Colorado returns to the field after their first bye week since 2014 on Thursday night to face a banged up UCLA Bruins team at Folsom Field. Things have changed for the Buffaloes, ranked in the top 25, already bowl eligible with 4 games remaining in the season, but players continue to say they have a bigger goal in mind. Forget being bowl eligible for the first time since 2007, and a chance to win their first bowl game since 2005 against UTEP, these Buffaloes want to head to Santa Clara as PAC-12 South Champions.
All signs point to back up quarterback Mike Fafaul getting another start for the Bruins, with Josh Rosen still fighting a nerve issue in his shoulder. Two weeks ago against Utah, Fafual was forced to throw the ball 70 times, for 464 yards and 5 touchdowns. He also turned it over 5 times, throwing 4 interceptions and losing a fumble. The Bruins run game never got going, as they rushed for just 46 yards. The Buffaloes forced 4 turnovers against Stanford, including 3 interceptions, which extended their nation long turnover streak to 21 games. The Colorado secondary, one of the PAC-12’s best, will be looking to confuse Faufaul, and make him throw into small windows on Thursday night. Nose tackle Josh Tupou will be tasked with making UCLA one dimensional, and clogging up running lanes to force Faufaul into situations that aren’t manageable.
On the offensive side of the ball, expect the Buffaloes to go back to pushing the pace. Quarterback Sefo Liufau struggled for the first time this year, missing some throws that he’s shown he’s capable of making this year. UCLA was exposed by Utah’s ground attack, allowing 360 yards rushing and 7.3 yards per carry. Phillip Lindsey, who hurt his ankle late in the Stanford game, looks to have a monster game carrying the ball for Colorado. Coming from sea level to over 5,200 feet of elevation, I expect the Buffaloes to force the issue, snap the ball quickly, and tire the Bruins defense out by the fourth quarter.
For the first time in a long time, Colorado has the athletes to compete in the PAC-12 conference. No longer is it “can the Buffs keep it close?” These Buffaloes have talent, skill, and are a legitimate PAC-12 south contender. While making a bowl was the goal for most of the fan base, the team has told everyone since the first game that a south title was in play and a reasonable goal. Colorado will continue to show people it belongs, and will beat an inferior UCLA team. Give me the Buffaloes in a blackout in Boulder, 38-21.