Washington's loss to ASU was super depressing, but that was the offense's fault. The defense actually played super well, aided though they were by the windstorm. In the Pac-12 (somehow UW is not that bad, but has an awful offense), even most of the bad teams have good offenses, and Colorado is a great example.
The routine these days has been for the UW defense to play fantastic in the first half, only to start to give way late in the game as the Husky offense fails to score the points or even sustain the drives necessary to give the D a little help.
No matter what happens with Cyler and the offense, the defense looks primed to do its part once again.
Sefo Liufau (So., 6-4, 230) went to Bellarmine Prep in Tacoma. He wrestled away the starting job after a few games last year as a true freshman. Despite the struggles of the team as a whole, Sefo has had himself a very nice 2014 so far.
First and foremost, he is throwing touchdowns. After accounting for 12 passing touchdowns (to 8 picks) in 8 games last year, he's already racked up 23 (to 11 picks) through 8 games this season. He has also increased his passing yards per game from 222 to 284.
The most obvious explanation for the improved counting stats? Colorado is throwing the football a ton. Liufau is averaging a whopping 46 attempts per game compared to 31 last season. The offense is firmly on his shoulders, so improved yardage and TD totals were expected.
By yards per attempt, Liufau was actually better last year (7.1ypa) than he has been so far in '14 (6.2ypa). His accuracy, however, has increased from 59% to 64%. The increased totals need to be taken with a grain of salt given the focus on volume passing, but I think it's pretty clear that Liufau has taken a sizable step forward.
I'm just going to get this off my chest: I do not know anything about Colorado's offensive line. I can pass on the info from the depth chart, but I have even less to say about these players individually than normal. I promise I appreciate the big uglies. I'm just guilty of watching very little Colorado football, certainly not enough to critique the O-lineman.
LT Jeromy Irwin (So., 6-5, 295), LG Kaiwi Crabb (Sr., 6-3, 295), C Alex Kelley (So., 6-2, 305), RG Daniel Munyer (So., 6-2, 295), and RT Stephane Nembot (Jr., 6-7, 295) should start. Surprisingly, this unit is first in the conference in sacks allowed, with only 12. That's only 1.5 sacks allowed per game.
Kikaha has recorded at least one sack in every contest this season, so there's no reason to think Irwin and the rest of the line can simply stonewall him, but harassing Colorado's QB shouldn't be as easy this year as it has been in years past.
Tony Jones, Michael Adkins III, and Christian Powell have each carried the ball between 61 and 67 times, for between 285 and 323 yards. No one has claimed a feature role, but everyone has been reasonably efficient.
Overall, Colorado is 8th in the conference in rushing yards per game (167), 7th in yards per carry (4.25), and 10th in rushing touchdowns (10). The Buffaloes run enough to keep team's honest, but the focus is certainly on the passing game.
Nelson Spruce (Jr., 6-1, 195) has taken over for the departed Paul Richardson as Sefo's go-to target. With several games to go, Spruce has already caught 77 passes for 864 yards and 11 TDs. Peters actually spent at least some time following Jaelen Strong around on either side of the field on Saturday (though he still managed 3 catches for 55 yards and a key score), so don't be surprised if he also spends some time shadowing Spruce.
Shay Fields (Fr., 5-11, 170) has already made an impact as a true freshman. He's 2nd on the team with 38 catches, 306 yards, and 3 TDs. His role is somewhat similar to that of Jaydon Mickens: lots of safe, short and intermediate routes to get him the ball in space.
Two seniors, D.D. Goodson (5-6, 197) and Tyler McCullough (6-5, 219) have chipped in a combined 54 catches for 604 yards and 3 scores.
Early in the year this matchup would have been very worrisome given Washington's young secondary. But more than halfway through the year, that secondary has grown up a bit. Sidney Jones and Naijel Hale have both been solid Pac-12 corners for the last few weeks, at least to my eyes. I'm not quite as confident in Kevin King and Budda Baker as cover safeties, but I'm not worried about Eastern-type go-route carnage.
I'm far more worried about this game than I anticipated, but none of that stress is focused on the defense. In conference play, the front seven has been fearsome, the secondary has been solid enough, and the bend-but-don't-break defense has generated a ton of turnovers and kept points allowed low by growing stingier in the red zone.
Colorado's O-line has done a commendably job protecting Sefo so far, but this defensive line will harass him. Against ASU, when Kikaha wasn't chasing Graham around, it was Andrew Hudson wreaking havoc from the other side.
The trick will be maintaining a high level of play over a full four quarters. Realistically, it may take the UW offense all game to manage even 20 points. Even if the defense dominates over the first three quarters, the game will probably be within a score or two down the stretch.
Fair or not, even a great defensive performance could be squandered in a single drive. A loss to Colorado at this point in the year would be disastrous and put even bowl-eligibility in question, so near-perfection may be necessary.