I picked CU because of experience at QB (Joel Klatt is a fifth-year senior), a favorable schedule (CU gets Nebraska and Missouri at home) and recent history (CU has won its division three of the past four years).
After dropping nine straight to Big 12 South teams, the Buffs have put 75 points on the board the past two Saturdays in easily strolling past two of the most porous defenses of the southern division, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M. (As an aside, the Wrecking Crew is more of a Reeking Crew, ranking dead last in league standings and No. 98 nationally by giving up 428.6 ypg against less-than-formidable competition.)
On separate occasions, I've heard Mack Brown reference this weekend's contest as one of the two on the schedule that "scare you to death." The other game, believe it or not, was Rice. The reason is obvious: Rice followed the Ohio State game while Colorado comes on the heels of You-Know-Who. Texas has suffered an OU hangover of a different sort this week but, even so, Brown is not pleased with the lackluster effort he got from his emotionally drained troops this week.
RB Jamaal Charles re-injured his ankle during Wednesday's practice and is 'questionable' for Saturday. RB Selvin Young is capable of picking up six yards here, seven yards there but is averaging one fumble for every nine carries this season. The added weight, and a gimpy ankle of his own, has rendered him a half-step slower than the explosive Selvin we saw in seasons past. It translates into more designed runs for Vince Young who is undoubtedly eager to bust a couple after netting just 45 yards on 17 carries against OU. It also shapes up as a busy day for WRs Billy Pittman and Limas Sweed. And if Offensive Coordinator Greg Davis has a few undisclosed tricks up his sleeve for Ramonce Taylor, a good time to use them might be when your starting RB is motoring with a deflated left tire.
Not that it should take bells and whistles to get past an improved Colorado team at home. Last week, we talked about the mismatch between Texas' defensive line and OU's beleaguered offensive front. This weekend, there is no way the big, bad Buffs should hang for much more than two quarters against the kind of ridiculous speed that Texas has on defense. Plus, Texas has such an across-the-board edge in personnel that a question mark at RB should not be the difference-maker. As CU head coach Gary Barnett mentioned this week, there is not a single Texan on his roster that listed CU as his first choice. In other words, the Lone Star State boys on his team are the ones Mack Brown didn't want.
The only question is when Texas finally gets OU out of its system and fully engages a Top 25 football team. Maybe after CU jumps to a 10-3 lead? Ultimately, Texas has too much speed on defense and too much Vince on the other side of the ball. Texas 41, Colorado 20.
Pearle -- After finally beating Oklahoma for the first this century, the Horns face the remainder of their season in an unfamiliar spot -- as the frontrunner to win the Big 12 and play for a national championship, not as a team chasing titles and bowl positioning from behind OU. For the past five years, the Horns have responded to the OU losses strong, not letting the OU game "beat them twice" as Mack Brown has stressed. The mantra this week has been a variation on the theme -- don't let the OU victory beat them once though emotional hangover.
Well, it is certainly possible that Texas could come out a little flat Saturday after the cathartic OU victory. I still remember the Missouri game post-OU last season and the dearth of energy and excitement among both the team and the fans that I felt in Royal-Memorial that day, as Texas barely scraped by Mizzou. This Saturday could certainly have a similar vibe, with hot weather forecast, a good Big 12 North opponent, and a mid-day kickoff.
But as I mentioned in an earlier pick, my feeling is that this Texas team, loaded with veterans, particularly on the O- and D-lines, will stay focused on whatever game is in front of them after beating Ohio State and becoming an immediate national title contender. So far, they've done just that.
It seems about every other week this season we have heard about "trap" games for Texas: first it was Missouri as the Horns headed to Columbia to face dangerous Brad Smith, while looking ahead to OU. Result: Texas blowout. This week, it is Colorado which could somehow sneak up on the Horns after the big win in Dallas, with Texas already focusing on high-flying, highly-ranked Texas Tech next up after the Buffs.
But I don't think this Texas team will look ahead, because of their maturity, because of the stakes, with an undefeated season theirs for the taking, and because their opponent, Colorado, is a talented team coming off an impressive thrashing of fading Texas A&M.
Colorado certainly should have the Horns' attention. These guys will look a lot better than OU did last weekend, with an offense led by senior QB Joel Klatt, who torched the Aggies for 396 yards through the air last Saturday in Boulder. Running back Hugh Charles, from Southlake, Texas, is fast and shifty and proved against A&M he is a threat in the pass- as well as run-games, with his 51-yard TD reception just minutes into the ballgame. TE Joe Klopfenstein is a horse, and big back Lawrence Vickers can run and catch.
Defensively, CU is tough, basically shutting down A&M last Saturday, shutting out Okie State the week before that, and limiting Miami to 23 points in the Orange Bowl. In short, this is a good, confident Colorado team that appears to me to deserve its national ranking.
But Klatt should find the Texas defense, and the secondary in particular, a little less hospitable than the A&M crew he lit up last Saturday. The Texas defense has been excellent this season, the pass defense in particular. The Buffs should notch a few scores, but Texas, utilizing all its weapons, will notch a few more. If Jamaal Charles is healthy and takes his full load, I like Texas by about 14. If not, let's make it 10. Call it Texas 30, CU 17.
Ross -- I don't have a good feeling for what's gonna happen in this game. My level of certainty in UT's performance Saturday versus Colorado is relatively low. In the three games so far where Texas was to be tested (Ohio State, Missouri, Oklahoma), I had little doubt not only that the Horns would emerge victorious but also that they would play well. But I just don't have that feeling -- the "play well" part, at least -- heading into this weekend.
It's even difficult for me to pin down the cause of my doubt in what we'll see this week from Texas. Although the Buffaloes have a good team, nothing in what they've shown so far this fall leads me to believe they are the equal of Texas. As I saw remarked elsewhere, Texas is arguably better on offense than it was last year and is better on defense, and that Longhorn team walked out of Boulder with a not-that-close 31-7 win, with CU's seven coming on an early INT return for a TD. (Of course, the Aggies beat Colorado last year, too, and look what the Buffs did to the Farmers last weekend.)
Obviously, last year's teams aren't playing, but this year's Horns are a darn good team with veteran leadership on both sides of the ball, great defensive coaching, seemingly improved offensive coaching, etc. -- not really the recipe for an upset in Austin. I guess the cause for doubt comes from the potential for a post-OU hangover (which apparently afflicted the Horns during Tuesday's practice) and the possibility that Jamaal Charles, who has quickly developed into an integral part of the Longhorn O, might not be able to go Saturday due to a "tweaked" ankle injury. The thought of Selvin Young as the featured tailback immediately leads to the nightmare of balls bouncing free on the grass, setting up Colorado with a short field or even a defensive score. Combine that with this Texas team's penchant for penalties, Colorado's great kicking game and UT's special teams woes and you're starting to look at a truly competitive ballgame.
Perhaps I'm just psyching myself out here in this new (this millennium), undefeated post-OU world. (How are Orangebloods supposed to react to being undefeated in mid-October? It's been so long...) But even the best of teams, in undefeated seasons, invariably have some struggles, so a landmine game could come at any time versus any team. And this could be the week.
Now that I've expressed my angst, let me say this: Texas will win. The Horns may even win handily. With Vince Young at signalcaller, offensive weapons abound (even without Jamaal Charles) and Gene Chizik calling the shots for a salty, speedy UT D, Texas will not lose this game barring multiple disastrous turnovers or special teams plays. I say the Horns newly emergent wideouts continue what they started last week and torch a suspect CU secondary, and Ramonce Taylor duplicates his relief effort from last year in Boulder while the Texas defensive front pressures Joel Klatt and the UT linebackers and the secondary hound the Buff pass catchers into a mediocre day. Not as bad as Bomar and Co. last weekend in Dallas, but enough to eventually give the Horns a comfortable second half margin. Texas 35, Colorado 16.