Colorado Buffaloes vs Oregon Ducks
BOULDER, CO – Cover your eyes Buff fans this one could get ugly quick. The CU Buffs (1-6) figure to be no match for a visiting Oregon Ducks (5-1) squad that garnered a top-10 ranking in last weeks initial BCS standings.
While the Buffs have already gone head-to-head with a number of the country’s elite teams this season, Oregon is arguably the most talented of CU’s 2011 opponents.
Sure, the Buffs have lined up against a once-in-a-generation quarterback in Stanford’s Andrew Luck. Inexperienced cornerbacks cut their teeth against the PAC-12s premier wide receiver in Cal’s Keenan Allen. CU defenders are still nursing the bruises routinely administered by Washington’s 222-pound running back Chris Polk.
But, top to bottom, this Oregon team is the most talented of them all.
It starts with speed. The Ducks are loaded with sprinter-style speed at quarterback and the offensive skill positions. Even with injuries to starting running back LaMichael James and quarterback Darron Thomas, the Oregon offense still has the team speed that will make fans wonder if CU defenders didn’t accidentally slip on cement shoes before the game.
Head coach Chip Kelly’s offensive philosophy is to push the pace so opposing defenses have almost no time to substitute, react, or even get a quick breather in between plays.
The fast break-style offense puts up so many points an average of 49 per game, to be exact that scoreboard operators unlucky enough to work their games might want to get checked for carpal tunnel. A bit of hyperbole, I admit, but the point remains the same Oregon’s offense is very, very good.
The Ducks spread offense is often described as revolutionary and innovative. The best word to describe the CU defense in charge of stopping them?
The Buff defense is giving up an average of 36 points a game, good for 113th in the country. CU has surrendered a whopping 100 points in their last two losses against Stanford and Washington.
To make matters worse, CU will face the soaring Duck offense without Douglas Rippy, arguably their best defensive player. The junior linebacker suffered a season-ending knee injury in last week’s 54-24 loss to the Washington Huskies.
The injury bug will also sideline the Buffs two best offensive players. Tailback Rodney Stewart and wide receiver Paul Richardson – who have accounted for more than half of the CU’s offensive yardage this year – will not play Saturday.
Forgive Jon Embree if he feels like he has descended into the ninth circle of Dante’s Inferno.
For a coach who described the CU head coaching position as a dream job when he was hired, this season has been nothing but a win over a bad CSU team short of an absolute nightmare. Injuries, suspensions, slow starts, blown leads, penalties, and now, Ducks.
The uber-competitive Embree isn’t one for moral victories but the head coach would probably be quietly satisfied if his young Buffaloes were simply able to show some fight against one of the nation’s elite programs. Unfortunately, even that might be asking a little much. Oregon is a 32 and a half point favorite for a reason.
At the very least, young contributors like tailback Tony Jones and wide receiver Keenan Canty both redshirt freshmen will gain significant playing experience that will pay dividends in the years to come.
The 50,000 plus fans expected to fill the Folsom Field stands will have to content themselves with a glimpse into the future, a beautiful fall afternoon in Boulder, and an up-close-and-personal view of one of the best teams in college football. Hopefully it isn’t bad enough to make them avert their gaze.