Bill Frisbie, Lead Writer – Texas' 70-3 destruction of Colorado will not be a factor Saturday when the programs meet for the first time since the 2005 Big 12 championship game, Longhorn coach Mack Brown insists. Nor will the presence of RB Darrell Scott in a Buffaloes jersey, Brown added, after many expected the Five-Star recruit to don the Burnt Orange this season. No, the biggest incentive for both teams can be found by turning back the calendar exactly one year. The first Saturday of October, 2007 saw Colorado rally from a double-digit deficit to upset Oklahoma on a last-second field goal. Hours later, the Horns dropped their Big 12 opener to a Kansas State team that manages to beat absolutely nobody but Texas. Third-year coach Dan Hawkins has infused CU with just enough talent that it can win at home against a team the caliber of Oklahoma (and Texas) should the visitors decide to knock-off early for the evening.
Meanwhile, Texas suffered from so many slow starts in 2007 that its fans are now heartened by the team's marked improvement in focus, passion and leadership despite its relative dearth of star power. For the most part, the Horns have maintained a high level of intensity for four quarters in easily dispatching a less-than-stellar non-conference slate. Colorado is the first team Texas has faced this season capable of giving the Horns a little adversity, and the Burnt Orange will face plenty of it the remainder of this month. The Horns can expect the type of early surge from the home team that it faced at UTEP but, except at RB, Texas boasts an across-the-board advantage in talent and depth. The Buffs suffer from a very porous run defense, but their Achilles' Heel is an inexperienced and knicked-up offensive line. In the end, DE Brian Orakpo and Texas' revamped pass rush will dictate the tempo and the final verdict. Texas 38, Colorado 20.
Mike Blackwell, Inside Texas Magazine Editor – I entered the week not overly excited about Saturday's game in Boulder against the Colorado Buffaloes. After all, Dan Hawkins' team fell pretty convincingly to a rather average Florida State team last week, and needed a late interception return for a touchdown to beat Eastern Washington early this year. Eastern Washington? The Buffaloes simply aren't very good, so the game didn't excite me.
But while doing extensive research prior to the game (I do at least three minutes of research prior to all games), I discovered this gem, from the "by the numbers" section of this week's Colorado football news release:
"67 – The number of points Texas led by in the third quarter when it blitzed CU QB Joel Klatt in the 2005 Big 12 title game with Drew Kelson's cheap shot ending Klatt's career prematurely."
I wasn't surprised that Colorado folks believed this to be true, but I was shocked that the University of Colorado would editorialize as such in an official document. Yes, Kelson was flagged for the play, but he was traveling full speed and hit Klatt instantly after the QB released the ball. And if you know Kelson, you know he was not inclined to hit someone with a cheap shot, which is a description of a hit that is deliberately malicious.
As for the blitzing, well, a linebacker's job is to hit the quarterback. If the quarterback drops to pass, there's a chance he's going to be hit. And frankly, the fact that Texas was ahead of the Buffaloes by 67 points IN THE THIRD QUARTER is not something the Buffaloes should be reminding the world about. Texas scored all 70 of its points in the first 36 minutes of the game – there was no running up the score; the Longhorns were merely peaking against a terrible team led by a soon-to-be-fired coach.
Also, I found it ironic that Colorado was crying foul about anything that happened on the field when the Buffaloes won a title thanks to an extra snap from center. Fifth down, anyone?
So yes, now I'm riled and I hope Texas can put the hammer down on the Buffaloes Saturday night. The ignorant statement pertaining to the 2005 title game was topped off by comments from Colorado assistant coach Darian Hagan, who claims the Longhorns were inappropriately joking around prior to the same title game. Then he made a comment about running up the score, blitzing, etc. Then he said the team wouldn't forget it easily, blah-blah-blah.
Here's the deal: Colorado needs to just quit talking. The Buffaloes are not good enough to talk about getting revenge for some slight in 2005. Florida State scored plenty of points against them, and Texas has a much better offense. The Longhorns will win this game for many seasons:
1. Colt McCoy will have plenty of time to throw and plenty of open receivers against a thin Colorado pass defense.
2. The Buffaloes are 9th in the Big 12 in rushing defense, giving Texas a chance to awaken its supposedly dormant running game.
3. Justin Tucker will knock every kickoff through the back of the end zone in the high altitude, ensuring that Colorado has terrible field position.
4. The Texas defense will relentlessly rush Colorado QB Dan Hawkins (even in the third quarter!), and he's the team's best offensive player.
Now, Colorado, please stop talking. I'm going to rest now… Texas 45, Colorado 17.
Michael Pearle, Co-Publisher – Texas' first four games have not been against stout opposition, but the Horns have been excellent so far this season, taking care of business in completely dominant fashion. They certainly will face their first real test of the year Saturday in Boulder. Colorado will come in battle-tested and unfazed by the Horns, having already squared off against Pat White and West Virginia as well as Florida State, and will be playing in front of a hostile home crowd at altitude who witnessed the Buffs take OU down on this field a year ago this week. It won't be easy for the Horns, by any stretch.
But are you starting to believe in Texas? We will know a lot more about this team after the game Saturday, sure, but so far I couldn't be more impressed. I had my doubts entering this season about whether Texas would be able to generate points consistently without a clear-cut rushing threat or a deep threat in the passing game. Defensively, I just had to wait and see whether Will Muschamp could really impose his personality on this unit to where it manifested in a bonecrushing, attacking, disciplined group on the field. But the offense behind a mature, poised Colt McCoy has been unstoppable, and the defense has been mauling people, currently leading the nation in sacks, a rare stat for Texas. While Arkansas clearly is not a great football team this season, they are a mid-level SEC program with good athletes on both sides of the ball, and Texas destroyed them. So I don't think it can be said that the 4-0 start means nothing; Texas is playing really good football.
Saturday, the Horns go into Boulder and play level with the Buffs for most of four quarters, but find a way to pull it out in the end, setting up a top 5 showdown with the Sooners in Dallas. The score won't be 70-3, but it will count as a "W" just the same. Texas 27, Colorado 21.
Ross Lucksinger, Inside Texas Editor -- 52-10...tempting to pick that as the score, right?
The Longhorns certainly love to win by that score, having put up those exact totals in three of their four games this season. And I know that this Texas team is more than capable of beating Colorado by that margin, but the circumstances are different.
This is a conference opponent, on the road. True, Texas is vastly more talented than Colorado, but tell that to USC.
The Trojans flew through their non-conference slate with ease, helping earn their conference the nickname of the "Pac-1", because clearly USC is the only team worth considering in the Pac-10. But you still have to go on the road in your conference, and that's where upsets happen.
Few think that Oregon State is a better football team than USC, overall, but the Beavers still managed to pull of the upset, an upset that Texas should be very wary of here in Boulder.
This is not to say that I believe Colorado will miraculously beat Texas this weekend. Instead, I'm just proffering that the victory will not come as easily as the first four have. One of the main reasons is Colorado's ability to run the ball. While the Buffs probably won't be able to do it effectively enough to win the game, it will shorten the contest, meaning there just may not be enough time for Texas to score the 52 points its fond of putting up.
The young Texas secondary has looked better as of late, but it will still suffer a couple breakdowns on deep routes. Expect at least one big passing TD from Cody Hawkins to WR Josh Smith, expect plenty of rushing yards from Rodney Stewart, but, despite all that, expect a comfortable win for the more talented Longhorns, who will overwhelm Colorado in the end. Texas 38, Colorado 17.
Clendon Ross, Co-Publisher – I really expected last week's game with Arkansas to be a relatively close one. Instead, the Horns ran away to another 52-10 win that wasn't even as close as that ridiculously lopsided score indicates. As Ross Lucksinger said in this week's Inside Texas Podcast, eventually, if Texas keeps playing good football and destroying opponents, that type of result is going to become the expectation rather than the pleasant surprise. Of course, this week's opponent Colorado is no Arkansas. But heck, I thought Arkansas was no Rice, and look where that prediction got me!
There are differences this week that make UT's standard 52-10 outcome far less likely. For one, the Horns are on the road. In the UTEP game, that made for about a two touchdown deviation from the norm. And as crazy as it sounds, the Miners and the Buffs are more similar statistically than any other team on the Texas schedule so far. But Colorado has a quality win (over a disappointing, offensively-challenged West Virginia) in its 3-1 start, something that neither UTEP nor any of the other teams on the Texas non-conference schedule can claim. So this should be the Horns' toughest test to date.
Having said that, there's nothing that Colorado does exceptionally well, while Texas does a whole bunch of things well. The Buffs' offense is pedestrian (No. 71 nationally in passing offense and No. 79 in rushing offense) and the Horns' defense is surging (No. 26 nationally in total defense with a bullet, and No. 6 in scoring defense). Big advantage Texas. Statistically, Colorado is weak against the run but relatively strong against the pass, which sets up a weakness on weakness battle in the running game and strength on strength battle in the passing game. Again, advantage Texas.
So barring a collapse in several areas, this appears to be a game that Texas wins comfortably, much like Florida State managed last week vs. the Buffs. Texas 38, Colorado 19.
Pat Culpepper: Texas 34, Colorado 31 -or- Colorado 34, Texas 31.
Average of IT Members Picks: Texas 39, Colorado 17