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BOULDER, CO – October 9, 2020: Defensive back Chris Miller during Colorado football practice. (Courtesy photo/University of Colorado)
BOULDER, CO – October 9, 2020: Defensive back Chris Miller during Colorado football practice. (Courtesy photo/University of Colorado)

Buffaloes scouting report

Head coach: Karl Dorrell, 1st season (35-27 career)

2019 Record: 5-7, 3-6 Pac-12

5 Players to Watch

  • RB Jarek Broussard, So.: Returning starter Alex Fontenot is out with an injury and Broussard earned the starting job with an exceptional camp. The 5-foot-9, 185-pounder has yet to play a college snap, but coaches love his speed and quickness.
  • CB Christian Gonzalez, Fr.: The only true freshman on offense or defense, Gonzalez was praised by coaches and players throughout camp. The 6-foot-2 Gonzalez has good length and athleticism, but it’s a good bet UCLA will test him.
  • STAR Chris Miller, Jr.: At times, he’s looked like CU’s best cornerback, but injuries have hampered him throughout his career. Now he’s at the Star (safety/outside linebacker hybrid) and figures to have a significant impact on defense.
  • QB Sam Noyer, Sr.: The fifth-year senior came back for a chance to compete for the starting job and he won it. This will be the first career start for Noyer, who has a good arm and athleticism. Don’t be surprised if the Buffs give junior Tyler Lytle some snaps, even in the first half.
  • LT William Sherman, Jr.: Possibly CU’s best lineman, he enters his third year as a starter. After starting the entire 2019 season at right tackle, he moves back to left, where he started in 2018. He’ll be a key in giving Noyer (or Lytle) time to throw.

CU offense: With a new head coach, new  play-caller and new quarterback, it’s not totally clear what this offense will look like this season. There was no spring ball and fall practices were closed, so this will be the first opportunity to see the offense. Head coach Karl Dorrell and offensive coordinator Darrin Chiaverini are both former receivers who love throwing the ball, but Dorrell is a big believer in having a strong running game, so there figures to be good balance on offense. Considering they are breaking in a new quarterback, the Buffs might rely on their strength, which is the run game. The Buffs have a talented, experienced offensive line and a stable of good running backs.

CU defense: The Buffs got better as last year went along and hope to pick up where they left off. Coordinator Tyson Summers and most of the starting lineup from last year is back. CU’s strength on defense appears to be up front. The Buffs are a base 3-4 defense, but have depth on the line and could mix up their fronts quite a bit. They will need to play well to put pressure on UCLA’s veteran quarterback, Dorian Thompson-Robinson. In the secondary, the Buffs have a mix of experience and newcomers, but the talent, especially in the starting lineup, is intriguing.

CU special teams: Senior kicker James Stefanou doesn’t get a lot of recognition around the Pac-12 for being one of the top kickers in the conference. However, when he’s healthy, he’s almost automatic. Coming into the season, Stefanou is healthy and ready to go. New punter Josh Watts, from Australia, is an unknown, but he punted well in camp.

CU keys to beating UCLA                          

Manufacture energy: Folsom Field, especially in the evening, is one of the best venues in college football. When it’s full, it’s tough to beat. With no fans, though, the Buffs lose that advantage and energy. There’s also no pre-game run from Ralphie. The players have to take advantage of being at home and figure out a way to develop some energy.

Run the ball: CU has a stable of good running backs and an offensive line that has experience. Especially with a new starter at quarterbacks, the Buffs need their run game to lead the way in this one.

Keep DTR contained: UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson is a dual-threat who burned the Buffs a year ago. CU needs to get pressure on him and keep him from breaking loose in the run game.

Enjoy the moment: At one point it didn’t appear this season would happen. Given the circumstances that change daily with the coronavirus, the Buffs don’t know how many games they’ll play. Enjoying the opportunity could allow them to play free.

Buffs notables

  • CU is 81-44-5 all-time in season openers, including 53-20-1 at home.
  • This is just the fifth time in the last 24 years that CU will open with someone other than Colorado State. In that time, the Buffs are 13-6 in openers against the Rams, and 0-4 against teams other than CSU.
  • The Buffs return 57 letter winners from last year, including 15 starters.
  • Senior receiver KD Nixon needs just 11 catches to reach 100 for his career. Only 18 players in CU history have reached that mark.
  • Karl Dorrell is looking to become the third consecutive CU head coach to win his debut. Mike MacIntyre won his debut in 2013 and Mel Tucker won his in 2019.
  • A Nov. 7 season opener is the latest for the Buffs since 1918. That year, the flu pandemic pushed the season opener back to Nov. 16.
  • In the first level of Folsom Field, CU will have tarps covering seats. The tarps will feature logos from CU sponsors. At this time, CU is not doing cardboard cutouts of fans.
  • Dorrell has strong ties to UCLA. He played receiver for the Bruins from 2003-06 and was their head coach from 2003-07.
  • Despite his ties to UCLA, Dorrell has spent more time in the state of Colorado during his career than in any other state. This is Dorrell’s 10th year in Colorado, including six seasons as a CU assistant (1992-93, 1995-98) and three years as a Denver Broncos assistant (2000-02). His career has also included six years in Florida, five in California and four in New York, among other places. His career has taken to eight different states.
Raul Romero Jr/For
UCLA Bruins running back Demetric Felton (10) runs down the open field against the Colorado Buffaloes during the second half of a NCAA football game at Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. on Saturday November 2, 2019. UCLA Bruins defeated the Colorado Buffaloes 31-14. (Photo by Raul Romero Jr, Contributing Photographer)

Bruins scouting report

Head coach: Chip Kelly, 3rd season (7-17; 53-24 in college career)

2019 Record: 4-8, 4-5 Pac-12

5 Players to Watch

  • S Stephan Blaylock, Jr.: One of the best safeties in the Pac-12, Blaylock led the Bruins with 86 tackles last year. He also had 1.5 tackles for loss.
  • RB Demetric Felton, Sr.: The Bruins will use multiple backs, but Felton might be the most dangerous. He had 331 yards last year in a backup role (behind current Los Angeles Chargers rookie Joshua Kelley), but also added 55 catches for 594 yards and four touchdowns and was one of the Pac-12’s best on kickoff returns, averaging 26.0 yards.
  • DL Osa Odighizuwa, Sr.: The most disruptive player for the Bruins up front, he had 46 tackles, 10 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks a year ago.
  • WR Kyle Phillips, So.: As a freshman, he led the Bruins in receiving (60 catches for 681 yards, five touchdowns. He’s also a dangerous in special teams. He led the Pac-12 in punt return average (22.5), including a touchdown.
  • QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson, Jr.: Third-year starting quarterback keeps getting better. He threw for 2,701 yards and 21 touchdowns last year, but also threw 12 interceptions. He added 198 yards and four touchdowns on the ground.

UCLA offense: Chip Kelly’s high-octane attack in Oregon made the Ducks a powerhouse from 2009-12. So far, that production hasn’t shown up at UCLA. The Bruins got better last year, but still averaged just 26.7 points per game. They lost some key pieces to the offense, but the Bruins expect to be better this year as Thompson-Robinson enters his third year in the offense. There is talent at receiver and running back, and left tackle Sean Rhyan is one of the best in the conference. Thompson-Robinson is a good passer, but the Bruins’ offense starts with its run game. Typically if they run the ball well, they’ll succeed.

UCLA defense: The Bruins have struggled on this side of the ball for a while, giving up at least 34 points per game the last three years. They lost five key starters from last year’s group, but hope to take a step forward this year. A top priority will be shoring up the pass defense. The Bruins were one of the worst pass defenses in the country last year, giving up 310.8 yards per game. Opposing quarterbacks had a 167.4 quarterback rating against them.

UCLA special teams: The Bruins are starting over here, as they lost their punter and kicker to graduation. According to the depth chart, freshmen Nicholas Barr-Mira and Luke Akers are battling for those spots. This week, Kelly said he’d likely wait until game time to announce the starters at this spots.

UCLA keys to beating CU                          

Take advantage of the quiet: Without 45,000-50,000 fans in the stands, Folsom Field will have a different atmosphere. That could help the Bruins, as it won’t feel as much like a road game.

Get the ground game going: A year ago, the Bruins had a five-game streak of rushing for at least 200 yards (including 200 against CU) and they went 3-2 in those games. They were 1-6 when held under 200 yards and 0-5 when held under 150.

Rattle Noyer/Lytle: For the first time in four years, the Buffs will have a new starting quarterback. Sam Noyer will be making his first start and it’s possible that Tyler Lytle will play. Both are inexperienced and UCLA will hope to put pressure on them.

DTR stepping up: Thompson-Robinson had a big game against the Buffs a year ago. When he’s on, he can be one of the top quarterbacks in the Pac-12. If he’s playing well, the Bruins will be tough to stop.

Bruins notables

  • UCLA is 65-31-5 all-time in season openers. This is the latest season opener in Bruins history.
  • Since 2016, UCLA is 4-20 away from the Rose Bowl, but two of those wins came last year (2-4). UCLA has lost its last two games in Boulder.
  • Under Kelly, the Bruins have started 0-5 (in 2018) and 0-3 (in 2019).
  • Although the Bruins have a mobile quarterback, they ranked 11th in the Pac-12 in sacks allowed last year, with 37 – its highest total allowed since 2014.
  • Running back Demetric Felton set a UCLA record with four touchdowns of at least 75 yards last year.
  • UCLA has thrown at least one touchdown in all 15 previous matchups with the Buffaloes. In those games, UCLA has a total of 25 touchdown passes and six interceptions.