When the UCLA football team takes on the Colorado Buffaloes at the Rose Bowl this year, it should be a game that is not as drama filled as their 2014 encounter when the Bruins needed a double overtime victory to beat the last-place Buffs. Though Colorado is slowly improving, this will be another tough season in the Pac-12 and a Halloween date with the Bruins on October 31 looks to be particularly frightening.
The Colorado Buffaloes
Oct 12, 2013; Tempe, AZ, USA; Colorado Buffaloes head coach Mike MacIntyre on the sidelines during the first quarter against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Sun Devil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports
Head Coach: Mike MacIntyre, 3rd year
2014 Record: 2-10 overall, 0-9 Pac-12
The Colorado Buffaloes have been in the cellar of the Pac-12 South since they joined the conference nearly 5 years ago. After two seasons, former Colorado coach Jon Embree was replaced with current coach Mike MacIntyre only after two seasons. After two seasons, MacIntyre has done only a bit better than his predecessor, so it is hard to think this will not be his last year if Colorado does not improve.
This season Colorado has a lot of experience returning which could boost their standing in the Pac-12. Though the Buffaloes were man-handled in certain games last season, they actually showed a lot of improvement in quite a few games. There were five in which they lost by only five points or less and two of those games were against UCLA and Utah.
But if the Buffaloes cannot get things together, especially on defense, it is going to be another long season… one that could end with MacIntyre on a very hot seat.
The Colorado Offense
Sep 20, 2014; Boulder, CO, USA; Colorado Buffaloes quarterback Sefo Liufau (13) prepares to pass in the third quarter against the Hawaii Warriors at Folsom Field. The Buffaloes defeated the Warriors 21-12. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Sefo Liufau has a great sense of his team. Though the record does not show it, he has made this Buffalo team a lot better. This will be his third straight year as the Colorado starting QB as he is looking to take them out of the South cellar. That starts with the having a good supporting cast to help in those efforts.
Aside from Liufau who had the 6th best passing yards per game (266.7) and 7th best total offensive yards (277.2) in the Pac-12, he will have the aid of seasoned running backs and wide receivers.
Colorado uses a scheme for the running game that involved a lot of RBs cycling in and out. The player that will be most utilized is senior Christian Powell. The Buff’s biggest weapon comes from wide receiver Nelson Spruce who just might be the best WR in the Pac-12. Aside from being the main target for Liufau, Spruce was in the top three of each of the following Pac-12 categories: total receptions, total yards, receptions per game, average yards per game and touchdowns.
Last season, the Colorado offense confused the UCLA football team. The Bruin defense would flat out stop the Buffaloes on one drive and then have a lot of mental errors on the next. UCLA allowed three scores in the third quarter as the once down 31-14 Buffaloes came back to tie the game at 31 by the start of the 4th. But this game was not just slipping away for UCLA because the defense had a few slip ups. The Colorado defense had something to do with that as well.
The Colorado Defense
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Though it is a work in progress, the Buffalo defense is learning to adjust. Somehow they kept UCLA on their toes last season in Boulder as they forced double overtime.
Somehow the Bruins were held back by a team that did no better than 11th in the conference in scoring defense (11th, 39.0 ppg), rushing defense (12th, 204.8 ypg) and total defense (461.0 ypg). Their only really threat was their pass defense (5th, 256.2 ypg).
If Colorado can score more points than they give up, they might have a fighting chance to be relevant in the Pac-12. Unfortunately, that is not how it works in this conference. Aside from fast, uptempo teams, there are several programs which have built up mammoth defenses and Colorado is not one of those.
Colorado has several juniors and seniors returning to help bridge the gap to their younger players, which there are a lot of. The Buffaloes will have experience from DL Josh Tupou, LB Addison Gilliam, LB Kenneth Olugbodie and CB Chidobe Awuzie, so hopefully they can hold down the offense while a few underclassmen get up to speed. Depth will really be an issue this season.
The Colorado vs. UCLA Outlook
Oct 25, 2014; Boulder, CO, USA; UCLA Bruins running back Paul Perkins (24) celebrates after scoring on a 24-yard touchdown run in the second quarter against the Colorado Buffaloes at Folsom Field. Mandatory Credit: Byron Hetzler-USA TODAY Sports
Colorado is feisty, hungry and sick of losing. Two years ago at the Rose Bowl, the Buffaloes were annihilated by UCLA, but instead of just giving in and heading back to Boulder, the Buffs put up some fight, literally. There were several small scraps that CU and UCLA got into towards the end of the game. It was indeed lively.
Last season, Colorado looked like they were turning the tide in their program in the game against UCLA. Though they could not get over this particular Bruin wave, it did show that MacIntyre and the Buffs have a lot of fire, so expect them to bring that on Halloween at the Rose Bowl.
Unfortunately, the Bruins have a lot of fire extinguishing talent of their own and will once again stomp the cellar dwelling Buffaloes.
The Way-Too-Early Prediction
Colorado 10 – UCLA 38