Buffaloes scouting report
Head coach: Karl Dorrell, 1st season (3-0; 38-27 career)
2020 Record: 3-0, 2-0 Pac-12
Last week: Defeated San Diego State, 20-10, at home
5 Players to Watch
- CB Christian Gonzalez, Fr.: Opposing quarterbacks have picked on the freshman, and he has shown some improvements each week. He’s sure to get tested again this week.
- DL Janaz Jordan, Jr.: With starting nose tackle Jalen Sami nursing a sprained ankle, Jordan played a career-high 25 snaps last week. Sami is expected to play, but Jordan could get plenty of time again. He was solid against the run against San Diego State.
- RB Jarek Broussard, So.: He has surpassed the 100-yard mark in rushing in each game, ranking among the best in the country at 144 yards per game. He’s also second nationally in carries, at 30 per game.
- WR Dimitri Stanley, So.: Had a quiet Week 3 (one catch, 10 yards), but he is CU’s leading receiver and figures to bounce back and be a main target.
- OLB Carson Wells, Jr.: In the last two games, Wells has seven tackles for loss, as well as three passes defended. He’s averaging five tackles per game.
CU offense: After storming out of the gates the first two weeks, the Buffs were slowed down last week by San Diego State. The Buffs were still able to run the ball, though, as they continue to lean on Broussard. They would like to see a second option emerge in the backfield, however. QB Sam Noyer didn’t put up big numbers last week, but he has continued to perform well and lead the offense. He’s been able to spread the ball to several weapons in the passing game, and the Buffs’ offensive line is doing a good job of giving him time to operate.
CU defense: This group has gotten better every week and was sensational last week. Running backs have had very little success against the Buffs this season, as CU has been stout up front. The defensive line has played well, while inside linebacker Nate Landman and outside linebacker Carson Wells are playing at an all-conference level. The Buffs’ secondary has been burned at times but is showing improvement. Cornerback Mekhi Blackmon had one of his best games as a Buff last week. Safeties Derrion Rakestraw and Isaiah Lewis have been leaders, and freshman cornerback Christian Gonzalez is improving as he goes.
CU special teams: Evan Price continues to deliver almost every time he’s been called upon. He is now 4-for-5 on field goals, with the one miss being blocked. He’s also perfect on extra points. Mac Willis took over kickoff duties last week as the Buffs look for consistency in that area. At punter, Josh Watts has struggled with distance (38.53 yards per kick), but he has landed six of 17 punts inside the 20. Dimitri Stanley is averaging 6.3 yards on punt returns, while Maurice Bell is posting 23.8 yards per kickoff return.
CU keys to beating Arizona
Get after the QB: That’s often a key, but perhaps more so this week, as Arizona true freshman Will Plummer could be making his first career start. CU has been able to generate good pressure so far this year, and Arizona has allowed 11 sacks.
Bounce back on offense: Credit San Diego State’s defense and a short amount of time to prep, but last week the Buffs took a step back on offense, with just 272 yards and 20 points. They averaged 41.5 points and 483.5 yards the first two weeks and would like to get closer to those numbers.
Bury them early: Arizona has lost 10 games in a row, so jumping on the ’Cats early could be big mentally. The Buffs have held big early leads in both Pac-12 games so far, but let the opponent back in it. Get a lead here and the Buffs need to keep the foot on the gas.
- Senior linebacker Akil Jones was in New Jersey for the birth of his son, Adonis, on Wednesday. According to BuffZone sources, Jones, who has started all three games, did not make the trip to Tucson.
- CU is the favorite in a Pac-12 road game for just the third time since joining the conference in 2011. The Buffs won the previous two times: Oct. 14, 2017, at Oregon State; and Nov. 12, 2016, at Arizona. It’s only the seventh time since 2008 that CU has been favored in any road game.
- The Buffs are looking for their first 3-0 start in conference play since 2002, when they started 4-0 in the Big 12. This is the fifth time since then they’ve started 2-0 (2005, 2007, 2016 and 2018), but lost the third game each time.
- Three games into the season, the Buffs have spent a total of just 3 minutes, 15 seconds trailing. They’ve held the lead for 156 minutes, 37 seconds and been tied for 15:08.
- Jarek Broussard could become the first player in CU history to rush for 100-plus yards in his first four games as a Buff. He needs 68 yards to become just the sixth player to reach 500 yards in the first four games.
- Sam Noyer has scored a rushing touchdown in three straight games, the first CU quarterback to do so since Sefo Liufau in 2016.
Wildcats scouting report
Head coach: Kevin Sumlin, 3rd season (9-18; 95-62 career)
2020 Record: 0-3, 0-3 in Pac-12
Last week: Lost at UCLA, 27-10
5 Players to Watch
- WR Stanley Berryhill III, Jr.: Enjoying the best season his career, he’s got a team-high 18 catches for 193 yard and three touchdowns.
- RB Gary Brightwell, Sr.: Leads the Wildcats with 224 rushing yards this season, but hasn’t reached the end zone. For his career, he’s rushed for 1,139 yard and eight touchdowns.
- CB Lorenzo Burns, Sr.: One of the better corners in the Pac-12, he’s registered 19 tackles this season. He had four interceptions last year as a junior.
- LB Rourke Freeburg, Jr.: He leads the Wildcats with 3.5 tackles for loss and he has 16 tackles overall.
- QB Will Plummer, Fr.: Starter Grant Gunnell isn’t likely to play, which means Plummer is in line for his first career start. The true freshman made his collegiate debut last week, completing 17-of-35 passes for 151 yards and two interceptions.
Arizona offense: Colorado is certainly glad to see Khalil Tate no longer here. The former Wildcats’ dual-threat QB beat the Buffs the last three years with a combined 1,273 yards of total offense and accounting for 13 touchdowns. Arizona might be without Tate’s replacement, too, as Grant Gunnell was injured early in last week’s game. True freshman Will Plummer might get the start. He made some plays with his feet last week but wasn’t in sync with his receivers at times. Starting and a week of prep could make a difference, though. Around the QB, the Wildcats have talented running backs (led by Gary Brightwell) and receivers. Stanley Berryhill III has emerged as a top weapon, and Jamarye Joined led the Wildcats in receiving last year. Regardless of who plays QB, the Wildcats need improved play up front.
Arizona defense: The Wildcats have been bottom three in the Pac-12 in scoring defense the past three years, including last in 2019. After several key players transferred or opted out, they’ve continued to struggle this year. Arizona ranks 11th in the Pac-12 in scoring defense (35.0 points per game) and 10th in total defense (460.0 yards per game). Opponents are putting 229 rushing yards per game on the ’Cats and quarterbacks and finding time to operate, as well. Arizona has just one quarterback sack and hasn’t forced a turnover yet. Despite that, Arizona has one of the Pac-12’s best corners (Lorenzo Burns) and linebacker Rourke Freeburg has made some plays in the backfield.
Arizona special teams: Lucas Havrisik is one of the most reliable kickers in the conference, and he’s off to a good start, hitting 4-of-5 field goals, including a 51-yarder. He’s 14-for-22 the last two seasons. Havrisik has also put 13 of 15 kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks. Punter Tyler Loop has averaged 40.1 yards per kick. Jamarye Joiner (punt) and Tayvian Cunningham (kickoff) have handled returns, but neither one has busted loose for big plays.
Arizona keys to beating CU
Get Brightwell going: Gary Brightwell has averaged 74.7 rushing yards per game to lead the Arizona ground game. Running backs have struggled against CU this year, but if Brightwell and the Arizona backs can find success, that will be huge. Arizona is at its best when the run game is rolling.
Generate a pass rush: Arizona has just one sack this season. With time to throw, opposing quarterbacks have completed 65.2 percent of their passes for four touchdowns and no interceptions. The Wildcats need to make Sam Noyer uncomfortable.
Play with confidence: After 10 straight losses, the Wildcats need something to bounce their way. It would help to get some breaks early and build some confidence in the first half, carrying that throughout the night.
- Arizona QB Will Plummer is the younger brother of Purdue starting quarterback Jack Plummer.
- Head coach Kevin Sumlin was very briefly an assistant coach with Colorado 17 years ago. In January of 2003, Buffs’ head coach Gary Barnett hired Sumlin to coach receivers. About a month later, however, Sumlin left CU to take an assistant coaching position at Oklahoma.
- The Wildcats are 7-2 against the Buffs since CU joined the conference in 2011. During that time, Arizona has more wins against CU than any other team (four vs. California and Utah).
- Cornerback Lorenzo Burns has 38 career starts, which ranks second among current Pac-12 players (Oregon’s Jordan Scott has 41).
- Arizona linebacker Jalen Harris (15 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss) is the older brother of CU freshman outside linebacker Jason Harris.