Buffaloes at a glance
Record: 8-2, 6-1 Pac-12
Passing — Sefo Liufau, Sr.: 129-of-192, 1,535 yards, 10 TD, 3 INT
Rushing — Phillip Lindsay, Jr.: 168 carries, 934 yards, 13 TD
Receiving — Devin Ross, Jr.: 48 catches, 543 yards, 5 TD
Tackles — Kenneth Olugbode, Sr.: 108 tackles (75 solo), 6 TFL
3 questions facing CU
1. Can the Buffs shine in the spotlight?
This is the biggest game CU has played in 11 years. A Pac-12 title is in sight, and the nation has taken notice of the Buffs. We’ve seen Colorado play well most of the year, but now the pressure is more intense and the spotlight is much brighter. How the Buffs handle that will be a real key to their success.
2. How much heat will the Buffs put on Cougars QB Luke Falk?
Like most quarterbacks, Falk’s effectiveness is reduced when he’s under pressure from the defense. It doesn’t happen often, though. WSU has given up 23 sacks, but that’s just one every 22.2 pass attempts. CU’s defense has racked up 29 sacks, generating one for every 11.1 pass attempts by the opponent. When the two teams played a year ago in Pullman, the Buffs didn’t blitz much and they only got to Falk once, but that one sack knocked him out of the game.
3. Will the offense be able to keep up with the Cougars?
Washington State is known for scoring a lot of points — they rank second in the Pac-12 at 44.3 point per game — and the Buffs go into this game knowing the Cougars are likely to put a decent amount of points on the board. That means the CU offense has to have a good day. Does it take 30 points to win? 40 points? Whatever it takes, the Buffs have to be up to the task offensively.
Bottom line: CU goes into the final two weeks of the regular season with control of its own path to the Pac-12 title. Lose this game, and CU would need outside help to reach its goal of the Pac-12 championship. Having worked so hard to gain control, the Buffs can’t afford to give it up now.
Cougars at a glance
Record: 8-2, 7-0 Pac-12
Passing — Luke Falk, Jr.: 354-of-479, 3,610 yards, 33 TD, 6 INT
Rushing — James Williams, Fr.: 82 carries, 515 yards, 6 TD
Receiving — Gabe Marks, Sr.: 68 catches, 709 yards, 12 TD
Tackles — Peyton Pelluer, Jr.: 64 tackles (39 solo), 6.5 TFL
3 questions facing Washington State
1. Can Luke Falk and the Air Raid offense slice up the Buffaloes’ defense?
The Cougars have one of the most explosive offenses in the country, and Falk is the most accurate thrower in Division I football. CU will present the Cougars with their toughest challenge, however, as the Buffs rank fourth nationally in pass efficiency defense. Wazzu had a tough time getting the pass game going against UCLA sixth-ranked pass defense. Figuring out the Buffs secondary will be huge for the Cougars.
2. Will the defense generate a pass rush?
Washington State ranks 10th in the Pac-12 with 17 sacks on defense. The Cougars will need to figure out to put pressure on the quarterback, because that’s the key to slowing down the CU offense. When CU quarterback Sefo Liufau has time to get in rhythm, the Buffs are lethal. The Cougars will look to end Hercules Mata’afa and others to make Liufau uncomfortable.
3. How will this team handle the moment?
Like CU, this is new territory for the Cougars. They haven’t been in a conference title race this late in the season in years. With a near sell-out crowd expected at Folsom Field, the Cougars will be in a hostile environment in a huge game. Their ability to stay focused mentality will be crucial as they aim to pull off the mild upset.
Bottom line: While the Cougars come into the game as the leader in the Pac-12 North, this isn’t really that big of a game for them. Regardless of what happens in Boulder, the North division is going to come down to next week’s matchup between the Cougars and Washington. Still, Wazzu comes in riding an eight-game winning streak and keeping the momentum going is important for them.
Brian Howell: email@example.com, on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.