Normally, I'm not a fan of trash talk against inferior opponents if they aren't a rival. It's fun to rag on Washington because we're better than them and remind them of their place every year. It's not fun to rag on Colorado. "Better" isn't even a strong enough adjective, but Colorado is one of the new kids on the block. I haven't found a reason to even slightly dislike them so far, so I will just point out some numbers to do the "trash talking" for me.
The Buffaloes haven't won a conference game in a full calendar year. Since joining the Pac-12 in 2011, they have lost 27 of their 31 conference games. They aren't just bottom feeders. They are simply just a 12th team that allows us to have a conference championship game. In the last three years, Oregon has outscored Colorado 172-32. Last year's 57-16 win for the Ducks was the closest of the three games.
This is a matchup of two teams heading in very different directions. The Buffaloes have lost six straight while the Ducks have won five in a row.
Without much more "trash talking," let's take a look at the offense of the 2014 Colorado Buffaloes.
Colorado's field general is sophomore Sefo Liufau. This year, Liufau has completed 65.8 percent of his passes for 2,842 yards with 26 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. That's a ratio of essentially one interception for every other touchdown pass. Liufau has thrown at least one interception in all but one game this year (8/29 against Colorado State) and has thrown two interceptions in five of his ten games. His accuarcy is a cause for concern, so expect Oregon's defensive backs to be ready to pounce on Saturday.
Overall, Colorado ranks 17th in the nation in passing, averaging just under 300 yards per game. They rank right ahead of the Ducks, who come in at 18th overall in passing.
Liufau has thrown at least one touchdown in his last 18 games, the fourth longest streak in the country. His 26 touchdowns so far this season are already a new school record (previous record was 22 by Koy Detmer in 1996) and rank eighth most in the nation.
In Colorado's last game against Arizona, Liufau suffered a concussion in the third quarter. He has yet to be cleared to play, but his status is listed as probable. Liufau returned to practice on Monday and coaches are hopeful he'll be ready to go against the Ducks.
The Buffaloes do not have a clear-cut leader in the backfield, with four running backs each rushing for between 300-400 yards so far this year. Michael Adkins II is Colorado's leading rusher with 81 carries for 398 yards and three touchdowns. Tony Jones also has three touchdowns to go along with 337 rushing yards on 74 carries. Phillip Lindsay and Christian Powell are also in the mix in the backfield for Colorado. Lindsay has 65 carries for 338 yards while Powell has 70 carries for 322 yards and a touchdown.
Colorado's rushing game ranks 68th in the nation, averaging 161.8 yards per game. The Ducks have also used a combination of backs without ever declaring a true "starter," and as a result have seen Royce Freeman naturally develop into that lead role with almost twice as many yards and carries as any other back. Unfortunately for Colorado, they haven't seen that same type of success with the running back-by-committee system.
Leading the way for Colorado's receiving corps is Nelson Spruce. The junior out of Westlake Village, Calif. has 99 catches (feel free to insert your witty Jay-Z reference in the comments) for 1,091 yards and 11 touchdowns. His 99 receptions are the most in the nation, and his 11 touchdowns are the second most in the country. Spruce has gone over the century mark five times this year, including a season-high 179 yards and three touchdowns in Colorado's shootout with Cal. Spruce has been on a bit of a scoring cold streak however, with just one touchdown in his last five games.
The Buffaloes are one of 21 teams in the nation to have at least five players with 20 or more receptions this season.
Freshman Shay Fields is next in line, ranking second on the team in receptions (45) and receiving yards (411), and also has four touchdowns. Field is also a candidate to be named to the Freshman All-American team.
Who to watch for
Colorado doesn't have much of a rushing game, so for any chance at pulling off the biggest upset of the year, Sefo Liufau will have to be perfect. He'll also need to rely heavily on Spruce Nelson and hope he snaps out of his cold streak as of late, as nearly all of Colorado's offensive production through the air has been between Liufau and Nelson. However, this appears like it'll be another 50-point blowout win for the Ducks.