Oregon faces Colorado on Saturday at Autzen Stadium

Scout's Colorado site publisher Adam Munstergeiger, of BuffStampede.com answered five questions about the Colorado Buffaloes as the Buffs prepare to come to Eugene and take on the Ducks in a game that will kickoff at 2:30 p.m. and will be broadcast on the Pac-12 Networks.

Obviously the biggest question of the week for the Buffs, will quarterback Sefo Liufau play in the game at Autzen Stadium? If he does play, how much will he be limited by the ankle injury Saturday? Finally, It was bad enough to get the ankle injury but then to be sitting on the bench with ice on your ankle and then get hit in the face by a Michigan player being shoved out of bounds, that’s a tough one.

Insult to injury on your last point there, no question. As of Wednesday, what we know is Liufau's ankle injury is not as serious as some Colorado fans feared when he was sidelined early in the second half during the Buffaloes' game at Michigan. Liufau has been testing his ankle out, but even if his availability for Saturday's contest becomes known later this week, Colorado's staff does not plan to make any type of announcement before the game. Honestly at this point I would say it is about 50/50.

 If Liufau is unable to go, redshirt freshman Steven Montez would lead the Buffs' offense in Autzen Stadium on Saturday. He has a lot of physical tools, including a strong arm and the ability to pick up chunks of yards as a runner with his long stride, but he had a couple deer-in-headlights moments and struggled in his first meaningful action against Michigan. Having a week in practice with the ones should help, but there is no way Montez would be able to replicate Liufau's experience.

The Ducks have had their way with the Buffaloes since Colorado joined the Pac-12, however this year the Buffs are noticeably much better in nearly all aspects. Colorado fans have to be excited about the turnaround, even despite the loss at Michigan. How pumped up are the fans, and is this reminiscent of some great Colorado teams of the past?

Buffs fans are excited about the team's potential, but until Liufau's ankle injury situation is resolved, they are more cautiously optimistic than anything. This team is not necessarily reminiscent of some great Colorado teams of the past but it is also not reminiscent of some of the struggling Colorado teams they've fielded the last decade. The Buffaloes rank fourth in the country in total defense after three weeks and rank No. 26 in total offense. While Colorado gave up 45 points at Michigan last weekend, 21 of those points were a direct result of the punt team's woes. If it weren't for special teams and Liufau's injury, Colorado likely would have pulled off an upset against a top five team on the road.

In your mind, what are the key strengths on offense of this Colorado team?

When Liufau is healthy, the Buffs' offense is good at taking what the defense gives them. Liufau is a fourth-year starter, a third-year captain, and he knows what checks to make. He certainly makes mistakes as a quarterback, and is not the most accurate at times with his short to intermediate throws, but Liufau has a calming influence over the offense when he is in there. If Liufau is unable to go on Saturday against the Ducks, the Buffs will try to rely on their ground game, which features junior tailback Phillip Lindsay. He is not a homerun threat but he is a tough runner that enjoys contact and almost always picks up positive yardage. At receiver, Shay Fields and Devin Ross both rank in the top seven in the conference in receiving yards per game early on this season.

How about on defense?

Colorado's three-man defensive line and its secondary is its strength. Linebacker is a bit of a question mark; especially with outside linebacker Derek McCartney now out for the season with a torn ACL. The Buffs did not do a good job of setting the edge against the Wolverines, and as a result they gave up some long runs to the outside. Oregon fans should key in on No. 4 on Colorado's defense on Saturday. Senior Chidobe Awuzie spends time at both nickel back and corner. His versatility and playmaking ability allows defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt to make some calls he otherwise wouldn't. Awuzie was second-team all-Pac-12 last year and honestly would have been a first-team selection had Colorado won more games and garnered more respect in the conference. He has elite closing speed and is a sure tackler. Senior nose tackle Josh Tupou does a good job of taking on multiple blockers and senior inside linebacker Kenneth Olugbode has been a bright spot on an otherwise mediocre linebacking crew.

Autzen Stadium has been a tough place to play for anyone over the years, so what is the gut feeling Buff fans have about this upcoming game?

I hate to keep going back to the Liufau injury but his up-in-the-air status for Saturday has Buffs fans and us media members out here, feeling unsure about this game. Colorado was playing like a top-25 team through the first two-and-a-half games until he went down. While I am not ready to call for the Buffaloes to pull off the upset in Eugene, I do think Oregon fans will notice this is a quality Colorado team. These are not the same woeful Buffs that the Ducks could basically name their score against in previous years since Colorado joined the conference. I expect it to be an entertaining, back-and-forth affair, with the Ducks finding a way to win with the support of their home crowd.

 


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