GAME NOTES: Coming off a disappointing blowout loss, the Arizona Wildcats will host a team that is all too familiar with losing by large margins, when the Colorado Buffaloes enter Arizona Stadium for a Pac-12 matchup.
There really hasn't been a point in the season that could be called rock bottom for the Buffaloes, since the entire season has been pretty much an exercise in futility. Colorado was locked down on offense and lit up on defense last weekend in a 48-0 loss at home to Stanford. Colorado has now been outscored by at least 34 points in five straight games and six overall this season. The 48-point margin of defeat against Stanford wasn't even the worst one the Buffaloes have suffered with a 70-14 loss to Oregon and a 69-14 defeat to Fresno State providing even wider discrepancies on the scoreboard. With just one win in nine tries the end of the season can't come fast enough in Boulder.
Losing 66-10 to UCLA last weekend was an easy way for Arizona to fall out of the national rankings once again. After managing to push their way into top-25 after a 3-0 start, the Wildcats reclaimed a spot (No. 24) after upsetting USC. A return to its home stadium should help remedy matters with the Wildcats 5-1 on their home turf this season. Like Colorado, Arizona has shown some susceptibility to allowing large point totals, with the team giving up at least 36 points in six games this season. Arizona is 2-4 in those games which matches its conference record.
If history has any say in this game than Colorado has a huge advantage. The Buffaloes have won 13 of the previous 14 meetings between these programs. That includes a 48-29 win in Boulder last season during Colorado's inaugural campaign in the Pac-12.
There is really no limit to how much Colorado has struggled on both sides of the ball this season. The Buffaloes are dead last in just about every offensive category, including total yards (292.3 ypg) and scoring (16.1 ppg). Those numbers would be atrocious in just about every league but are especially detrimental in a conference like the Pac-12 that features so many high-powered offenses.
Head coach Jon Embree has indicated that there could be some changes in quarterback in the coming weeks. In the loss to Stanford, three different signal callers played significant minutes. Jordan Webb, who has been the starter for most of the season, completed just 4-of-10 passes for only 19 yards and an interception. Connor Wood (4-for-7, 66 yards) and Nick Hirschman (4-for-6, 12 yards) fared just slightly better, with each having little time to throw thanks to the seven sacks allowed. It remains to be seen which will get the nod this weekend but a repeat of last week's playing time could be in the works.
Colorado also got an up close and personal look at the suffocating run defense of the Stanford defense. Although the seven sacks allowed contributed much of the negative yardage, the Buffaloes finished with minus-21 yards on the ground. That was the second-lowest rushing total by a Colorado team in school history. Christian Powell (17 yards) was the lead rusher as he has been all season. Powell (488 yards, 5 TDs) is a lone bright spot for the future as he currently ranks sixth on the single-season rushing mark for a freshman.
Having three different quarterbacks attempt to build chemistry with the Colorado receivers has meant that no pass catcher as really stepped to the forefront. Nelson Spruce (29 receptions, 306 yards) leads the team in receptions and has the only 100-yard game of the season, but Nick Kasa (17 receptions, 306 yards, 3 TDs) has been more of a big play threat. Kasa leads the team in receiving touchdowns and his seven receptions of 20 yards or more are more than any other player.
The Colorado defense has been just about as big a letdown as the offense this season. Rarely are the Buffaloes even competitive in games with teams scoring a Pac-12 high 46.2 points per game against the unit. That number is not just the worst in the conference but the worst at the FBS level. Colorado is also being lit up for nearly 500 yards of total offense per game (497.3 ypg).
With opposing offenses constantly on the field there have plenty of opportunities to rack up large tackle totals which Terrel Smith (66) and Derrick Webb (64) have been the most productive at. Chidera Uzo-Diribe (6.0 sacks) has been a solid pass rusher on a team that has otherwise failed to get consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
Offense has been everything for Arizona this season and Matt Scott has been everything to that offense. That's why the news that Scott could miss Saturday's game is so devastating for the Wildcats. Scott, who is listed as questionable after suffering a concussion last week, has been phenomenal this season, throwing for 2,848 yards and 20 touchdowns on 62.7 percent passing. Scott's contributions don't stop there as he has also rushed for 369 yards and four scores. The concussion certainly slowed him last week as he completed 15- of-25 passes for a season-low 124 yards. It was the first time this season he has thrown for less than 200 yards. B.J. Denker is the likely replacement as the only other player on the roster to have taken snaps at quarterback this season.
If Scott can't go the offensive focus will shift to dynamic running back Ka'Deem Carey. That is not an entirely bad thing as Carey has had no problem picking up yards and touchdowns on the ground. Overall Carey has rushed for 1,015 yards and 13 scores on 199 carries, making him the third-most productive back in the conference. Carey did struggle against UCLA with a season-low 54 yards, which snapped a four-game streak of at least 115 yards rushing.
No matter who ends up under center the Wildcats are fortunate to have some fantastic options at receiver. Austin Hills (59 receptions, 994 yards, 7 TDs) has been an explosive pass-catching threat and one of only three players in the conference averaging more than 100 yards per game. Dan Buckner (54 receptions, 678 yards, 3 TDs) has been less prolific but is still a dangerous threat. Carey has shown his versatility by being the third most productive receiver with 28 receptions for 247 yards.
While light years ahead of Colorado in offense, Arizona really can't boast of any real advantage on defense. In fact the Wildcats are an even worse team in terms of total yardage allowed. Thus far the Wildcats are allowing an even 498 yards of offense per game which is in part a symptom of the lightning fast tempo at which the offense plays. Still failing to subdue opposing offenses even slightly is not a recipe for success.
Jake Fischer has been excellent in bringing opposing players down, ranking second in the conference with 80 tackles, including 5.5 for loss. Marquis Flowers (68 tackles. 9.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks) and Tra'Mayne Bondurant (57 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss) have also been extremely effective in getting stops especially for negative yardage.
Having a big question mark under center will not make things easy for Arizona this week. However there is just as much, if not more uncertainty in the same area for Colorado. Regardless of whether Scott starts or not, the Wildcats should prevail in this matchup.