Widgets Magazine
Behind enemy lines: Stanford vs. Colorado
Against a Colorado offense on the tear, the Cardinal will need more production from their offense that has staggered against formidable defenses in the past three weeks. With the return of Francis Owusu, Stanford must show more creativity in the pass game in order to take down this strong Buffs squad. (DON FERIA/isiphotos.com)

Behind enemy lines: Stanford vs. Colorado

After the Cardinal football team survived Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, last weekend, The Daily’s Vihan Lakshman sat down with Justin Guerriero, the head sports editor of the CU Independent, to discuss the upcoming match with Colorado and predict who the key playmakers will be for the Buffaloes.

 

The Stanford Daily (TSD): With a 3-1 conference record and a 5-2 mark overall, the Buffs have already won more conference games than they did in Mike MacIntyre’s first three years as head coach and currently sit atop the Pac-12 South. What are the primary factors behind Colorado’s rapid ascent in the standings, and do you consider the Buffaloes legitimate contenders for the conference title?

Justin Guerriero (JG): Experience, maturity and learning from mistakes are the reasons why this team is 5-2. Looking in from the outside, MacIntyre’s tenure at CU has not been good according to the Buffs’ 2013-2015 records. But in that time, the team has made ridiculous strides on both offense and defense. The seniors on this team were getting humiliated by Pac-12 opponents when they were freshmen. Now, the gap has closed. In 2015, Colorado lost four games by less than a touchdown. In 2014, it lost two heartbreakers in triple overtime. For those few years, players and coaches were scratching their heads wondering why the heck the team just couldn’t seem to catch a break. Now, with a Pac-12-leading 56 upperclassmen returned, this team is hardened and battle-tested. The Buffs are out for revenge.

TSD: What’s the atmosphere like in Boulder amongst fans and players leading up to Saturday’s game, where a victory would give Colorado not only a win over the recent Pac-12 standard-bearer in Stanford, but also those magic words of “bowl eligibility”?

JG: After the Buffaloes beat Oregon in Eugene, 41-38, there was a makeshift pep rally behind Folsom Field. Around 100 students showed up at 1 a.m. to greet the team that had done what no other CU team had done: knock down a Pac-12 giant. I was one of the people there and I’ve never seen anything quite like it, in terms of excitement and appreciation of Colorado football. It truly was a magical experience. At this point, campus is buzzing. Last week vs. ASU was the largest crowd at Folsom in 5 years. I think people finally have a reason not to doubt these young men. If the Buffaloes beat Stanford, boy would that get people even more pumped. As for being so close to bowl eligibility, my fingers are shaking by just thinking of the Buffaloes in a bowl!

TSD: How did quarterback Sefo Liufau look last week in his return from injury? Do you think he will be 100 percent health-wise when the Buffs travel to Stanford Stadium? In general, how have Liufau and backup Steven Montez looked this season?

JG: Liufau looked great. I think head coach Mike MacIntyre and his staff deliberately waited until they were absolutely sure that he was 100 percent healed from his ankle sprain that he sustained during the loss at Michigan in week three. I can hardly blame them. If Liufau wasn’t lost for the season with a Lisfranc fracture in his left foot last year versus USC, the Buffs arguably could have made a bowl. In Liufau’s absence this year, Steven Montez led the Buffs to a win over Oregon. He throws a nasty deep ball, and plays with much more maturity and intelligence than a freshman quarterback should. But he’s young; Liufau has been to hell and back for the Buffaloes. This is his team, and frankly, they stand a better chance of winning when he’s behind center. Liufau knows his receiving core (the biggest strength of this CU team) better than anyone and I expect him to be fully healthy and hungry to carve up the Stanford defense.

TSD: Despite losing star receiver Nelson Spruce, the Colorado offense has exploded this season. The Buffs currently average 36.2 points per game, which is nearly 15 points clear of their 2015 average. What makes the Buffs offense so lethal and who are the offensive playmakers we should keep an eye on?

JG: No one could take their eyes off of Spruce. He was always the go-to guy on offense. But he’s gone now, and honestly, the Buffaloes have his loss more than covered. The wideouts for Colorado are some of the most talented athletes I’ve ever watched. Bryce Bobo, Shay Fields, Jr. and Devin Ross are deadly at all ranges. They win a lot of their routes and are solid pass blockers. They form a triple-headed monster that forces opposing secondaries to pay attention to all three of them equally. But don’t look past junior tailback Phillip Lindsay. He’s 5-foot-8 but runs with the force of a tight end. He’s speedy and smart about hitting holes. Lindsay was just named the Pac-12’s Offensive Player of the Week. This might come off as very insulting, but I think he very well could be the better tailback in this week’s matchup.

TSD: The Colorado defense has been equally nasty thus far, giving up the third fewest yards per play in the Pac-12. Who are the top defensive players to watch out for? How much do you think Christian McCaffrey’s availability on Saturday will affect Colorado’s ability to stop Stanford’s offense?

JG: Colorado’s secondary hasn’t been flawless, but they’ve been damn good nonetheless. Defensive back Isaiah Oliver is the only underclassman in the group. The rest are seasoned veterans who are good at tackling. I don’t even need one full hand to count the pass interference penalties on CU’s defense so far this year. The secondary has looked disciplined and coordinated. But watch out for outside linebacker Jimmie Gilbert. He’s the Buffs’ main pass rusher, and mark my words, if he’s able to get consistent pressure on Ryan Burns, it’s going to be a long day for the Cardinal. As for McCaffrey, I currently have multiple bets taking the under line of 100 rushing yards. He’s a phenomenal talent, but simply hasn’t looked like 2015 Heisman runner-up Christian McCaffrey. Stanford’s passing offense doesn’t worry me too much. I think McCaffrey’s struggles have made the Cardinal a bit awkward and one-dimensional on offense. If McCaffrey is out, that really brightens Colorado’s chances to stop Stanford’s offense and get a solid road win.

TSD: Finally, do you have a prediction for the final score? Do the Buffs keep the good vibes rolling?

JG: I’m beginning to sound like an unstable gambler, but I, again, have multiple bets on Colorado winning by two touchdowns or more. Stanford’s season average of 19 points per game combined with Colorado’s soundness on both sides of the ball and the Buffs’ recent triumph over Arizona State has my confidence high. The Cardinal are, by no means, a weak team, but I think the tide has turned and that Stanford will be the latest team to feel the 2016 Buffaloes’ wrath.

 

Contact Vihan Lakshman at vihan ‘at’ stanford.edu and Julian Gurriero at justin.guerriero ‘at’ colorado.edu.

About Vihan Lakshman

Vihan Lakshman's journey at The Stanford Daily came full-circle as he began his career as a football beat writer and now closes his time on The Farm in the same role. In between, he has served as an Opinions columnist and desk editor, a beat writer for Stanford baseball, and as a member of The Daily's Editorial Board. Vihan completed his undergraduate degree in Mathematical and Computational Science in 2016, and is currently pursuing a master's in Computational Mathematics. He also worked as a color commentator on KZSU football broadcasts during the 2015 season. To contact him, please send an email to vihan 'at' stanford.edu