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University of Colorado Boulder's Deion Smith ...
Colorado’s Deion Smith gets around the corner against Arizona State on Oct. 29 in Boulder. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

Colorado Buffaloes scouting report

Head coach: Mike Sanford (interim), 1st season (1-2; 10-18 career)

This season: 1-7, 1-4 Pac-12

Last week: Lost at home to Arizona State, 42-34

5 Players to Watch

• LT Gerad Christian-Lichtenhan: Third-year sophomore took over as the starting left tackle four weeks ago. He’s been playing well, but has his toughest task yet against the Ducks, as he tries to protect JT Shrout’s blind side.

• CB Nikko Reed: Leads the Buffs with five pass-breakups. He also has 30 tackles on the season. Facing Oregon’s talented passing game, he and his fellow corners need to be up to the task.

• RB Deion Smith: Returned from injury last week with the best game of his career, rushing for 111 yards and a touchdown. Leads the Buffs with 354 yards and 5.1 yards per carry.

• OLB Guy Thomas: Playing his best football of the season since missing the Oct. 2 game at Arizona with an injury. He’s posted 17 tackles and three tackles for the loss – one TFL in each game – the past three weeks.

• WR Jordyn Tyson: He had a monster game last week with a 58-yard TD reception, 88-yard punt return TD and 246 all-purpose yards. Now leads the Buffs in receiving yards (333) and has 17 catches on the season.

Colorado offense

This is still one of the worst offenses in the country over the course of the season (16.3 points and 295.3 yards per game), but the Buffs have shown some progress in recent weeks, most notably last week against Arizona State. Quarterback JT Shrout didn’t complete many of his passes (13-of-34), but threw for a career-best 222 yards and two touchdowns. He’s also found a major weapon in freshman receiver Jordyn Tyson. A healthy backfield with Deion Smith and Alex Fontenot should help, as well.

Colorado defense

A mid-season coaching change sparked the defense to its best game of the year against California on Nov. 15. The past two weeks have gone back to the norm, however. While the promotion of Gerald Chatman has made an impact in terms of the big plays CU makes, there are too many holes to plug mid-season. The Buffs have created more takeaways (four) and tackles for loss (20) in the last three games than the first five (4 takeaways, 18 TFLs). But, they’re still giving up a lot of points and a lot of yards, both on the ground and through the air.

Colorado special teams

This unit has been good, for the most part, all season. Cole Becker is having a great year at kicker (9-for-10 field goals, 13-of-14 extra points). Punter Trent Carrizosa has been up and down since taking over the duties, but has a 42.23 average (36.9 net). The Buffs also have some explosiveness in the return game. Jordyn Tyson returned a punt for a touchdown last week and Nikko Reed is averaging 27.8 yards on kickoff returns.

How Colorado can win

There’s always a chance at pulling off an upset and there certainly have been bigger surprises in the history of sports, but it would take a minor miracle for the Buffs to win this game. Oregon has been one of the hottest teams in the country and CU has been one of the worst. To win, CU has to play nearly flawless football on both sides of the ball and would still need to force Oregon into a series of uncharacteristic mistakes.

Buffs notables

• In the past two games, the Buffs have averaged 16.5 yards per completion. That’s a dramatic improvement from the first six games, when they averaged 10.0 yards per completion.

• CU at least has history on its side, as the Buffs are 10-3-1 all-time on Nov. 5, including a current five-game win streak. This is, however, the first game on Nov. 5 since 2005 (a 41-12 win against Missouri).

• This will be CU’s first game against a ranked opponent this year – but all four this month could be against ranked foes. Overall, the Buffs have lost six straight against ranked opponents. Since a 27-24 upset of No. 3 Oklahoma in 2007, the Buffs are 0-16 against top-10 opponents.

• Safety Trevor Woods and linebacker Josh Chandler-Semedo are tied for the team with 68 tackles each. Woods leads the team with solo tackles (54), while Chandler-Semedo leads the squad with 12.5 tackles for loss.

• CU’s longest run of the season was a 25-yard touchdown by Deion Smith against Air Force in Week 2. There are still four games, of course, but since CU started tracking longest runs in 1946, the Buffs have never had a season without at least one run longer than 25 yards. The closest was in 1959, when Chuck Weiss’ 26-yarder was the longest of the year.

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