And Colorado ranks in the top two in the conference in total offense, total defense, pass efficiency, pass defense efficiency, first downs, opponent third down conversion and penalties.
The improvement of both lines has been the biggest key in the team's turnaround. The best example is last Saturday when Colorado racked up 315 rushing yards against Arizona State, while only allowing the Sun Devils to gain 50 yards on the ground.
“If you watch the sideline shots this year, we do a great job of setting the line of scrimmage,” said senior defensive lineman Jordan Carrell. “We're not going backwards. This year we are shocking them and we're separating on them and our linebackers are coming up and making plays.”
“It is definitely a great feeling to know the work in the off-season on the bench press, the incline and the cleans, is all paying off,” he added.
The play of the Buffs' offensive line has not been quite as consistent as their defensive counterparts. But after a sub-par performance against USC's talented defensive front, Klayton Adams' group answered the call in a big way against the Sun Devils.
“It was great because we were coming into the game really wanting to get our run game together. Coach Adams made it an emphasis if we could get five explosive runs of 10 yards or more, we'd have a good chance of winning the game,” said junior Jonathan Huckins, who rotated in at guard last Saturday.
Colorado had 10 runs of 10-yards or longer against Arizona State, including Phillip Lindsay's 75-yard touchdown run to begin the second half. On Monday, Lindsay was rewarded for his play by being named the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year.
Huckins was walking to his locker on Saturday night when Lindsay ushered him, and the Buffs' other offensive linemen, up to the post-game press conference.
“It was the first time I had ever been up there during a press conference event so it was great to experience that,” Huckins said. “That is just another thing you can say about Phil Lindsay... he is such a class guy and he cares about his teammates. That means a lot to us.”
Stanford up next
Speaking of dominating performances in the trenches, Stanford did just that in Boulder last year, racking up 275 rushing yards while limiting the Buffs to 83 yards on 30 attempts.
These are not the same ole' woeful Buffs, though, and the Cardinal have struggled to move or score the ball this season. Stanford is averaging 6.2 less points and 45.5 less yards per game than any other team in the Pac-12 through seven weeks.
“We feel like we can match up with them strength and size wise now. We feel good about that,” Buffs head coach Mike MacIntyre said. “They are still very good, though.”
Preseason Heisman candidate, and Colorado native, Christian McCaffrey suffered an undisclosed injury in Stanford's loss to Washington State earlier this month and he did not play last Saturday as the Cardinal edged Notre Dame, 17-10.
“He'll have a good shot [to play] next week against Colorado,” Stanford head coach David Shaw said after the game in South Bend.
Said MacIntyre: “No. 20 (Bryce Love) is an excellent running back, too, now. But with Christian they move him everywhere and get him involved in a lot of different places. We're definitely preparing for Christian to be there, for sure.”
A healthy McCaffrey should strike fear in any defensive player, but Carrell is not shaking in his proverbial boots.
“I hope he is back,” Carrell said with a straight face. “Last year he ran the ball quite well on us so I want to have a second shot to shut him down. … We just have to get after them and play physical up front. If we can do that, we are going to have a great game.”
Additional notes -
*** Huckins believes he was given the opportunity to rotate in at both left guard and right guard last Saturday because he has been performing well in recent practices.
“It was great to get back out there in a game and hit some heads,” Huckins said. “I am healthy again and I got back at guard after being at center for a while. It is nice to be back at guard pulling and doing the things I am used to.”
*** Jay MacIntyre's status for the Stanford game is up-in-the-air as he goes through the Buffaloes' post-concussion protocol. If he is sidelined this Saturday, sophomore cornerback Isaiah Oliver will handle punt returning duties, Coach MacIntyre confirmed.
*** Junior inside linebacker Addison Gillam has seen his role increase in recent weeks and he is coming off arguably his best game since his true freshman season. He recorded two tackles for a loss, including a sack, and three quarterback hurries against the Sun Devils.
“We talk all the time about, 'No conflict, no story.' If you don't go through hard times, adversity and different things, you don't have a great story,” MacIntyre said after saying Gillam is the poster child for overcoming adversity.
“Of course you'd like to come back quicker but Addison is a great example of a young man who was playing phenomenally then had injuries and now it is really three years since he was able to play at his top speed. … He has just persevered and grown and we kind of brought him along [slowly]. He is starting to come in phenomenal form.”
*** In games played in the state of Colorado, the Buffaloes have now outscored their opponents by a combined score of 187-36 this season.