Colorado Offensive Preview

Colorado's offense has struggled this season, but is making some changes for this week's game against Arizona. Read on for a complete preview of what the Arizona defense will see on Saturday.

Arizona returns after an embarrassing road trip which resulted in a blowout loss to the UCLA Bruins. There is good news, however. The Wildcats return home to host a Colorado squad that has trouble staying competitive for a full four quarters. If there is a remedy for what ails the UA defense, it's the CU offense.

Colorado's offensive attack is one of the weakest in the country. The Buffaloes are third from the bottom nationally in points and total yards per game, while ranking dead-last or second-to-last in the Pac-12 in scoring, passing, rushing and total yards.

CU's quarterback and running back rank towards the bottom of the statistical list among starting players and its leading receiver has just 30 receptions.

The Buffaloes have been led on offense by quarterback Jordan Webb. The junior has completed just a shade over 55 percent of his throws for 1401 yards and has connected on just eight touchdown passes in nine starts. In Webb's defense, he has spent much of the year running for his life, as CU has allowed a nation-high 40 sacks this season.

However, it was announced this week that Webb will not get the start. Colorado will look to either Nick Hirschman or Connor Wood, both of which have not done much this season.

Tight end Nick Kasa is the closest thing either quarterback has to a number one receiving option. The senior has caught 20 passes and leads the Buffaloes in receiving yardage with 340 and touchdown receptions with three. Given UA's struggles with formidable tight ends, you would have to assume Kasa will get numerous targets this week.

Colorado's leader in receptions just happens to be a freshman. Wide receiver Nelson Spruce has 30 catches for 312 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He hasn't been able to stretch the field much, but Spruce in a developing player who has become one of CU's best weapons in the passing game.

There should be several other players utilized in the passing attack. Wide receiver Tyler McCulloch and running back Tony Jones have each collected more than 20 receptions on the season. Freshmen Gerald Thomas and Vincent Hobbs – a tight end as well – have also made impacts and will see the field plenty on Saturday.

The running game is also powered by a freshman. Christian Powell leads the Buffaloes with 488 yards on the ground and five rushing touchdowns. His 4.5 yards per carry average shows how efficient he is, but Colorado has been forced to play catch-up often this season, which can take the running game out of the equation.

Jones is Powell's back-up and he is effective as well when he has a chance to run. The sophomore averages five yard a run and has scored a pair of touchdowns.

Colorado's rushing attack is crucial to its success. If CU can keep its offense on the field, it can keep the game close. Running the ball effectively would keep UA's high-powered offense off the field more often.

The problem for Colorado is that its passing game falls severely short, thereby hindering the entire offensive approach. The Buffaloes need to be able to run the ball consistently to have any chance this Saturday.

Players to watch

#46 – RB, Christian Powell: A big, bruising back, Powell is a player that possesses a lot of potential and actually has enough talent to run on a very suspect Arizona run defense. Wildcats' fans should expect to see a healthy dose of Powell this Saturday.

#26 – RB, Tony Jones: A versatile back, Jones is fast out of the backfield and dangerous as a receiver as well. His workload will likely depend on how competitive the game is, but if it's close, Jones could make a big impact.

#44 – TE, Nick Kasa: A big tight end, Kasa gives Webb someone who can pick up yardage over the middle of the field. His size could prove to be a mismatch for UA's linebackers and secondary.

#22 – WR, Nelson Spruce: The freshman has had a pretty good debut season when you factor in everything he has going against him. How Arizona chooses to defend him could dictate how successful the entire Colorado offense it.

Five keys

1. Blitz: Colorado is tied with Washington State for most sacks allowed in the nation. UA has been inconsistent in terms of applying pressure to opposing quarterbacks, but if the Wildcats bring it this Saturday, they should be successful

2. Don't allow Colorado's running game to gain momentum: Based on averages, CU's top two runners can run the ball when given the chance. The Buffaloes are usually forced to ditch the running game often due to falling behind in every affair. If Arizona fails to pull away comfortably, look for the Buffaloes to pound the ball on the ground.

3. Fundamentals: CU has struggled all year on offense and, despite having a couple of decent weapons, the Buffaloes don't have nearly as much fire power as UA's recent opponents. As long as the Wildcats play relatively mistake-free football, they will come away victorious.

4. Pay attention to Kasa: The tight end position has been a tricky one for Arizona to defend this season. Kasa is a big target and Colorado will go to him frequently. If Arizona is napping on defense, he can have a big day.

5. Limit penalties: Arizona has committed 71 penalties this season, 29 of which came over the past two games alone. A team like Colorado needs all the help it can get and penalties are one way to assist the Buffaloes.

If UA can get back to how it avoided an astronomical amount of defensive penalties, CU will likely find it hard to move the ball consistently.

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