The Colorado Buffaloes (4-2, 2-1 in Pac-12) will host the Arizona State Sun Devils (5-1, 2-1) in Boulder Saturday in what should prove to be a pivotal matchup regarding the outcome of the Pac-12 South this year.
Mike MacIntyre’s program has been a pleasant surprise this year, winning every game they have been favored in and sneaking a road win in Eugene in September. Although they lost both match-ups, the Buffaloes looked impressive (for a quarter) against Michigan and kept it competitive in Los Angeles last weekend, leaving much for Colorado fans to excited about this season.
Here’s what you need to know about the Buffaloes:
A Good Kind of Controversy
Colorado, much like Arizona State, has a decision to make about their starter under center Saturday night. Before the season started, many expected the Buffaloes’ success to rely on the arm of senior quarterback Sefo Liufau. The four-year starter and three year captain out of Tacoma, Washington threw for 522 yards and 3 touchdowns in the Buffaloes’ first two games of the season against Colorado State and Idaho State, then looked strong against the Wolverines in Ann Arbor a week later throwing for 246 yards and three touchdowns before leaving the game with an ankle sprain in the third quarter.
Colorado then turned to 6 foot 5 redshirt freshman quarterback Steven Montez, who was unable to complete a pass on just seven attempts against Jim Harbaugh’s top-ranked defense. Montez bounced back, however throwing for a combined 626 yards and 6 touchdowns against Oregon and Oregon State, all while completing an incredible 70% of his passes. The former three-star recruit from Del Valle, Texas has also rushed for 218 yards in his two starts, proving to be a bit more elusive than Liufau in and out of the pocket.
The Case for Liufau
The captain fared better against tougher defenses than Montez, and is the true leader of this team. Before his ankle injury, Liufau was top-ten in passer efficiency rating in the country, and against Michigan he scored more than Wisconsin and Penn State did combined. The freshman has been hot lately, but leadership and experience are always key in big conference matchups.
The Case for Montez
So often in football coaches love to ride the hot hand, and Montez has been on fire. Not to mention the two teams he’s had full time to prepare for, while weak, definitely have better defenses than Idaho State and Colorado State. Plus, Montez has already played in and won two conference games, why not give him at shot at making it three.
A Unit Quietly Making Strides in the South
For whatever reason, the Colorado Buffaloes’ wide receiver core has been completely overlooked this season. Many Pac-12 teams have a number one receiver paired with quick guys in the slot at the core of the of their passing attack, however, the Buffaloes have had success a bit differently this year. CU-Boulder has three junior wide receivers in Shay Fields, Devin Ross, and Bryce Bobo that all have 330-plus yards on the season, with Fields and Ross each with five touchdowns thus far. This versatility of options at the wide out slot has allowed co-offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach Darrin Chiaverini to dial up passes to either side of the field, and keep corners and defensive coordinators guessing in the secondary, which could prove to be a tremendous issue for an ASU unit that once again ranks last (by a wide margin) in passing defense.