The Oregon Ducks (5-1, 3-0 Pac-12) make their first foray into one of the Pac-12’s new neighborhood this weekend, traveling to Boulder to face conference newcomer Colorado (1-6, 0-3 Pac 12).
This game is a mismatch on every level. After decade of mediocrity in the Big 12, Colorado faced limited prospects coming into this season and so far the Buffaloes have lived up to those pedestrian expectations.
Against six losses, Colorado’s only win to date was over intra-state rival Colorado State, and the Buffs have frequently fallen hard. They’ve been outscored by a total of 113 points in those six losses. California and Washington State are the only two teams Colorado has been able to keep to within single digits (and they’re hardly considered juggernauts).
Add to that player suspensions as well as a string of injuries, and it becomes nearly impossible to imagine any way that Colorado stays within five touchdowns of Oregon on Saturday. Las Vegas bookmakers see it similarly, posting a 33 point spread on the game.
“I see a team that’s well coached,” said Kelly. “I think Jon (Embree) has done a good job despite the adversity they’ve faced and the players that they’ve lost. All I look at when I turn on tape is how hard does a team play. Those guys play hard no matter what the score is.”
Kelly especially respects the Buffaloes’ discipline.
“I also look at a team that doesn’t turn the ball over very much,” he explained. “Those are things that I think that from a coaching standpoint that you can have a direct effect on. We expect a full effort out of those guys”
Chip also said the injuries to some of Colorado’s key players might make them a more dangerous opponent.
“They have got a couple guys out but we all have to deal with that,” stated Kelly. “Everybody at this point of the season is dealing with losses. It is how do you handle that . They may not have the depth that some of the other teams in our league have right now, but when I watch them on tape they play very, very hard and that to me is a sign of a well coached team.”
That said, Embree has a lot of work ahead, on both sides of the ball. Colorado ranks 95th in points for and 113th in points against.
Colorado’s singular hopes for an upset rest on the shoulders of quarterback Tyler Hansen.
“I’m really impressed with their quarterback,” Kelly said. “Tyler Hansen is one of the under-rated quarterbacks in this league and it’s a league that’s got a lot of really good quarterbacks.”
Hansen’s task gets markedly tougher with the loss of tailback Rodney Stewart and wideout Paul Richardson. Receiver Kyle Cefalo will also miss Saturday’s game.
As a direct consequence, the Buffs are statistically one of the worst teams in the FBS, averaging 337 yards of total offense per game a paltry 90 of which are on the ground
Oregon ,on the other hand, usually surpasses those benchmarks before the half. The Ducks should pad their gaudy offensive numbers significantly even if most of the regulars are on the sidelines after the break
In allowing 36 points per game, Colorado legitimately earned that 113th spot in the statistical rankings. Oregon is likely to knock them down more than a few pegs lower.
Two whose status remains unclear for the Ducks are quarterback Darron Thomas and running back LaMichael James. Each has stated they will be available to play but as per his usual policy, Kelly hasn’t declared whether or not the pair will see action.
Kick-off is set for 12:40.
— Rick Morgan for EDN