As the defending conference champions, the Oregon Ducks are considering the CU Buffs as a minor road block on their way to a third straight conference championship. They come into Boulder for the first time as a fellow conference opponent today as the #9 team in the country.
Their latest test comes against the Buffs who come in at 1-6 but always play well at Folsom Field. Both of their contests against fellow Pac-12 opponents Cal and Washington State could have gone in the Buffs’ favor but they were unable to close them out and lost late in the game.
Traditionally CU always plays better at home, even when the opponent comes in ranked. In 2007 they beat #3 Oklahoma in Boulder, in 2008 they beat #21 West Virginia in Boulder, in 2009 they beat #17 Kansas in Boulder. Am I saying that the Ducks will be another ranked team to fall in Boulder? Not likely but with CU’s track record it is still a possibility.
However, with all of the injuries the Buffs have, it is hard to believe that they will be able to keep up with Oregon’s quick, no-huddle offense. The Ducks have injuries of their own that they are dealing with including quarterback Darron Thomas and Heisman candidate, running back LaMichael James. James did not participate in practice this week and is unlikely to play but Thomas was involved in practice and is expected to be in the starting lineup.
One thing that helps the home-field advantage for CU is the altitude and with Oregon’s fast-paced, no-huddle offense, the Buffs are hoping that it can slow them down at least a little bit. You can practice the offense all you want in practice but running it at altitude might be difficult for them at first.
On CU’s side, they come in battered and bruised with star players Rodney Stewart and Paul Richardson out with sprained knees. Tyler Hansen will have to rely on Tony Jones and Keenan Canty to pick up the slack and they did a decent job last week at Washington. Jones had 50 yards rushing and 2 TD’s and Canty is a good deep threat that can stretch the defense allowing for underneath screens, which is CU’s bread and butter.
If Oregon’s Thomas cannot go today look for back-up Brian Bennett to lead the Ducks offense. With Bennett in the game look for them to run more option plays instead of throwing plays. Last week Bennett only threw twice but ran 5 times for 65 yards. But from what I’ve heard and seen, Thomas is expected to start.
On paper this could be an ugly game for the Buffs as the Ducks average 48 points per game and Colorado has given up a combined 100 points the last two weeks. With that said, CU always plays inspired at home no matter who the opponent is and could give the Ducks a game. I’m going to say that CU plays well early but Oregon is too much and they run away with it.
Prediction: Oregon- 42 Colorado-24