Raul Romero Jr/For BuffZone.com
Colorado quarterback Steven Montez has thrown 14 touchdowns this season.
PUBLISHED: | UPDATED:

Buffaloes scouting report

Head coach: Mel Tucker, 1st season (3-6)

Record: 3-6, 1-5 Pac-12

Last week: Lost at UCLA, 31-14

Key players on offense

  • RB Alex Fontenot, So., 6-0, 195: 130 att., 625 yards, 4 TD; 23 catches, 120 yards
  • QB Steven Montez, Sr., 6-5, 230: 201-of-321, 2,242 yards, 14 TD, 9 INT
  • WR Laviska Shenault, Jr., 6-2, 220: 37 catches, 530 yards, 3 TD; rush: 14 att., 114 yards, 2 TD

Key players on defense

  • CB Delrick Abrams Jr., Sr., 6-3, 185: 39 tackles, 6 pass breakups
  • ILB Nate Landman, Jr., 6-3, 230: 109 tackles, 6 TFL, 13 third-down stops
  • DE Terrance Lang, So., 6-7, 280: 28 tackles, 3 sacks, 9 QB pressures

CU offense: The Buffs were flat on offense a week ago and have been inconstant over the past month. Most of the struggles have come on the road, however. At home, the Buffs have typically played well. At their best, the Buffs run the ball well with Fontenot and Jaren Mangham and they’re efficient in the passing game with Montez leading the way. Three different receivers – Shenault, Tony Brown and KD Nixon – have posted 100-yard games.

Max Borghi #21 of the Washington ...
William Mancebo/Getty Images
Colorado cornerback Delrick Abrams has six pass breakups this season

CU defense: Injuries and inexperience have hampered the Buffs all year, but they have shown some improvement in the last few weeks. Coordinator Tyson Summers has dialed up more pressure on the quarterback in recent weeks and it’s led to the Buffs finding some success through large portions of games. Poor starts and big plays continue to burn the Buffs, though. In the last three games, the Buffs have allowed 45 first-quarter points and nine touchdowns of 20-plus yards.

CU special teams: A strength for much of the year, the Buffs have hit a rough patch with their kicking game. James Stefanou started the year 10-for-10 on field goals, but he’s 2-for-7 since. Punter Alex Kinney has been solid all year, however, averaging 43.8 yards per punt and placing 17 inside the opponents’ 20-yard line.

CU keys to beating Stanford

Good Montez showing up: It’s never about one player, but more than anyone else, CU needs Montez to be sharp. When he has played well, the Buffs are 3-2. When he’s a rough outing, they are 0-4.

Play with confidence: Early in the season, the Buffs were able to push adversity aside, rally from deficits and give themselves a chance to win. In recent weeks, as the losing streak has continued, body language has been poor at times and the Buffs haven’t responded well to things going against them.

Show some discipline: Penalties and mistakes have piled up in recent weeks and at critical times. Cutting down on those miscues can change the game for CU.

Pressure on the QB: Stanford’s KJ Costello has elite ability, but he’s also playing behind a banged-up offensive line. Making Costello uncomfortable is crucial to CU having a chance on defense.

Buffs notables

  • Steven Montez is approaching a few milestones. He needs one touchdown pass to become CU’s all-time leader in that category, and he needs 32 yards rushing or passing yards to reach 10,000 total offense yards for his career.
  • When the Buffs have faced third-and-4 or less, they have a 69.1 percent conversion rate. When facing third-and-5 or longer, the Buffs have converted 26.7 percent of the time.
  • The last two times CU and Stanford both came into their matchup unranked, CU came away with the win. The Buffs won, 31-17, in 1987 and 10-5 in 2016.
  • Jaren Mangham has 396 rushing yards this season, the ninth-best total ever for a CU freshman. Lamont Warren holds the records, with 830 yards in 1991.
  • From the start of 2016 to the middle of the 2018 season, the Buffs were 12-3 at Folsom Field. Since then, they are 1-6, despite leading or being tied in the fourth quarter in four of those losses. CU takes a three-game home losing streak into this week.
  • Since joining the Pac-12 in 2011, the Buffs are 7-26 in November games. They were 4-0 in November of 2016, but 3-26 in all the other seasons. CU is currently on an eight-game November losing streak.

Embed from Getty Images

Cardinal scouting report

Head coach: David Shaw, 9th season (86-30)

Record: 4-4, 3-3 Pac-12

Last week: Bye; defeated Arizona, 41-31, at home on Oct. 26

Key players on offense

  • QB KJ Costello, Sr., 6-5, 222: 84-of-138, 793 yards, 5 TD, 2 INT
  • RB Cameron Scarlett, Sr., 6-1, 216: 159 att., 700 yards, 5 TD; 16 catches, 159 yards
  • WR Connor Wedington, Jr., 6-0, 200: 40 catches, 371 yards, 1 TD

Key players on defense

  • CB Paulson Adebo, Jr., 6-1, 190: 28 tackles, 4 INT, 10 PBU
  • DE Thomas Booker, So., 6-4, 281: 37 tackles, 6.5 TFL, 3 sacks
  • OLB Casey Toohill, Sr., 6-4, 247: 45 tackles, 7.5 TFL, 5 sacks, 9 QB hurries

Stanford offense: This hasn’t exactly been a high-powered attack, as the Cardinal rank 11th in the Pac-12 in scoring (22.6 points per game) and in total offense (348.5 yards per game). Standout quarterback KJ Costello has missed half the year, but the results haven’t been much different with him (22.8 points, 355.0 yards per game) and without (22.5, 342.0). Known for its grind-it-out run game over the years, the Cardinal average just 3.7 yards per carry and no team in the Pac-12 has fewer rushing TDs (six). A healthy Costello helps, but this is an offense that has scored more than 28 points just twice all season.

Stanford defense: The Cardinal are allowing 28 points per game, on pace for their worst average since 2007 (28.3). Four times this year, they’ve allowed at least 31 points, including the last two games. They have been decent against the run (sixth in the Pac-12, 150.5 yards per game) and in the red zone (sixth, 82.1 percent scoring rate), but have struggled overall this season. Stanford does feature some great individual players, however. Paulson Adebo is one of the best cornerbacks in the country and Casey Toohill can wreak havoc at outside linebacker.

Stanford special teams: Kicker Jet Toner is one of the best in the country(26-for-31 on field goals the last two season), but he suffered a season-ending injury on Oct. 17 against UCLA. His replacement, freshman Ryan Sanborn, has been perfect (2-for-2 on FGs, 6-for-6 on PATs) in filling in. Sanford is also the punter, averaging 40.9 yards.

Stanford keys to beating CU

Feed Parkinson: CU has had trouble covering the middle of the field this year, and Stanford the personnel to exploit that. Colby Parkinson is one of the best tight ends in the Pac-12, with 31 catches for 358 yards this season.

Jump on the Buffs early: In recent weeks, CU hasn’t responded well when getting behind. If the Cardinal can snag a double-digit lead in the first quarter or first half, they might be able to ride that to a win.

Pressure on Montez: CU doesn’t give up a lot of sacks, but Stanford has been getting at least a couple every game lately. If the Cardinal can get a few sacks, or at least make Steven Montez uncomfortable, they can slow down the CU offense.

Protect the ball: The Cardinal have lost just six turnovers all season (second-best in the Pac-12). CU’s defense gives up a lot of yards and points, but can keep things close with takeaways, so Stanford has stay strong in that category.

Cardinal notables

  • Under Shaw, the Cardinal are 25-7 in November. This is the first of four November games for Stanford this year.
  • This season, 15 true freshmen have played for the Cardinal – one more than CU has played. Among the true freshmen to play for Stanford is left guard Barrett Miller, from Eaglecrest High School in Aurora. He has started the last four games.
  • Costello needs 94 passing yards to become the ninth quarterback in Stanford history to reach 6,000 for his career, and he needs two touchdown passes to become the sixth to reach 50.
  • Since 2010, Stanford has won 98 games – tied with Wisconsin for sixth nationally. Stanford’s 58 conference wins since 2011 leads the Pac-12.
  • The last time CU’s Mel Tucker and Stanford’s David Shaw were on opposite sidelines was in 2005, when Tucker was defensive backs coach for the NFL’s Cleveland Browns and Shaw was receivers coach for the rival Baltimore Ravens.