Opposing Offense Preview: Colorado Buffaloes

The players

The quarterback situation in Colorado has been a mess all season. Brendon Lewis was due to start again this year but was replaced about 45 minutes into the season by JT Shrout who himself was replaced by true freshman Owen McCown after only two starts. Lewis, meanwhile, has entered the transfer portal and McCown has injured against UCLA. Enter Shrout.

JT Shrout has a strong enough arm and is a good size at 6-3, 220 pounds. He was from Tennessee, and if you’re looking for a positive, quarterbacks with no arm talent usually does not end up in an SEC school. That said, there’s no sugar coating, he and the entire offense are having a miserable season. He completes 45% (!) of his passes for 5.9 yards per attempt, with 6 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. He can inject some speed into his passes and shows confidence in his receivers. But he’ll also make some appallingly bad shots that made him bench.

NCAA Football: Colorado in Southern California

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The best unit on offense has to be the running backs, where Colorado has some solid options. Deion Smith is first choice and has been absent injured for the past two weeks but is expected to play this weekend. The 6-0, 190-pound junior displays good balance and the ability to make quick cuts and is probably the fastest running back on the team. He has 75 rushes for 381 yards and 2 touchdowns. He also leads all running backs in catches with 10.

RB Alex Fontenot picked up his 20 carries for 108 yards and a touchdown last week at USC. Even if Smith is back, he will be prominent in the rotation. He is a good runner between challenges with vision and patience. True freshman Anthony Hankerson is second on the team with 54 carries and averaging a perfect 4.0 yards per carry. He’s 5-9, 190 pounds, but runs hard in the middle like a powerback.

Colorado got some bad news when they lost WR Jordyn Tyson to Oregon for the year. Even after missing the USC game, he’s still the statistical leader in every reception category. WR Daniel Arias is the next leading receiver with 19 catches for 309 yards and a touchdown. The 6-4 Arias has some speed and excels at running Go routes, using its size to make contested sideline catches. WR Montana Lemonius-Craig is also of good size at 6-2 and has 264 yards from his 20 receptions. Finally, TE Brady Russell is a reliable short-range option averaging 7.5 yards per catch. He’s a local product that’s been part of the program for ages, amassing 32 starts across the 42 games he’s appeared in.

The scheme

OC Mike Sanford replaced the fired HC Karl Dorrell and is now interim manager. Even without Karl Dorrell from the picture, the offensive played the same. From a play-calling standpoint, they’re pretty much 50/50 between the run and the pass. Though the only non-terrible part of this offense is the running backs, they weigh a lot on Shrout’s shoulders. It’s a very diverse approach that requires the signal caller to adjust to what the defense is showing at the line of scrimmage. According to QB Brendon Lewis during spring training: “Everyone kind of works with the same stuff but with different terminology, but it’s a small change. There’s more emphasis on the quarterback being able to screen plays against specific looks.”

Like last year’s Washington team, things are looking tough for Colorado. The running backs are solid, but the blocking just isn’t there consistently. Receivers need to make spectacular catches to keep the drives alive as Shrout’s accuracy is lacking at the moment. There is some talent, but the scheme isn’t one that typically works in college without a very gifted and intellectual quarterback.

NCAA Football: Colorado at UCLA

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The end

The Buffaloes are averaging 15.7 points and 299 yards per game, which is terrible no matter what you cut. Their EPA Passing Rank is 124th, meaning they are almost completely ineffective at throwing the ball. By far the best thing about this team is the running game, which ranks 81st in the EPA and should tell you everything you need to know. They somehow managed to put up 34 points against Arizona State (caution: special teams touchdown), but haven’t eclipsed 20 points in any other game this season. They are nearly a full touchdown worse than Washington’s 2021 offense, which should be considered a war crime.

That Husky defense had its ups and downs, but with that offensive ineptitude, Washington should be more than able to handle. They clinch an emotional win over Oregon – and could look forward to the Apple Cup – but on senior night at Husky Stadium against a team that just wants it all to be over? Expect Colorado to put on a performance against this defense no different from what they’ve put on all year.