It’s Senior Night for Colorado and a late kick off in Boulder, so the Huskies should be walking into a fairly electric atmosphere. However, things haven’t quite ignited in year one of Mel Tucker. The offense has struggled to become a smash mouth running team like Tucker wants, but can make some plays in the passing game with their trio of stud wide receivers and the mercurial quarterback Steven Montez. The defense meanwhile was riding a 14 game streak of allowing 30 points or more until holding Stanford to 13 two weeks ago. They’ve lost five of their past six games while looking more or less inept on offense, outside of two quarters against USC. Colorado has been much better at home than on the road.
The Buffs will come out juiced and ready to win for their seniors, who have never beaten UW. But I suspect a bit too much hero ball from Steven Montez will hurt them, even if receivers like Laviska Shenault and Tony Brown make a few plays. Joe Tryon could feast on the edge in this game if Montez isn’t smart in the pocket. Colorado will try to establish the run as the key to their upset hopes, and we’ll see just how settled the inside linebacker situation really is with Edefuan Ulofoshio.
On offense, who knows what to expect from the Huskies. After pretty good games against the two best defenses in the conference, they looked completely lost against Oregon State. Going for them in this game, is that Colorado doesn’t have a ton of speed on defense, so Salvon Ahmed should be able to keep the offense moving if he’s given enough opportunities. What they do well is disguising pressures and mixing things up up front, so the Husky OL will need to settle in early. The secondary has been thrown on this year by every QB in the Pac-12 - even Dorian Thompson-Robison had himself a day through the air against Colorado. It’s really hard to predict with any certainty that the offense will have an efficient game, but against this defense they should be able to stay on the field long enough.
Washington- 27, Colorado- 13
For the first time all year, six Pac teams play the other six Pac teams. The Huskies have the dubious honor of being the nightcap for that full schedule in Boulder. While Colorado showed signs of life early in the year, their season went by the wayside with a faltering offense over five straight losses. Interestingly, it’s Colorado’s defense that stands out statistically, and not in a good way. At 8.7 yards per attempt and 25 TDs allowed, the Buffs’ pass defense betters only UCLA’s in the Pac. Likewise, their 4.8 yards per rush is better than only WSU. Their 24.7 points per game are only third worst in the conference, but they have only exceeded 16 points in one of their last five games.
Individually, Colorado has talent on the offensive side of the ball. Steven Montez is a boom-or-bust QB who can single-handedly win or keep them in games (like ASU and USC) or take them out with multiple interceptions (like Oregon and WSU). Alex Fontenot is a solid lead runner but the team’s overall running attack has been very average. Troy Brown and Laviska Shenault Jr. are a tough receiving combo. Altogether, the UW secondary and emerging pass rush should give Montez enough trouble to force him into mistakes and keep the Colorado offense from breaking out of its funk.
On the other side of the ball, the Husky offense will have to remain disciplined to take advantage of Colorado’s weaknesses. The statistical markers are all positive. UW doubled-down on the rushing attack late against Oregon State and Salvon Ahmed should be vital in this one, as well. Jacob Eason should be able to work in play action or with a relatively clean pocket (Colorado has the second-fewest sacks in the conference). The offense does not have to explode to win this game, so the play-calling can focus on doing the things they do well.
Washington- 31, Colorado- 14
The two things that stand out to me in Washington’s favor here are Steven Montez’ propensity for high risk, high reward play, and their pass rush’s lack of consistent success. For Washington’s offense, this really feels like a game where the line should be able to impose their will upon their CU counterparts -- in the run, Colorado’s had difficulty keeping linemen from getting well into the second level, and in the pass, Colorado rarely gets pressure. Furthermore, their pass defense elsewhere feels like a less clogged-passing lanes version of BYU, and we know Eason is good there. On offense, I feel like this is a game where Washington can kinda dictate how they want to play.
For Washington’s defense, Colorado has enough weapons where they can make things happen, but despite being a redshirt senior who’s started for forever there, I don’t trust Steven Montez to play a clean game when things get tight. That obviously bodes well for UW; the longer the game goes, the more Montez seems to press in tight games or games where the Buffs are behind. I can definitely see CU scoring a handful, but I also feel like there’ll be some compounding negative effects for Colorado’s offense as the game goes on. Montez doesn’t take havoc well, and the Dawgs finally seem to be in a place where they’re doing just that.
Washington- 35, Colorado- 13
Colorado finally got off the snide last week when they kicked a game-winning field goal as time expired for a narrow 16-13 win over Stanford. Before that they had lost their previous five games in a row and given up 31+ points in all of them. Unsurprisingly that’s led Colorado to rank 11th in yards per game on defense and 10th in points per game. They’ve been particularly bad against the pass, allowing 300+ yards per game, which means this is a good chance for Washington’s passing game to get back on track.
Now that he’s a senior we can look back at Steven Montez’s career and declare it officially disappointing. His yards per attempt has fallen from 7.9 as a sophomore to 7.1 last year and finally 6.9 this season. With 2 games to go Montez has already throw a career high 10 interceptions and has had his least efficient season as a scrambler. After getting torched by Utah and Tyler Huntley and then shutting down Jake Luton and OSU it will be interesting to see how Washington’s pass defense responds in Boulder.
The advanced numbers say that this game shouldn’t be remotely close which is why the Huskies are favored by 2 touchdowns on the road despite some lackluster results in that regard in recent years. Colorado ranks just 85th in SP+ including the 114th ranked defense. Meanwhile, Washington is 12th (!) with a top-25 unit in all 3 phases of the game.
There are reasons why you could think each team doesn’t play up to their talent level. The Huskies will be kicking off at 8p local time and temperatures will come close to freezing. Playing in that game with the chance to get up to .500 in conference play and continue a path towards an 8-4 regular season record isn’t exactly the greatest motivator. But with their 2nd bye week in less than a month you would hope that this will be the healthiest Washington has been since the opening of the season. Coach Pete isn’t exactly forthcoming with injuries that may have popped up during a bye week but pending a new and currently unknown injury I’d expect every contributor except Puka Nacua and MJ Tafisi to be available.
I’m not going to dismiss the possibility of the Huskies laying an egg on the road against an unranked opponent but it’s pretty hard to find a logical reason to pick Colorado here.
Washington- 30, Colorado- 16
Straight Up: Washington- 4, Colorado- 0
Against The Spread (UW -14.5): Washington- 2, Colorado- 2
Average Score: Washington- 30.8, Colorado- 14