Deion Sanders is a football phenomenon. He’s responsible for flipping a 1-11 Colorado team into the most talked-about squad in college football. In fact, this sums up his impact.
Want to hear an amazing Colorado-CSU TV stat?
At 2:15amET, the game still registered 8.230 million viewers - an audience that was more than 1 million viewers bigger than the peak audience of any other CFB game this week.
— John Ourand (@Ourand_SBJ) September 19, 2023
Kicking off the season with a 3-0 start, Sanders gets a new test as head coach, facing No. 10 ranked Oregon Ducks on the road without two-way star CB and WR Travis Hunter (out with injury) as a huge road underdog.
Even with Hunter out, this makes for an exciting game. Here are the matchups to watch.
Bo Nix against Colorado’s (lack of) pass rush
Oregon quarterback Bo Nix can put up Heisman numbers this weekend. The Buffaloes defense is devoid of talent up front, producing just five sacks through three games. Nix, at home, tends to be a different beast. In three years at Auburn, his home splits were eye-opening.
Home vs. Away
Touchdowns: 25 / 13
Interceptions: 4 / 12
Sacks: 26 / 25
Once Nix left Auburn for Oregon, the discrepancy continued. Here are his splits after his first year as a Duck.
Home vs. Away
Touchdowns: 17 / 10
Interceptions: 1 / 5
Sacks: 3 / 1
One of those home games was a 45-30 win against UCLA. Nix threw for 283 passing yards with five passing touchdowns with no sacks.
The lack of pressure from Colorado presents Nix with an opportunity to duplicate that line. Last year, when kept clean, Nix completed 76.9% of his passes. He wasn't mistake-free with seven interceptions, but it’s because Nix goes for the long ball. A quarter of his attempts were in the medium to deep range. He’s on par with that this year.
Subplot to watch: In three games, the Colorado defense has given up yards and points, but it has also forced at least one interception in all three, with six total.
Shedeur Sanders against Oregon’s secondary
Colorado's Sean Lewis runs a fast-paced offense that's fifth in plays per game. Washington was 20th last year. I bring up that matchup because Colorado is a one-dimensional passing offense; it's second in passing yards, 127th in rushing — similar to Washington last year. The Huskies won that game against Oregon, 37-34, while throwing for 408 yards and 11.7 yards per pass. Their defense allowed 592 yards of offense.
Oregon's defense is stronger this year but hasn't yet been tested by a passing offense as potent as Sanders and Co. In 134 passing attempts, Sanders has thrown 10+ yards in 50 of them, with an average of 13.55 yards and six of his 10 total passing touchdowns. They're a legitimate threat to the Ducks defense through the air.
Not only is Sanders a good pocket passer when kept clean, but he’s also solid when under pressure with just one interception.
The big storyline is the absence of Travis Hunter. I’m not concerned as long as the Buffaloes have wide receivers Jimmy Horn Jr. and Xavier Weaver. Among 27 receivers with at least 20 receptions, Weaver and Horn are tied for first and second in fewest contested targets. An accurate pocket passer with two receivers able to consistently win routes against a secondary that isn't tested and maybe a bit vulnerable? That’s a recipe for Coach Prime to deliver another prime-time show.
Betting tip: Colorado +21 at Oregon