In four Pac-12 games, all losses, Colorado has allowed 59, 36, 56, and 40 points. Three of those defeats came by one touchdown or less, thanks to Colorado's fairly potent scoring attack, but only in the 36-31 loss to Oregon State did the defense play competently enough to expect a close game. Aside from a 21-12 win over woeful Hawaii, the Colorado defense has allowed at least 31 points in every game.
What could possibly save the Buffaloes from being completely run over? Washington's offense. It's no longer a bold proclamation to point out that UW's offense is the worst in the conference. In conference play, the Huskies are last in scoring (18ppg). Yards per play? Dead last at 4.16. Total offensive yardage? Last, at 292.5.
In a conference where even the bad teams (cough, Colorado, cough) can score points, the Huskies cannot. There are injuries and performance questions at QB, RB, and the OL.
Cyler will be starting for the first time since he struggled and then sustained a concussion in Eugene two weeks ago. Dwayne Washington appears to be out, while Lavon Coleman didn't play against ASU despite apparently being healthy enough to go. RT Ben Riva appears unlikely to return this season, while Siosifa Tufunga may be making a second straight start at LG with Dexter Charles hurt.
And even when the majority of these guys were healthy, the offense struggled. In this matchup of the 11th ranked scoring defense in the Pac-12 versus the 12th ranked scoring offense, something will have to give. They can't both suck in the same game, can they? We'll find out!
DE Derek McCartney (RSFr., 6-3, 240) leads the team in sacks with 4. The second best total is 2.5, and nobody else on the DL has managed more than 2.The other starter at DE is Jimmie Gilbert (So., 6-4, 230). He's recorded a sack and 3.5 TFLs.
Josh Tupou (Jr., 6-3, 325) possess true NT size, a rare commodity in the Pac-12. He has started since midway through his freshman year, and expectations were high this season. From what I've read, many feel he has underperformed this this year.
Juda Parker (Sr., 6-2, 270) moved inside from DE before the season, and has managed to hold on to a starting spot. He has chipped in 1.5 sacks and 16 tackles.
McCartney has flashed his potential, but has only managed one of his four sacks in conference play. Tupou could potentially stuff the inside run game, and will likely demand some double teams, but his presence has not prevented Colorado from playing the worst run defense in the conference by far.
Seriously: Colorado is god awful against the run. Like, 207ypg and 6.22ypc in conference play. Obviously that's not exclusively on the defensive line, but run defense starts at the line of scrimmage, and this unit has made a habit of losing that battle (but so has Washington's offensive line).
Washington has struggled to run efficiently, especially since the beginning of conference play. I still expect a combination of Cooper, Coleman, and Shaq to grind out some long drives on the ground, though the per carry averages may remain mediocre.
MIKE Addison Gillam (So., 6-3, 225) is third on the team in tackles (47), first in tackles for loss (6), and second in sacks (2.5). He went absolutely nuts as a true freshman last year, racking up over a hundred total tackles, 9.5 TFLs, and an interception en route to Honorable Mention All-Pac-12 honors. He's arguably the best player on this defense.
WILL Kenneth Olugbode (So., 6-0, 210) has to be in the running for smallest starting linebacker in the conference, but he's just behind Gillam with 43 total tackles. SAM Woodson Greer (Sr., 6-3, 220) is listed as a starter, but he has had a limited impact.
At corner, Greg Henderson (Sr., 5-11, 185) and Ken Crawley (Jr., 6-1, 180) are both veterans with a lot of starting experience from before this season.
Tedric Thompson (So., 6-0, 200) would normally start at strong safety, but he suffered a concussion against UCLA and is likely to miss this game. He is 2nd on the team in tackles with 56 and has accounted for all 3 of Colorado's interceptions, so it's a significant loss for the Buffaloes. FS Chidobe Awuzie (So., 6-0, 190) is 1st on the team in tackles (57).
Colorado's pass defense has been sort of a bright spot, depending on how you look at it. In terms of completion percentage, Colorado is an impressive 4th in the conference (57.2%), and they're 5th in yards per game (250). However, opposing quarterbacks have thrown 23 TDs to only 3 INTs (and the guy that has all of them is injured).
Cal's Jared Goff and USC's Cody Kessler shredded this secondary for 7 TDs each and 1 INT combined, but Brett Hundley was held to 200 yards on 39 attempts (5.1ypa) just last week.
I wouldn't bet on Cyler throwing for 7 scores, but hopefully he can reproduce the game against Cal, in which he completed 22 of 29 passes for 273 yards and 3 TDs without any turnovers. Perhaps that's too much to ask in his first game back from a concussion, but it's the type of passing line this defense has routinely allowed.
Some called last week's game a must-win for Washington, but they lost, and here we are. If that game was the make-or-break moment for Washington's chances to have a successful season compared to preseason expectations, this is the game that will determine if the offense is actually complete garbage.
If they once again struggle to sustain drives and score enough points to support the talented Husky defense against an opponent of this quality, it will truly be a sad day.
I don't mean to be a bummer, but there isn't much else to say at this point in the season against a weak opponent like Colorado. Either they'll win and we move on from there, or they lose to the weakest opponent remaining on the schedule and we will know that this year is truly screwed.