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Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer
Colorado running back Alex Fontenot has rushed for 720 yards this season.
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Buffaloes scouting report

Head coach: Mel Tucker, 1st season (4-6)

Record: 4-6, 2-5 Pac-12

Last week: Bye, defeated Stanford, 16-13, on Nov. 9

Key players on offense

  • RB Alex Fontenot, So., 6-0, 195: 148 att., 720 yards, 4 TD; 23 catches, 120 yards
  • QB Steven Montez, Sr., 6-5, 230: 221-of-351, 2,428 yards, 14 TD, 10 INT
  • WR Laviska Shenault, Jr., 6-2, 220: 45 catches, 621 yards, 3 TD; rush: 15 att., 119 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: 117 tackles, 6 TFL, 14 third-down stops
  • DE Terrance Lang, So., 6-7, 280: 31 tackles, 4 sacks, 11 QB pressures

CU offense: During the last five games, the Buffs have seen an improvement with its run game (160.6 yards per game, compared to 146.8 in the first five), but it’s been a significant drop-off otherwise. After averaging 34.6 points and 447.0 yards in the first five games, the Buffs have posted 14.8 points and 356.0 yards per game in the last five. The big difference has been in the passing game. Despite having a fifth-senior QB in Steven Montez and explosive players at receiver, the Buffs have struggled mightily during the second half of the season to get things going in the air. The ability is there to put up big numbers again, but they’ve been wildly inconsistent.

CU defense: The numbers haven’t always shown it, but this group has steadily improved throughout the season. Holding Stanford to 13 points was big for the Buffs, who had allowed 30-plus in the previous 14 games. CU has been fairly solid against the run in recent games and their young defensive backs have shown improvement with experience. The Buffs have also put more pressure on the quarterback lately. Playing well up front will be a key for the Buffs.

CU special teams: Despite kicker James Stefanou being out with a hip injury, the Buffs should feel confident in this area. Evan Price went 3-for-3, including the game winner, on field goals against Stanford on Nov. 9 and he’s been productive when given a chance. Punter Alex Kinney ranks second in the conference in average per punt (44.3) and in 50-yard punts (11). He’s also pinned the opponent inside the 20 a total of 18 times.

CU keys to beating Washington

Ride the emotion: The Buffs are coming off a win. It’s senior night for the 17 seniors. It’s also Ralphie V celebration night and the 1994 team will be honored. A night, ESPN kickoff usually adds to the electricity of the game. If the Buffs can soak it all in and use it to their advantage, they’ll have a shot.

Turn Montez loose: The Buffs’ senior QB has had a roller-coaster season, but one of his best games of the year came on Oct. 25 against USC, when coaches finally let him run the ball. Montez played loose and confident, throwing for 374 yards and three touchdowns and rushing for 45 yards and a score. That version of Montez gives CU a chance against almost anybody.

Rattle Eason: Washington doesn’t allow many sacks, but the Buffs will try to make Jacob Eason uncomfortable with pressure and solid coverage downfield. He’s thrown four interceptions in the past two games combines.

Hold their own up front: Washington is one of the best teams in the conference at the line of scrimmage, so CU will have to be at its best. The Buffs doesn’t necessarily have to be dominant up front, but they have to match the physicality of the Huskies.

Buffs notables

  • Montez is nearing a couple of major records. He needs 300 passing yards to become the school’s all-time leading passer and he needs one TD pass to set a new record there. He comes in with 9,269 career passing yards and 60 TD.
  • In three previous games against Washington (two starts), Montez has had a rough time. He has completed 64 percent of his passes, but for only 375 yards, one touchdown and four interceptions.
  • The Buffs have played six games decided by one score. Coming into this week, only three teams in the country had played in more, all from the ACC: North Carolina (nine), Miami (seven) and Pittsburgh (seven). The Buffs are 3-3 in one-score games.
  • CU’s defense has recorded just 17 sacks this season, but 13 of those have come on third downs. Terrance Lang has four sacks on third downs.
  • Tony Brown needs 11 receiving yards to reach 1,000 for his career at CU and Laviska Shenault needs 200 receiving yards to reach 2,000 for his career.

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Huskies scouting report

Head coach: Chris Petersen, 6th year (53-25; 145-37 career)

Record: 6-4, 3-4 Pac-12

Last week: Bye; defeated Oregon State, 19-7, on the road on Nov. 8.

Key players on offense

  • RB Salvon Ahmed, Jr, 5-11, 195: 153 att., 886 yards, 9 TD; 13 catches, 55 yards
  • QB Jacob Eason, Jr., 6-6, 227: 202-of-317, 2,472 yards, 20 TD, 7 INT
  • WR Aaron Fuller, Sr., 5-11, 188: 46 catches, 607 yards, 6 TD

Key players on defense

  • OLB Ryan Bowman, Jr., 6-0, 277: 27 tackles, 6 TFL, 5 sacks, 1 INT
  • DB Myles Bryant, Sr., 5-8, 185: 56 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 1 sack, 2 INT
  • OLB Joe Tryon, So., 6-5, 262: 35 tackles, 10 TFL, 6 sacks

Washington offense: For much of the year, this has been an efficient offense. The Huskies have shown the ability to put up big numbers, scoring 45-plus points four times. While QB Jacob Eason has given the offense a boost, it’s the run game that sparks the offense. The Huskies are fourth in the Pac-12 in rushing (167.4 yards per game), but two bad games have hurt that number. They’ve posted at least 186 rushing yards in seven of 10 games. Ahmed leads the run game, but backups Richard Newton (380 yards) and Sean McGrew (336) give the Huskies a solid trio. The offensive line has paved the way for the run game and kept Eason protected, with only 13 sacks allowed.

Washington defense: No, this is not the dominant defense that Washington has had in leading the conference the previous four years. But, this is still one of the best defenses in the conference. They have active, productive players in the front seven and a secondary that doesn’t get beat often. The Huskies are third in the Pac-12 in pass efficiency defense, yielding and opposing QB rating of 122.4. In the Pac-12, only Utah has allowed fewer passing TDs than Washington (11).

Washington special teams: One of the best kicking units in the Pac-12, led by Peyton Henry. The sophomore is 17-for-19 on field goals and 38-for-38 on extra points. Punter Joel Whitford is tied with CU’s Kinney for second in average (44.3). The Huskies also have a dangerous return game, led by Fuller, who has taken a punt back for touchdown.

Washington keys to beating CU

Run, run, run: Washington has traditionally buried the Buffs with its run game, and the Huskies have three good running backs to throw at the CU defense. They can wear the Buffs down if they’re productive in the run game.

Ground the air attack: Washington has one of the best pass defenses in the conference, and CU’s passing game has struggled the past five games. That’s good news for Washington. If CU can’t get things going through the air, it could be a fairly easy night for the Huskies’ defense.

Start strong: The Huskies have outscored the opposition 107-13 in the first quarter and they are 6-2 when scoring first. Jump on the Buffs early and Washington could ride that throughout the night.

Stay focused: At 6-4, the Huskies have bowl eligibility locked up, but no division title to play for. They’ve also got a rivalry game against Washington State just six days later. The result of this game doesn’t matter much to the Huskies, but if they aren’t locked in, they could get beat.

Huskies notables

  • Washington’s four losses have come by a total of just 20 points, including three by five points or less. The Huskies’ six wins have come by a total of 141 points, with all of them by at least 12 points. Washington and Central Florida are the only teams in the country that have not had a loss by more than 10 points since the start of 2017.
  • In Petersen’s six seasons as head coach, the Huskies have 14 kick return touchdowns (10 on punts, 4 on kickoffs), including one this year. The Huskies haven’t given up any return TDs during that time.
  • Peterson has led his teams to bowls in each of his 14 seasons as a head coach, including all six with the Huskies.
  • Since 1990, the Huskies are 103-16-1 when rushing for at least 200 yards. That includes a 9-0 record against the Buffs, who haven’t held UW below 200 rushing yards since the 1996 Holiday Bowl. The Huskies are 3-0 this year when rushing for 200-plus yards.
  • This is the Huskies’ last road game of the season. They are 3-1 away from Seattle this season, with the only loss coming at Stanford on Oct. 5. They have lost at least two road games each of the previous two years.