Colorado Buffaloes (10-2 SU, 10-2 ATS) vs. Washington Huskies (11-1 SU, 6-6 ATS)
College Football Week 14
Date/Time: Friday, December 2, 2016 at 9PM EST
Where: Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, California
by Scott, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: COLO +7.5/WASH -7.5
Over/Under Total: 58
In the Pac-12 Championship game, the Colorado Buffaloes take on the Washington Huskies at Levi’s Stadium on Friday. Washington has enjoyed a big season with an 11-1 record and a shot at the College Football Playoff. They were able to prevail in the Apple Bowl with a thorough 45-17 win over a ranked Washington State team on the road last Friday to set up this game. Meanwhile, the Buffaloes have won the Pac-12 South Division, an amazing revival of a program that had struggled mightily since joining the conference. They beat Utah, 27-22, on Saturday for their 6th straight win. They were 8-1 in conference and they look for what would be a huge win for the program this Friday in the Pac-12 title game.
The Huskies have a golden opportunity here against a really tough team that is on an emotional high. But Washington is really good and appear to be in full-stride heading into this game. If they beat Colorado, it would be hard to turn them away from the College Football Playoff. A win here and they are very likely to make the dance. If they lose, they would find themselves in a far-less extravagant situation. The stakes for Washington are higher in this game perhaps, but that might not mean much as Colorado has their own goals and has shown an ability to make those plans materialize against all odds.
Again, the Huskies look to be hitting their high notes just in time. They put up over 500 yards of total offense against Washington St. on Friday and were able to avoid the typical Cougars’ offensive explosion. On Friday, they looked like a really good team, that’s the easiest way to put it. Jake Browning is back in peak form and had three TD throws on Friday to give him 40 on the season. The key to this whole team is balance and they are third in the nation with 44.8 points per game.
Browning works with a deep and diversified aerial attack. John Ross has 1071 yards and 16 touchdowns. Dante Pettis has 14 touchdowns and Chico McClaster is a deep-ball threat with his immense speed. Both Ross and Pettis can also be productive in other ways, with both also scoring in the run and on returns this season. The run game features Myles Gaskin and Lavon Coleman, with the duo combining for nearly 2000 yards. It’s an offense that really found an identity this season and they will put the Colorado defense to the test.
The Washington defense is the full load and they’re balanced just like the offense is. The Huskies are giving up just 17.8 points a game, an impressively-low total considering some of the offenses they’ve faced. Getting after the quarterback are Joe Mathis, Psalm Wooching, and Vita Veas. Budda Baker is a massive presence in the secondary. There are guys in all phases of this “D” that can get the job done.
Beyond the traits and assets that got the Buffaloes to this spot is the fact that they had the grit, character, and self-belief to engineer such a massive program turnaround. They’re in the title game against all odds and considering how hard it was for them to get conference wins since joining the Pac-12, their 8-1 conference record is eye-popping. The Buffaloes lost early in the season to Michigan and fell by 4 to USC and have since rattled off 6 straight wins, all in conference. They’ve shown a lot of resolve, with coach Mike McIntyre and the long-suffering veterans on the squad helping it all come together.
After three seasons of hardship, Colorado quarterback Sefo Liufau has shown immense character and a strong winning spirit to help the team get to this point. He has overcome nagging injuries all season long to get the Buffaloes to this spot. He has been very strong mentally, putting his big body to use with 7 TD runs. Liufau relies on a strong back with Phillip Lindsay and his 1136 yards and 16 touchdowns. The line has been adept at keeping Liufau out of trouble lately, while helping spring loose the run game. Liufau works through the air with Shay Fields, Devin Ross, Bryce Bobo and Mike’s son Jay McIntyre. They’re a consistent and balanced group that can get you in a number of different ways.
The Buffaloes defense has been pretty stingy this season with an average of 18.8 points allowed per game. They have the 12th ranked defense in the nation and get a lot of good play from their playmakers on this side of the ball. Both Jimmie Gilbert and Jordan Carrell have been adroit at getting after the quarterback. Tedric Thompson has been making a lot of plays in the secondary and has 7 interceptions. As a team, they have secured 26 turnovers. They’re an energetic group that can both be stingy and make big plays.
On one hand, the Huskies look like the more-imposing team with more playmakers on offense and a defense that has been a little stouter over the course of the season. But that small gap could maybe be bridged by the chemistry and whatever magic in on the Buffaloes’ sidelines. Some things can’t be quantified in stats and looking at a team’s record. The Buffaloes have latched onto something and won’t be easily separated from it at this point. I think Colorado will hang in there and get the cover.
Scott's Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I’m betting on the Colorado Buffaloes plus 7.5 points.
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