As Colorado fans are well aware, this has been a tough season for the best player on the roster.
Junior receiver Laviska Shenault was penciled into just about everybody’s preseason All-American lists, as he was expected to post monster numbers for the Buffaloes.
So far, that hasn’t happened. He’s on pace for 42 catches for 592 yards and four touchdowns – solid numbers, but nothing that turns heads. Shenault has dealt with double coverage most of the year and essentially missed two games with a core muscle strain. He said this week he’s close to 100 percent, but his status will be closely monitored all year.
Shenault isn’t alone. Injuries have hampered several of the Pac-12 top offensive players this season, including:
Jacob Breeland, Oregon TE: This season, he’s top-five in the country for catches (fourth, 26), yards (fourth, 405) and touchdowns (first, 6) among tight ends. He will miss the rest of the season, however, after a knee injury against CU last Friday.
KJ Costello, Stanford QB: Considered one of the best in the country, he’s thrown for only 471 yards and two touchdowns this season, having played in three games. He missed one game with a concussion and was ruled out of Thursday’s matchup with UCLA – his third game in a row out of the lineup – with a thumb injury.
Britain Covey, Utah WR: The Utes’ top receiver, punt returner and kick returner (and also a running threat) tore his ACL in the 2018 Pac-12 title game. He played in the first four games this year – recording only 10 catches for 77 yards – but experienced some knee swelling and wasn’t himself. He has sat out the past two games and is likely to take a redshirt and return next year.
JT Daniels, Southern California QB: The prized recruit of 2018 had a solid true freshman season and was expected to flourish in the Trojans’ new offense, but he suffered a season-ending knee injury in the season opener on Aug. 31.
Theo Howard, UCLA WR: The Bruins’ top wide receiver last year (51 catches for 677 yards, 4 TD), he played in only game this year – without a catch – because of wrist and hand injuries. Last week, he announced he will redshirt and enter the transfer portal.
Jermar Jefferson, Oregon State RB: Sensational as a freshman last year (1,380 yards, 12 TD), he got off to a great start this year, with 270 yards in the first two games. He injured his ankle in Week 2 against Hawaii, however, and has carried the ball just nine times for 26 yards since. He’s missed two full games and is questionable for Saturday’s game at California.
JJ Taylor, Arizona RB: After rushing for 1,434 yards last year, he was projected as an all-conference player this year. So far, he’s rushed for only 301 yards, while missing basically two games (he had one carry vs. Colorado and missed the Wildcats’ game vs. UCLA) with an ankle injury.
The Pac-12 doesn’t have any bowl eligible teams yet, but the conference will get two this week. Four teams come into this weekend needing one win for bowl eligibility, and they play each other in a pair of marquee matchups.
No. 12 Oregon (5-1, 3-0 Pac-12) will visit No. 25 Washington (5-2, 2-2) with not only the coveted six-win mark on the line, but also North division title hopes. Oregon has a two-game lead on the rest of the division, but Washington could get back into contention with a victory.
In the South division, No. 17 Arizona State (5-1, 2-1) visits No. 13 Utah (5-1, 2-1). Utah could become bowl eligible for the sixth year in a row, while ASU could get there for the third year in a row and eighth time in nine years. The winner, of course, would also be in prime position to make a run at the division title.
Oregon has allowed just 25 points in the last five games. In the last 50 years, only one other Pac-12 team has allowed 25 or less in a five-game stretch: USC in 2008 (13 points). … Utah’s Tyler Huntley is one of only three QBs in the country with at least 100 passes and no interceptions this season. His last interception came against the team he plays this week. He threw two against the Sun Devils on Nov. 3, 2018, before departing that game with a season-ending collarbone injury. … ASU enters this week with a streak of 125 consecutive games with 10 points or more – tied for the FBS record set by Louisiana Tech from 2008-18. … Cal, which hosts Oregon State, has held 13 straight opponents below 25 points – the longest streak in the country.