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Know your opponent: Previewing the Colorado offense

The Buffaloes have been through quite the season so far in 2018

Utah v Colorado Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

We know the status quo in the Cal fan universe is to talk about how bad we have it, but let’s take a quick second to appreciate what Colorado fans have gone through this season. In mid-October, the Colorado Buffaloes were 5–0, easily one of the biggest surprise teams in the country, and ranked 19th in the AP Top 25. Colorado receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. was arguably the best receiver in college football and the program was being mentioned continuously as a real threat to win the Pac-12 South.

Now in November, the Buffaloes still have yet to get their sixth win. They lost to one of the worst USC teams in years, fell to Washington close on the road, and then blew a 31-point halftime lead against Oregon State to send their season into a full tailspin. Head coach and 2016 Coach of the Year Mike MacIntyre has been fired—effective immediately—and the Bears will face former quarterback coach Kurt Roper in his first appearance as a(n interim) head coach. Darrin Chiaverini (the co-offensive coordinator for Colorado) will continue to call plays, which should be relatively good news for Cal fans and the Cal defense as they don’t have to completely throw out the existing tape from the 2018 season.

With all that Colorado football has gone through this season, Saturday’s match-up should and will concern Cal fans all week. The Buffaloes have plenty of talent on the offensive side of the football and will be desperately wanting to get their sixth win to join the Bears in the postseason.

How healthy is Laviska Shenault?

Arizona State v Colorado Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

The threat of the Colorado offense hinges on this question. Steven Montez, the Colorado quarterback, has been pedestrian without his top receiver on the field. The Colorado offense as a whole—a unit already prone to not creating a plethora of explosive plays—lacks explosiveness to a much greater degree when he is on the sidelines.

Shenault has been something of a 2018 revelation. He was a somewhat innocuous three-star recruit out of the state of Texas and didn’t eclipse the 200-yard mark his freshman season. Then, 2018 happened.


The guy has meant nearly everything to the Colorado offense—receiving the ball, rushing the ball, and adding the dynamic element that Cal’s offense has so badly lacked this year. He plays out of the slot, lines up outside, and even takes plays as the H-back. In the two games back from his injury, he went for 100 yards against Washington State and most recently was bottled up against Utah during a blizzard. It is hard to say just how healthy he has been since the toe injury happened, but if he were to be fully healthy for this game, it will be one hell of an assignment for the Cal secondary.

A big opportunity for the Cal defensive line

The last 12 or so weeks, we have highlighted an opponent to watch or a unit to pay close attention to for our opponents. This match-up feels as though the eye should be on our stellar defense—particularly the guys upfront. And we all know they certainly deserve to have a bit of praise sent their way. With the absence of the Big Game, the last Cal match-up we watched featured one of the best performances from a Cal defense in some time. What was the standout unit from that performance? The Cal defensive line. If Cal can replicate their success against USC on Saturday and get their linebackers into the Colorado backfield with a similar frequency, the Buffalo offense should be in trouble.

Colorado has all sorts of vulnerability upfront. The Buffaloes rank 95th in rushing yards per game and rank 108th in the country in sacks allowed. Colorado trails only Oregon State in the Pac-12 for the most sacks allowed in the conference and the main source of disruption for the Utah defense in last week’s match-up against the Buffs primarily came from their defensive line. If Luq Bequette can have the type of game he had against USC on Saturday, then the Colorado offense has shown an ability to get completely stopped.

It is worth noting that last week’s match-up was played in the middle of a snowstorm and the conditions should almost certainly be better in Berkeley on Saturday, but the point still stands. This is an offense that can be completely shut down with the right defense. The blueprint is out there and Utah has been a team that many Cal fans, writers, and analysts alike have pegged as strong comparison for the Bears defense. It all starts with the defensive line on Saturday and that match-up will play a big role in determining just how close the game is at Memorial Stadium.


How many points will Colorado score against California?

This poll is closed

  • 22%
    (46 votes)
  • 45%
    (92 votes)
  • 21%
    (43 votes)
  • 5%
    (11 votes)
  • 4%
    32 or more
    (9 votes)
201 votes total Vote Now