Josh Tupou has never had a chance to face Stanford, but the Colorado senior nose tackle is well aware that he and the rest of the defensive linemen face a significant challenge on Saturday.
“Any Stanford offensive line is going to be big, smart and physical, so it’ll be fun,” Tupou said.
Tupou and the Buffs are hoping it is more fun than previous meetings against the Cardinal, when the CU defensive line was manhandled in the trenches.
Since CU joined the Pac-12, Stanford has averaged 214.0 rushing yards in three meetings. For the first time, however, the Buffs believe their defensive line can match up with the Cardinal.
“I feel like we are (better equipped) this year,” Tupou said. “Stanford is a really, really physical team. They’ve established that over a number of years. We just practice every day to try to be physical and hopefully it comes out on Saturday.”
Stanford has not been as strong up front this season, but the Buffs are also better in the trenches than they’ve been in years. With Tupou and tackles Jordan Carrell and Samson Kafovalu holding their own up front, the Buffs rank fifth in the Pac-12 in rushing defense. They’ve never finished a Pac-12 season higher than 10th against the run.
“We take a lot of pride in it,” Tupou said of the line playing well this season. “Especially in a 3-4 defense, you have to be physical up front. The way our defense is, the linebackers are going to flow and they’re going to make a lot of the tackles, but in order for them to make those plays, we have to be stout up front and physical, as well.”
Lindsay vs. McCaffrey
Stanford junior Christian McCaffrey is one of the brightest stars in college football. The standout running back/returner was runner-up for the Heisman Trophy a year ago and one of the most electric players in the game.
CU junior running back Phillip Lindsay said he’s gained a lot of respect for McCaffrey, especially since both grew up in the Denver area.
“I’m happy he’s representing for Colorado,” Lindsay said. “Christian and I, we know about each other because of football. And we heard about each other for a long time. He had a great year last year and it’s hard to do what that man did, especially to stay as healthy as he did. So I really respect him for that.”
While McCaffrey is the biggest name in this game, but Lindsay is arguably playing just as well, if not better.
Lindsay has rushed for 614 yards and nine touchdowns, while catching 21 passes for 216 yards and a touchdown. McCaffrey has played two fewer games, but comes in with 520 yards and three touchdowns on the ground and 18 catches for 154 yards and a touchdown receiving. He’s also got 251 yards on kick returns (and 16 as a punt returner).
• Despite having McCaffrey, Stanford comes into this game ranking 96th in the country in rushing, 112th in punt returns and 121st in kickoff returns.
·• From 2009-15, no teams defeated Oregon and Stanford in the same season. Already this year, Washington and Washington State have done it. CU has a chance to join them, although the Buffs would be the first to beat both on the road.
• CU is looking to snap a 10-game losing streak in the state of California.
• Buffs quarterback Sefo Liufau hasn’t played enough games to qualify for the national statistical leaderboards, but if he did, his completion percentage of 71.8 would rank second. Washington’s Jake Browning leads the country, at 72.2 percent.
• Liufau has thrown 123 consecutive passes without an interception, the third-longest streak in CU history. Joel Klatt holds the record, at 139 in a row during the 2005 season.
• In their last three meetings with the Cardinal, the Buffs have combined to rush for 122 yards on 78 carries. That would help explain why Stanford has won those games by a combined score of 138-17.