buffs have the tools to win offensively. Whether that lies within the starters or further down the depth chart is the question. Shay Fields, Bryce Bobo, and Devin Ross are all capable of big plays and moving the chains, but so are Juwann Winfree, Kabion Ento, K.D. Nixon, Laviska Shenault and everyone else on that sideline. If CU can't win with their seniors in, then they need to mix things up and split snaps with the younger players. Either way, Lindsay cannot be the whole offense if CU wants to win this weekend. The receivers need to step up in a big way, and figure out the chemistry issues that are happening with Steven Montez.
The Buffs have to win, and they have to win convincingly
This might be the most obvious key to victory that I've ever written, but it is also one of the most important. Consider it a key to victory for the season rather than this weekend, because this is a must-win matchup for CU. If the Buffs don't win on Saturday, they will essentially eliminate their shot at a bowl game with USC, Utah and Washington State still left on their schedule.
The Beavers are spiraling - they've parted ways with their head coach and are 1-5 overall this season. If CU can't get a win on the road against a team that is falling apart, they have sealed their own fate this season. Equally important is the impact another loss would likely have on the Buffs morale - this team cannot take another 'L' at the hands of a conference opponent. This is the Buffs' one last shot to gain some confidence and try to build momentum against an inferior opponent as they fight to hold on to their bowl game eligibility.
This matchup is so much more than just a conference road game. CU is fighting to remain in contention for a bowl game and to get their offense firing on all cylinders before they face off with a handful of Pac-12 juggernauts. The Buffs have a full half of a season left and one last opportunity to right the ship. CU is still capable of having a successful season, they just need to put it all together. Now.