As kickoff fast approaches, we have a lot to get to. First on the docket this morning is an interview with Jack Barsch of Ralphie Report, the Colorado SB Nation site. Special thanks to him for taking the time to give us some perspective on the game from the opposing side.
Here’s our conversation:
1) This was a great season from Colorado. Would you say this is something you expected or has this season been a pleasant surprise?
No one expected this season from Colorado. There are some who expected 4 wins, some who expected to scrape to a bowl game, and some who thought CU would surprise a few teams. But no one really thought that Colorado would reach double-digit regular season wins, win the division championship, and end up in the top 10 at the end of the year. It has been a complete revelation for CU fans and a wonderful story. Truly a historic season.
2) Colorado does a lot of things well. What are their strengths as a team? Weaknesses?
The strength of this team is the defense, specifically the back four or five players. It is hard to move the ball on Colorado, though with no Jim Leavitt, we will see if that sentiment holds. The weakness is likely special teams, something that OSU should lick their chops at, given their good special teams statistics. Special teams have been solid for the past few weeks, other than the Utah game, but the offense has had its trouble spots.
3) What has been the pulse of the fan base leading up to this game? It's been a while since CU has been in a position like this.
Well, I don’t want to speak for the whole fan base, but I’m sure they are enjoying every last minute of this. I know I am. I usually fret over the games more than I have over this bowl game. I think it’s because I don’t quite know how to act towards a bowl. It’s been a decade, as you know. The fanbase is already happy with this season, so a loss isn’t catastrophic, but a win would be nice. I would venture to say that they are excited, but not too nervous. Not because of the opponent, but because of the context.
4) CU has a great secondary, but teams have been able to move the ball on them at times. How do you score on CU? What are the weaknesses of their defense?
Hmmm… It has been very hard for opposing teams to score on CU for the last few weeks. The defense really stepped up their play. Utah used good field position and returns to score on CU, which is certainly a possibility for the Cowboys. For offensive strategy, I would say that owning the line of scrimmage leads to some pretty easy drives. Now, you could probably say that about every team in the country, but CU’s three losses (@Michigan, @USC, and Washington) all happened in part because of utter domination at the point of attack. If OSU wants consistent success against CU, knock them off the line of scrimmage and run the ball. When the secondary sells out to stop the run, hit them over the top.
5) Who are some players to look for on offense and defense for CU?
Offensively, Sefo Liufau runs the show. He will have a lot of carries, he will throw the ball, he will change the play at the line of scrimmage, and he will out-tough just about anybody. Well, other than his backfield mate, Phillip Lindsay. I urge everyone to watch #23 on the field, not because he plays for CU, but because he plays so differently than other RB’s. At 5’8, he plays like the biggest guy on the field, and it is an absolute joy to watch. Shay Fields is a speedy deep threat on the outside who runs great routes. Defensively, this list gets a lot more complicated. There’s a lot of people to watch on D. The two biggest stars are probably Chidobe Awuzie and Tedric Thompson. Awuzie is a terror at the boundary corner, and a surefire NFL player. He’s physical, smart, and aggressive. He makes plays. Across from him is Ahkello Witherspoon, who leads the nation in pass breakups with 13. He’s long, lanky, and sticky to his man. Tedric Thompson played like the best safety in the country in the last month of this season. He was an absolute madman in centerfield, laying the boom and picking off passes. Thompson will be all over the field.
Before I actually answer this, I will cop out. I am very excited for this matchup. These are two fun teams to watch, and this should be a great game. I feel both teams deserved better bowls than they received (damn you, Chippewas). But to the score. I think CU eeks out a slower than expected game, 17-14. The Buffs are motivated for the first bowl game in a decade and the first bowl game for these players. They will play their hearts out as they have all year.
7) BONUS: Was the move to the PAC-12 worth it?
OH GOD YES. Boulder and the Buffs fit in much better with the coastal brethren, and the cultural fit is much more comfortable. It’s a shame that the only real rivalry for CU had to die in re-alignment, but those can be built up with other teams. No offense, but I have been watching the Big 12 offseason drama this season with a snicker. Though, as I said in my Q&A, I would love to welcome OSU to the Pac in 10 years when everything blows up again. Give me OU, TT, OSU, and KU. That’s a fun conference.