Buffaloes at a glance
Record: 3-2, 0-2 Pac-12
Last week: Lost at UCLA, 27-23
Steven Montez, So.: 107-for-164, 1,272 yards, 7 TD, 6 INT
Phillip Lindsay, Sr.: 105 att., 529 yards, 5 TD
Steven Montez, So.: 57 att., 213 yards, 1 TD
Michael Adkins II, Sr.: 10 att., 23 yards
Shay Fields, Sr.: 25 catches, 298 yards, 2 TD
Bryce Bobo, Sr.: 25 catches, 253 yards, 2 TD
Devin Ross, Sr.: 23 catches, 327 yards, 1 TD
LB Drew Lewis, Jr.: 55 tackles (45 solo)
LB Rick Gamboa, Jr.: 47 tackles (15 solo)
DB Evan Worthington, Jr.: 32 tackles (24 solo)
Where they rank
How the Buffs rank nationally:
Scoring: 86th (25.6)
Rushing: 74th (151.40
Passing: 45th (266.4)
Total: 64th (417.8)
3rd downs: 68th (39.2%)
Red zone: 72nd (83.3%)
Scoring: 22nd (18.2)
Rushing: 52nd (132.8)
Passing: 75th (234.0)
Total: 58th (366.8)
3rd downs: 55th (35.6%)
Red zone: 40th (76.9%)
Penalties: 78th (7.0)
Turnover margin: 49th (plus-0.25)
3 questions facing CU
1. Will the defense be able to slow down the Arizona run game?
Arizona comes into the game as one of the top 10 rushing offenses in the country, and stopping that aspect of the Wildcats’ offense is key to beating them. Under coach Rich Rodriguez, the Wildcats are 28-9 when rushing for 200-plus yards, and 10-21 when they are held under 200. Over the last two years, Arizona is 1-9 in conference games when held below 200 rushing yards. This will be a big test for CU’s front seven.
2. Can the offense gets its run game going?
With Phillip Lindsay leading the way, it would seem that the Buffs are in good shape with its running attack. The Buffs have not been dominant or explosive in the run game, however. Lindsay’s having a good year individually, but the Buffs have not had a great game running the ball all season. Arizona has done a nice job against the run this year. CU has to be able to run the ball.
3. Where are the big plays?
We’re used to seeing big plays from the CU offense, but they haven’t been there this year. CU is one of only 14 teams in the country without a single play from scrimmage of 50 yards or more, and there’s only been three plays longer than 40 yards. The Buffs’ longest play — a Lindsay 45-yard touchdown run — came in the first quarter of Game 1. The longest touchdown pass — also in Game 1 — was a 31-yarder to Shay Fields. Speaking of Fields, he has nine career plays of 50-plus yards, but none in his last 14 games.
Bottom line: All games are big and all of them are important, but this would fall in the “must win” category for the Buffs. If they have any hope of winning the South division again, they have to win this game. Lose it, and there would be legitimate concerns about even reaching bowl eligibility this season.
Wildcats at a glance
Record: 2-2, 0-1 Pac-12
Last week: Bye (Lost to Utah, 30-24, on Sept. 22)
Brandon Dawkins, Jr.: 66-for-105, 670 yards, 5 TD, 3 INT
Brandon Dawkins, Jr.: 52 att., 341 yards, 6 TD
JJ Taylor, Fr.: 48 att., 229 yards, 1 TD
Nick Wilson, Sr.: 34 att., 171 yards, 1 TD
Bryce Wolma, Fr.: 15 catches, 108 yards, 1 TD
Tony Ellison, Jr.: 14 catches, 182 yards, 2 TD
Shun Brown, Jr.: 11 catches, 180 yards, 1 TD
LB Tony Fields II, Fr.: 23 tackles (16 solo)
CB Lorenzo Burns, Fr.: 21 tackles (16 solo)
FS Scottie Young Jr., Fr.: 20 tackles (16 solo)
Where they rank
How the Wildcats rank nationally:
Scoring: 19th (41.3)
Rushing: 8th (296.0)
Passing: 102nd (182.8)
Total: 25th (478.8)
3rd downs: 33rd (44.3%)
Red zone: 22nd (93.8%)
Scoring: 48th (22.3)
Rushing: 32nd (118.0)
Passing: 105th (258.0)
Total: 63rd (376.9)
3rd downs: 56th (35.7%)
Red zone: 11th (64.7%)
Penalties: 29th (5.0)
Turnover margin: 49th (plus-0.25)
3 questions facing Arizona
1. Are the Wildcats really that much better on defense?
Statistically, Arizona has been significantly improved on defense over last year. Of course, the Wildcats haven’t been through their Pac-12 schedule at this point, and lost their only conference game. They did hold Utah to just 341 yards, however. If the Wildcats can play solid defense and limit CU’s run game, they’ll have a shot.
2. Can Brandon Dawkins make plays with his arm?
The junior ranks among the top running quarterbacks in the country, but he’s been average to below average as a passer. His three interceptions — including a pick-six — cost the Wildcats against Utah. While Arizona isn’t likely to rack up big yards through the air against the Buffs, Dawkins has to at least made smart decisions when he does throw it.
3. When will the road streak end?
Since a 38-31 win in Boulder in 2015, the Wildcats are 0-7 in Pac-12 road games. Several of them have been ugly, non-competitive games. The Wildcats did get a road victory at UTEP on Sept. 22, but playing in Boulder is different. They’ll need to rise up to the challenge.
Bottom line: This is not a must-win like it is for CU, but it’s still one that Arizona needs to win to have realistic hope of reaching a bowl game this season. This is the first of five road games over the next eight weeks. The Wildcats are going to have to figure out how to steal at least one on the road at some point.
Contact staff writer Brian Howell at email@example.com or twitter.com/BrianHowell33