Colorado Buffaloes (2-1 SU, 3-0 ATS) vs. Oregon Ducks (2-1 SU, 0-2-1 ATS)
College Football Week 4
Date/Time: Saturday, September 24, 2016 at 5:30PM EST
Where: Autzen Stadium, Eugene, Oregon
TV: Pac-12 Network
by Scott, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: COLO +10.5/ORE -10.5
Over/Under Total: 68.5
The Colorado Buffaloes come to Eugene to face the Oregon Ducks, as both teams open their Pac-12 schedules. Neither team had a good time of it on Saturday with tough losses. Colorado was actually hanging in there on the road with Michigan, leading 28-24, until losing QB Sefo Liufau to an ankle injury. After that, they couldn’t do much right and lost 45-28. Oregon was beating Nebraska in the 4th quarter until a late TD gave the Cornhuskers the 3-point win. Both 2-1 teams will try to right the ship this week in Eugene.
Last season, these teams played in Boulder, with Oregon winning, 41-24. It was a close game until the Ducks pulled away late. It’s iffy how much that result really matters for the purposes of this game. Oregon may have come up short on Saturday, but losing in Lincoln to a Nebraska team that looks as good as they have in a few years is no major disgrace. That goes for Colorado too. They were going tit-for-tat with a really good home Wolverines bunch, with only an untimely injury to their quarterback spoiling what would have been a huge upset bid.
We’ll see what happens with Liufau. The senior quarterback had really put himself in good position for a strong final go-around with the Buffaloes. No one wants the Buffaloes to make an impact more than Liufau, who was gunning hard this season to end his career with a bang. His will and mental strength helped keep Colorado in the Michigan game. Without him in there, the Buffs offense grew rudderless. Nothing worked. With conference play beginning this week and in light of how poor the options looked in his absence, one should look for Liufau’s return to be expedited. Coach Mike McIntyre has labeled Liufau a game-time decision.
Coming into Ann Arbor, Colorado wasn’t taken that seriously. Maybe that changes a little after their gutty performance on Saturday. They covered the spread for the third straight time to open the season. When they took a 21-7 lead against Michigan, you could see their eyes lighting up, as it’s been a long time since Colorado has made a national splash. Heading into week three, they had beaten Colorado State and Idaho State by a combined score of 100-14. So they’ve looked better this year—make no mistake.
Liufau has tools with which to work, namely receiver Shay Fields, who had 99 yards and a TD against Michigan after two strong performances to open the season. Bottled up some against Michigan, Phillip Lindsay is still a difference-making back if put in the right spots. WR Devin Ross caught two touchdowns against Michigan and has four on the season. WR Bryce Bobo is a big-target with big-play capability. On paper, it might look like a thin crew, but they’ve been pretty prolific this season and were hanging in there with Michigan until Liufau was hurt.
Since coach Mike McIntyre came aboard as Colorado head coach, they’ve scored one lone win in the Pac-12. And the most games they’ve won has been four. One should look for both of those numbers to be surpassed this season. The defense will need to be a key part of that. Against Michigan, they weren’t that robust, but they still were hanging in there to some extent. After throwing 7 TDs in his first two games, Michigan QB Wilton Speight threw just one against Colorado. And they allowed 168 yards on 41 carries, not a disgraceful amount by any means.
The Ducks really had a great chance to score a signature non-conference win on Saturday, with the late Nebraska score spoiling things. Nevertheless, there is a lot of work still to do with the conference schedule now underway. In his first start in a really tough road game, Oregon QB Dakota Prukop was so-so, making more of an impression with his legs, as he busted some big runs. Through the air, he was just 14-for-23 with 146 yards—not good with the talent at his disposal. The Ducks did run the ball well, however, with 345 rushing yards. Another thought is that Oregon went for twos after all five of their touchdowns, only converting one. By just kicking extra points, they would have been tied. It also didn’t help that they lost Royce Freeman early in the game after just five rushes. He will be a game-time decision. Oregon also lost a key piece last week, with speedster Devon Allen out for the season.
The Oregon defense is under the stewardship of first-year coordinator Brady Hoke. Through three games, there have been some positive signs, but the results really haven’t been there. They gave up 28 and a 300-yard passing performance to FCS opponent UC Davis, before Virginia had a lot of success running on this “D.” In the second half against Nebraska, they again had trouble stopping the rush. Not that Colorado is such a great rushing team, but they’re good enough to provide some issues to an Oregon defense that looks like it again lags far behind the offense in terms of merit. They had pretty big leads in their first two games and maybe the defense wasn’t that urgent. And giving up 35 to Nebraska at home isn’t all that disgraceful. So maybe we’re painting too dire of a picture. Let’s just say they’re going to need to come around some before being even a decent bunch on defense.
Colorado is facing a tough task after heading all the way east for a draining game against Michigan before now having to book it the opposite direction for a game in Eugene. Their schedule is a bit draining at this point in the season and we’ll see how they respond. But this team looks to have a spirit, a real “go for it” and “darn the torpedoes” type of disposition that should make them a scrappy bunch this season. I see them hanging in there on Saturday.
Scott's Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I’m betting on the Colorado Buffaloes plus 10.5 points.
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