To strengthen its bid for a Pac-12 championship, Colorado on Thursday night must beat UCLA for the first time since 2003. Here are Denver Post college football reporter Nick Kosmider’s five keys to victory for the Buffaloes:
Plug the run early. UCLA enters Thursday’s game ranked last in the country in rushing at 85.5 yards per game. Stuffing an early attempt at a ground game would force the Bruins to rely heavily on the arm of backup quarterback Mike Fafaul, who is replacing starter Josh Rosen. That matchup that would favor CU’s talented and experienced secondary.
Start me up. The Buffs have outscored opponents 35-0 on opening drives to begin the first half. The edge on the first drives of the second half for CU: 24-7. In front of what should be a rowdy crowd at Folsom Field, following that trend should make things tough on the Bruins.
Finish in the red zone. This was a problem for the Buffs in their narrow win at Stanford on Oct. 22, forcing them to settle for four short- to mid-range field goals — three of which were missed. Finishing drives will be key as CU starts wading into late-season games with plenty on the line. This is the only place CU’s vaunted pass game has run into some trouble. The Buffs have the tools to turn things around near the goal line, and they’ll need to in order to keep championship dreams alive.
Survive special teams. cheap nfl jerseys There’s no way around it: CU will be disadvantaged on special teams the rest of the way, particularly in the kicking game. With freshman Davis Price battling mononucleosis and uncertain for Thursday’s game, kicking could come down to struggling Chris Graham and punter-turned-placekicker Alex Kinney. If the Buffs are left counting on good outcomes there to win, it could be a difficult night.
Follow turnover blueprint. The Buffs are second in the Pac-12 with a plus-10 turnover margin. CU has a takeaway in an FBS-leading 21 consecutive games. Starting quarterback Sefo Liufau hasn’t thrown an interception this season. That’s a winning formula.