BOULDER - The Colorado Buffaloes nabbed their first conference victory of the season last week and will look to capitalize on that momentum, hoping to depart their matchup with Washington State with a win and move to 4-3 on the year. The Buffs are walking a razor-thin line as they attempt to get back on track in the Pac-12, with only three losses left before they are eliminated from bowl contention and a bevy of dangerous opponents left on the schedule. CU has to take a must-win mentality into every game for the rest of the season.
Headed out for their second consecutive road battle, the Buffs take on the 15th-ranked Cougars in Pullman this weekend. Washington State boasts a dynamic offensive attack and a defense that has improved greatly since their last meeting with CU. If the Buffs have any hope of pulling off the upset, they will have to excel in all phases of the game.
If they can't stop the run, the Buffs have to contain it
Washington State has a good running back and the Buffs are bad against the run - that's a bad combination. If CU has any chance of beating the Cougars, they have to stop the run early before the game gets away from them. Luckily, with Drew Lewis and Leo Jackson both itching to get to the quarterback and Derek McCartney finally looking like his old self after returning from an ACL injury, the Buffs' defensive line looks better than it has all season.
The best case scenario for the Buffs is the Cougars try to pass instead of run since the Buffs boast a ton of talent in their secondary. But WSU has suspended their star wideout for the weekend, making it more likely than ever that they'll lean on lead rusher Luke Falk for the matchup. CU will be forced to contain the run if they want to control the Cougars offense and give Steven Montez and Co. a shot at keeping up this weekend.
The Buffs secondary has to come up big
CU's secondary houses a future first-round pick in Isaiah Oliver, a breakout talent in Evan Worthington and veteran leadership and big-play potential in Afolabi Laguda and Ryan Moeller. Despite a solid season thus far, the group is long overdue for a huge game collectively, and this weekend is the perfect opportunity to make it happen.
While Worthington nabbed an interception last week, Laguda hasn't forced a turnover since Arizona and Oliver hasn't managed one since Northern Colorado. One of the most talented position groups on the Buffs roster, 'Moneygang' needs to dominate the Cougars receiving options this weekend and force a few turnovers on their way to a win for the Buffs.
As always, CU needs to PHEED PHIL
The Buffs are at their best when Phil Lindsay is rumbling for 100-plus yards and tumbling into the end zone time and time again. In addition to racking up points, a big night from Lindsay gets the rest of the offense going around him. As CU's passing offense continues to stall and the Buffs are tasked with going punch-for-punch with the Cougars, a big game from Lindsay will be more important than ever.
As CU struggles to find reliability from their receivers, the run has become their most stable form of attack. Lindsay's multi-dimensional skill set paired with Montez's ability to run opens up the playbook for the Buffs. CU will lean on Lindsay in a tough road matchup with a ranked division rival, and Lindsay should thrive under the pressure.
The Buffs face three ranked opponents in their five final fights of the year, and they have to win at least two of those games to hold on to their bowl eligibility. An upset over Washington State would give CU some breathing room through the rest of their schedule and be a huge momentum boost as they head into the remainder of their conference matchups.