Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Steve Nehf / The Denver Post
Buffaloes at a glance
Record: 4-3, 1-3 Pac-12
Last week: Won at Oregon State, 36-33
Steven Montez, So.: 140-for-220, 1,691 yards, 12 TD, 6 INT
Phillip Lindsay, Sr.: 178 att., 995 yards, 10 TD
Steven Montez, So.: 76 att., 221 yards, 1 TD
Beau Bisharat, So.: 16 att., 44 yards
Bryce Bobo, Sr.: 40 catches, 432 yards, 5 TD
Shay Fields, Sr.: 33 catches, 378 yards, 2 TD
Devin Ross, Sr.: 23 catches, 327 yards, 1 TD
LB Drew Lewis, Jr.: 75 tackles (23 solo)
LB Rick Gamboa, Jr.: 69 tackles (24 solo)
S Evan Worthington, Jr.: 48 tackles (39 solo)
Where they rank
How the Buffs rank nationally:
Scoring: 59th (29.4)
Rushing: 54th (180.4)
Passing: 53rd (251.7)
Total: 48th (432.1)
3rd downs: 22nd (45.8%)
Red zone: 30th (88.9%)
Scoring: 54th (24.1)
Rushing: 99th (193.9)
Passing: 76th (230.4)
Total: 98th (424.3)
3rd downs: 103rd (43.3%)
Red zone: 52nd (80.0%)
Penalties: 91st (7.14)
Turnover margin: 42nd (plus-0.43)
3 questions facing CU
1. Will the Buffs carry any momentum from last week’s win?
The Buffs desperately needed the win last week in Corvallis, and got it. They can’t relax now, though. While it wasn’t the most dominating effort last week, the Buffs need to capitalize on the momentum they got from snapping their three-game losing streak. Ideally, that leads to the Buffs getting off to a good start against the Cougars.
2. Can the CU defense hold up against the Cougars?
After giving up 33 points and 569 yards to the worst offense in the conference, there’s not a lot of confidence in the Buffs’ defense. Now, they face a much better offense with one of the top quarterbacks in the country (Luke Falk). The Buffs have to be able to stop the run and get some pressure on Falk.
3. How poised will Steven Montez be throughout the night?
The CU quarterback has played well throughout this season, although he has had some growing pains that most young quarterbacks go through. His composure will be tested against a Wazzu defense that ranks second in the Pac-12 in sacks, and ranks seventh nationally against the pass. Montez’s poise will be critical to CU’s success on offense.
Bottom line: Unlike last week, this isn’t a must-win for the Buffaloes. They do need to steal a win or two to get to a bowl game, and they’d love for it to be this week, but it doesn’t need to be this week. The Buffs do, however, need to show up and make this a game and prove they can play with a top-notch team — something they haven’t done in a while.
Cougars at a glance
Record: 6-1, 3-1 Pac-12
Rankings: No. 15 AP, No. 18 Amway Coaches’
Last week: Lost at California, 37-3
Luke Falk, Sr.: 216-for-305, 2,286 yards, 19 TD, 7 INT
Jamal Morrow, Sr.: 45 att., 339 yards, 2 TD
James Williams, So.: 63 att., 249 yards, 1 TD
Gerard Wicks, Sr.: 23 att., 119 yards, 1 TD
James Williams, So.: 46 catches, 312 yards, 3 TD
Isaiah Johnson-Mack, So: 39 catches, 375 yards, 3 TD
Tavares Martin Jr., Jr.: 37 catches, 502 yards, 7 TD
S Jalen Thompson, So.: 39 tackles (25 solo)
S Robert Taylor, Sr.: 35 tackles (16 solo)
LB Jahad Woods, Fr.: 32 tackles (16 solo)
Where they rank
How the Cougars rank nationally:
Scoring: 36th (34.4)
Rushing: 130th (74.1)
Passing: 3rd (380.9)
Total: 34th (455.0)
3rd downs: 33rd (44.9%)
Red zone: 63rd (84.4%)
Scoring: 42nd (21.1)
Rushing: 35th (125.9)
Passing: 7th (162.4)
Total: 10th (288.3)
3rd downs: 10th (27.6%)
Red zone: 104th (90.0%)
Penalties: 37th (5.43)
Turnover margin: 76th (minus-0.14)
3 questions facing Washington State
1. Have the Cougars put last week in the rearview mirror?
The loss to Cal was a disaster for the Cougars. The offense was terrible. The defense was terrible. It was stunning because it was such a departure from the first six games for the Cougars. If the Cougars are able to forget that loss and focus like they did the first six weeks, they’ll be just fine. If that loss still lingers in their heads, CU could have an opportunity to capitalize early.
2. Will the running backs carry the ball more than usual?
Washington State ranks last in the country in rushing, at 74.1 yards per game, and their 2.84 yards per carry is near the bottom of the country. That doesn’t mean the Cougars can’t run the ball, however. They run the ball less than anyone else in the country, and sack yardage damages their per-carry average. Running backs Jamal Morrow, James Williams and Gerard Wicks average 5.4 yards per attempt. Given how CU has struggled with stopping the run lately, the Cougars could give their trio of backs more opportunities.
3. Can the Cougars shut down the pass?
Wazzu ranks seventh nationally in pass defense and will need to be sharp against the Buffs and their talented receivers. CU’s Shay Fields and Devin Ross haven’t busted loose in conference play, but they’re capable of doing it. Washington State’s secondary can’t allow that to happen.
Bottom line: There is plenty on the line for the Cougars, and they can’t afford a second consecutive loss. The Cougars are still in the mix for the Pac-12 title and, potentially, an outside shot at the College Football Playoff. Losing to the last-place Buffs would likely end Wazzu’s chances for both.