Colorado Golden Buffaloes (1-5; 0-2) @ Washington Huskies (4-1; 2-0)
Saturday, 12:30 p.m., Husky Stadium, Seattle, Wash.
TV: ROOT; Radio: 950 KJR; Internet: SEE BELOW
Line: Washington -15.5
After a much-needed bye week, the Huskies are rested, healthy and ready to bring a little ruckus. Recent Maxwell Award Watch List addition Keith Price says his knees are in preseason form (though his ankle is a little sore), freshman tackle Danny Shelton’s foot is improved, Kasen Williams will likely play after suffering a high-ankle sprain two weeks ago and even Jesse Callier, out for the last four weeks with a hamstring injury, seems back to full health. Chris Polk has averaged 5.92 yards per carry in five career games following bye weeks—if I’m an opposing defense, I hate to see a bruise-free Polk. The Huskies are coming off a defining win at Utah and are looking for a fifth win to push them into the top 25.
Colorado, on the other hand, is doing some grade-A scuffling. Losers of 21 straight games outside their home state, they come to Seattle following a 48-7 dismemberment down at the Farm in Palo Alto. Sophomore wideout Paul Richardson, the Buffs’ best offensive threat, suffered a knee injury in practice last week and stands to miss a few more games with little behind him on the depth chart. The cornerback situation is also a mess. Even though two of the Buffs’ five losses could easily have gone Colorado’s way, it’s still looking all bad for first-year head coach Jon Embree. A big road win on his 46th birthday would be a nice gift from his squad.
Scouting the Buffaloes:
- Quality protection from a solid offensive line allows quarterback Tyler Hansen to focus on passing. Hansen is a gutsy, athletic four-year starter who knows how to take care of the ball and make good decisions. He threw for a school-record 474 yards against California; 284 of those went to Richardson, also a school record and third most in conference history.
- Stewart is the most prolific pass-catching back in school history—he needs only 185 receiving yards to become the first Buffalo with 1,000 yards rushing and receiving. At 5-feet-6, he’s not just a slip screen with legs: he has converted 82 percent of his career carries on third-and-1 or fourth-and-1. He’ll be the guy workin’ the Louis Rankin no-gloves look on kick returns.
- Who steps up at receiver with Richardson out? Fifth-year senior Toney Clemons and mighty mite Keenan Canty are the home run threats. Freshman Tyler McCulloch is a huge target at 6-feet-5 and has apparently picked up the offense well—we’ve seen how the Huskies’ corners struggle against giant wideouts. Senior Georgia transfer Logan Gray actually attended the 2006 ESPN RISE Elite 11 camp (alongside scrubs like John Brantley, Tyrod Taylor and Ryan Mallett) before converting to receiver. He’s real fast and real smart. Colorado will likely put a bunch of different combinations on the field and stick with what works.
- The Buffs like to run a lot of one-back, double-tight sets, heavily utilizing 6-feet-5 senior Mackey Award candidate Ryan Deehan. Tight ends coach J.D. Brookhart said of Deehan, “I think he understands the receiving part. He knows what he’s doing in the run game. I just want to see him get nasty.” Senior Matthew Bahr is a sort of Swiss Army blocker, lining up at tight end, fullback and H-back.
- Colorado gives several different looks on defense. The transition from 3-4 to 4-3 isn’t quite finished yet, so the 4-3 is supplemented with a lot of 3-4 and 3-3-5.
- Of course, it’s tough to run a 3-3-5 with no cornerbacks. The Buffaloes opened 2010 with nine cornerbacks on their roster and only one of those remains. Jimmy Smith and Jalil Brown are in the NFL, Jered Bell tore an ACL in the spring, Arthur Pendragon Jaffee sprained a knee and Parker Orms, Paul Vigo, Josh Moten and Ayodeji Olatoye were suspended indefinitely for violations of team rules. Senior Jonathan Hawkins is the only viable holdover from 2010. Travis Sandersfeld moved from safety to cornerback last season—he was slated to start this year but broke his leg on Sept 13. Safety Vince Ewing was another contender to start at cornerback but has experienced swelling in his surgically repaired knee and has not played this year. Senior tailback Brian Lockridge also converted to cornerback this year—the first defensive practice of his life was Sept 27, yet he notched five tackles and a sack four days later against Washington State. Of course, he also sprained his ankle that day and will miss Saturday’s game. True freshman Greg Henderson, sophomore ex-safety Terrel Smith, Hawkins and recently converted wide receiver Jason Espinoza are the only corners left standing. Needless to say, they’ll be tested on Saturday.
- Given the cornerback mess, Buffs coaches have to be happy about the continuity at safety. Senior strong safety Anthony Perkins is a sure tackler and gutty leader and junior Raymond Ray “Ray Ray” Polk Jr. (honestly, I’m not making this stuff up) is an outstanding athlete and three-year starter. Rivals rated Polk the nation’s No. 11 running back recruit in 2008 but he moved to safety after redshirting as a freshman—he knows what he’s doing when the ball is in his hands.
- The linebacking corps is a big, experienced bunch with four seniors and two juniors listed in the two deeps. Junior captain Jon Major leads the group, rock steady at Sam. Senior pass rush extraordinaire Josh Hartigan starts at Jack linebacker/strongside 4-3 end and was a Phil Steele preseason pick for third-team all-conference.
- Junior Will Pericak (pronounced pre-check) plays a sort of Everrette Thompson role as a very solid 4-3 three-technique and strongside 3-4 five-technique. He also resembles Thompson in his propensity for kick blocks. Senior nose tackle Conrad Obi is strong and deceptively quick.
- A last word about Brian Lockridge because he deserves it: the former starting tailback who converted to cornerback to help the team cope with injuries and suallspensions is one of the greatest individuals in college football. He is one of 11 selections to the Allstate AFCA FBS Good Works Team, selected based on commitment to community service. He has been described as polite, enterprising, musical, artistic and perseverant; he also has the seventh-most kick return yards in school history. Here’s some video.
Three Choppy Sentences of Analysis and Some Numbers:
Colorado is hurting. WELL, they also just aren’t very good. THUS, a healthy Husky squad romps.
UW 52, CU 17
NOTE: As always, I’ll be tweeting links to online feeds for those without cable or finding themselves outside the ROOT Sports radius. I’ll try to find both a TV stream and a Bob Rondeau feed for you guys since the ROOT crews have been absolutely abysmal in the last few weeks. Find me at @EntendreDaGiant.