Stanford Cardinal (7-1 SU, 6-2 ATS) vs. Colorado Buffaloes (4-5 SU, 3-5-1 ATS)
College Football Week 10
Date/Time: Saturday, November 7, 2015 at 1:00PM EST
Where: Folsom Field, Boulder, Colorado
TV: Pac 12 Network
by Scott, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: STAN -15.5/COL 15.5
Over/Under Total: 60.5
The Stanford Cardinal come into Boulder to face the Colorado Buffaloes on Saturday in Pac-12 action. Stanford is now playing with high stakes, as a lot is on the line for the Cardinal, who have won 7 straight since a tough week one loss to Northwestern, including a 6-0 record in the conference. Stanford is the only team that has a managed to rise above the madness in a frenzied Pac-12 this season. But they face a potentially-tricky road spot this week in Boulder against a peppy Colorado team.
Stanford faced a rigorous test last Saturday, beating Washington State in a game that had trouble written all over it. On the road against a high-flying aerial attack, the Cardinal overcame a late third quarter deficit of 12 points, battled the whole way, eventually getting over the hump late with a touchdown with less than 2 minutes left. It wasnt easy, but they showed their merit in soldiering through a tough game against an upstart opponent to notch the hard-earned win. Its a win that could serve them well moving forward. Colorado also had an eventful time of it on Saturday, losing 35-31 to the Bruins in a road game. They are only 1-4 in conference and 4-5 overall, but remain a dangerous conference opponent, particularly at home.
Before entering their conference schedule, Colorado was on a bit of a roll with three straight wins. That was a good development after a tough opening week loss to Hawaii, a team that hasnt beaten an FBS team since. And while the Buffaloes have shown themselves to not be ready for the primetime in the Pac-12, theyve been respectable. Last weeks close loss to UCLA on the road was a testament to that, as was their win on the road against Oregon State and near-win against Arizona.
For all of Colorados faults, of which there are plenty, they have a heck of a quarterback in Sefo Liufau, who can get this offense moving, along with a nice run-game. Liufau connects aerially with Nelson Spruce and Shay Fields (questionable). On the ground, Phillip Lindsay, Christian Powell, Donovan Lee, and Liufau have combined for 16 touchdowns. Its a respectable unit that has produced in conference and is averaging 30 points per game.
If looking to identify the outstanding issues on the Buffaloes team, one could look to the defense, which is giving up an average of 35 points to conference opponents through 5 games. This defense is giving up an average of over 200 yards on the ground per game. That could really hurt this week, if Stanfords run-game gets untracked because the Buffaloes have been struggling in that area, having given up some big performances to opposing running backs recently.
Stanford looks really strong and even if they struggled on Saturday against WSU, it might help them later as things get more difficult. Other than in their opening-week loss, they hadnt really been tested, with their wins all being fairly conclusive. So maybe Saturday was a good thing, even though their backers might disagree.
Stanfords Kevin Hogan is a senior quarterback with moxie and grit who can think on his feet. Hes really played well this season, completing 65% of his throws, with 14 TD throws and just 5 picks. And hes tough, while not doing much to undermine the team effort. He connects well with a lot of ball-catchers who chip in with timely production. But the run-game is what its all about for the Stanford offense with Christian McCaffrey over 1000 yards. Barry Sanders, Jr. adds a big assist in the ground game with 4 touchdowns and a lot of big runs this season. McCaffrey is also the teams leading receiver and with some more big games, he could be in the Heisman discussion. If looking to identify a spot on the schedule where he could explode, this game seems to be a good candidate.
On paper, we see that the Cardinal defense has given up some points this season, but in this conference, thats par for the course. In the context of an offense-heavy conference, the Stanford D has been more than respectable. It might not be the ironclad unit of recent seasons. But they have more offense, so maybe its a tradeoff worth making. Cumulatively, the D has given up just a little over 21 points per game, which is going to be good more often than not. Having seen them keep some good running backs in check this season, itll be interesting to see if Colorado can run the ball to much affect against this front.
Stanford showed commendable resourcefulness on Saturday, illustrating how galvanized they are as a team. Hogan really fought and the team seemed to take his lead. Not much of a runner, Hogan added a few giant scampers really showed his character. The performance was an emotional one and may have pumped some more wind into the sails of a team that has been sailing right along.
This is not as easy a spot as one might think for Stanford. On paper, you see a team like Stanford that is one of the best in the nation against a nondescript low-end Pac-12 team in the Buffaloes. Its easy to project a sound beating. And that could very well be the case. But Boulder is not an easy place to come into and Colorados offense could keep them in this game. But I look for a fired-up Stanford bunch to run the ball to devastating affect, as they pull away late for the easy win and cover.
Scott’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Im betting on the Stanford Cardinal minus 15.5 points.
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