BeaversEdge.com caught up with Scott Hood of CUSportsNation.com on the Rivals.com network to get an in-depth look at the Oregon State Beavers' opponent this weekend.
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1. After starting the season 3-0, the Buffaloes have lost three straight games. What's the state of the program right now? How is the fan base reacting to the losing streak?
Scott Hood: "Colorado replaced a bunch of players from last season’s Pac-12 South winning team, including at quarterback and several key contributors on defense (3 of the 4 starters in the secondary were drafted by the end of the 3rd round). As a result, we’ve seen some growing pains from the Buffaloes. After an encouraging start, the defense has struggled in the past few games, especially in the second half as they’ve allowed 64 points in the third and fourth quarters in the past three games.
"Quarterback Steven Montez has been inconsistent. One good half is followed by a poor one. The run defense was non-existent in last Saturday’s loss to Arizona as the Wildcats backup QB Khalil Tate ran, well, wild. Obviously, some fans have voiced their frustrations on the message board. Close losses will do that. They have lost the last two games by a combined 7 points."
2. How surprised are you by Colorado's 3-3 record, and do you think they can reach a bowl game?
SH: "With Washington State, USC and Utah left on the schedule, Saturday’s game is absolutely a must-win for the Buffaloes. Their 0-3 Pac-12 record means repeating as divisional champions is virtually impossible. So, the focus right now is getting to a bowl game and the extra practice time that brings. Most reasonable CU fans would have predicted a 4-2 record at this point. Thus, the 3-3 record is a mild surprise, but certainly not shocking.
"Losses to Washington and UCLA were easier to swallow than last week’s home debacle against Arizona in which the defense was torched time and again. Before the season, most people would have predicted that game as a win. The key for Colorado is securing the sixth win before the final 2-game stretch against USC and Utah."
3. Statistically, the Colorado offense has underperformed in a big way. What do you attribute that to?
SH: "Well, the offense scored 42 points against Arizona last week, so I’m not sure they’ve underperformed 'in a big way.' Montez is learning what it takes to be a Power 5 starting quarterback in his first year as the full-time starter. He’s just a sophomore, so he’ll get better and more consistent as time goes on. The offensive line has been banged up (18 sacks allowed) and the Buffs have committed 8 turnovers in 6 games. Montez has thrown 6 interceptions, third most of any Pac-12 QB. So, he has to make better decisions on where to throw the ball.
"Early in the season, he was running out of the pocket too quickly, which affected the passing game. Right now, the best play call for the Colorado is hand the ball off to running back Phillip Lindsay, the Pac-12’s second leading rusher with 135.0 yards per game. Lindsay has been CU’s best offensive weapon all season long and will likely continue in that role until Montez matures into the QB they expect him to become."
4. If you're drawing up a game plan for Oregon State to upset Colorado, what would they need to do?
SH: "The ideal game plan for Oregon State on both sides of the ball involves running the football. Offensively, Arizona demonstrated last week that quick, elusive runners give the Buffs defense trouble. So, do you make Seth Collins the Wildcat QB and let him run the ball early and often? That would seem to be the best strategy. Defensively, Oregon State must find a way to stop Lindsay and force Montez to beat them through the air. If the Beavers can contain Lindsay and apply enough pressure on Montez to force him into some bad throws, OSU has a great shot to win the game."
5. What's your score prediction?
SH: "The Beavers will ride an early wave of emotion in the wake of Gary Andersen’s sudden departure. But will it last for an entire 60 minutes? And can they keep Lindsay in check for 60 minutes? The Beavers are allowing almost 200 yards per game on the ground, so I’m expecting Lindsay to get his yards. The Beavers offense will score some points, but the struggling Beavers defense will give up more. Colorado prevails in a battle of winless teams in the Pac-12, 31-17."