No. 9 Stanford at Colorado

When: Saturday, 11 a.m.

Where: Folsom Field

TV: Pac-12 Networks

Radio: 850 AM

During his sophomore season at Valor Christian High School, Christian McCaffrey took a visit to the University of Colorado.

The Valor star and son of former Denver Broncos standout Ed McCaffrey gave some brief consideration to becoming a Buffalo.

Christian McCaffrey chose a different path, of course, and on Saturday, the current Stanford standout will get his first chance to play at Folsom Field.

"I'm extremely excited for this game because I love Colorado," McCaffrey said during a press conference this week. "That's home for me and anytime you get to go back home, it's something special. It's definitely going to be a special week."

Colorado (4-5, 1-4 Pac-12) is hoping to make it not so special when McCaffrey and the No. 9 Cardinal (7-1, 6-0) visit Folsom Field.

"I think he's an excellent football player," CU special teams coordinator Toby Neinas said. "I love the fact that he's a Coloradoan, because I'm a proud Coloradoan, but I don't like the fact that he's not with us. I know he's going to be very excited to play here and we are going to have to match his intensity and his energy and play with a great intensity ourselves."

McCaffrey is in the midst of a special season in which he has put himself near the top of the list for Heisman Trophy candidates.


Advertisement

The 6-foot, 201-pounder leads the country with 244.25 all-purpose yards per game. That figure would rank sixth in NCAA history if it holds up. McCaffrey is also eighth nationally in rushing, with 1,060 yards.

This season, he set Stanford's single-game rushing record, with 243 yards against UCLA. He comes into this game having rushed for at least 100 yards in six straight contests.

Used a running back, receiver and wildcat quarterback on offense, McCaffrey also returns punts and kickoffs. He has averaged 29.4 yards per kick return, including a 96-yarder.

It's no wonder that CU was hoping the lure the hometown kid to Boulder.

"We definitely tried to recruit him," Buffs head coach Mike MacIntyre said, "but I think he was probably going Stanford all along."

McCaffrey's parents were both athletes at Stanford, so it was no surprise to see him head west. He did, however, enjoy attending a few games at Folsom Field as a youth.

"I went to a few Colorado games when I was little," he said. "One of my running backs coaches when I was in little league played for CU. He would take me and his son to a few of them, which was a lot of fun."

It's CU's job to make this a less enjoyable experience for McCaffrey, and that won't be easy.

MacIntyre has been impressed with McCaffrey's achievements to this point, and couldn't say enough good things about him earlier this week. MacIntyre said McCaffrey has great vision, runs tough and with power, and then used his exceptional speed to pull away from defenders.

CU defensive end Derek McCartney echoed his head coaches' praise.

"He's really got great vision and he's patient and then he'll just explode through the gap," McCartney said. "We have to make sure we're really on our game."

That's a challenge that has kept Neinas awake lately. The Buffs have had good kickoff coverage all year, and rank fourth in the Pac-12 in that regard. McCaffrey, however, is a dangerous weapon on returns.

"When you watch how people have handled him, they've tried to limit his touches and they've tried to limit his space, and so we will try to do both of those, as well, and that will be no surprise to him," Neinas said.

Last week, Washington State chose to squib kick throughout the game, and McCaffrey didn't get to return the ball. The Cardinal did get nice field position, though.

"The percentages are in our favor to get good field position," Stanford head coach David Shaw said.

With McCaffrey on the field, though, CU has to do all it can to minimize his impact.

"We're going to have to be very, very careful with the football and where we give him the football because he can turn the game on its ear right away," Neinas said.

Notable

After watching the ESPN 30 for 30 special on former CU coach Bill McCartney, current CU players decided to change their uniform combination for this week. The Buffs will honor their program's past by wearing the traditional combination of black jerseys and gold helmets.

Brian Howell: howellb@dailycamera.com, on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.