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Arizona State wide receiver Elijhah Badger, center, is tackled by Colorado linebacker Quinn Perry, left, and safety Tyrin Tayloron Oct. 29 in Boulder. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Arizona State wide receiver Elijhah Badger, center, is tackled by Colorado linebacker Quinn Perry, left, and safety Tyrin Tayloron Oct. 29 in Boulder. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Colorado Buffaloes scouting report

Head coach: Mike Sanford (interim), 1st season (1-4; 10-20 career)

This season: 1-9, 1-6 Pac-12

Last week: Lost at USC, 55-17

5 Players to Watch

• LB Robert Barnes: Had perhaps his best game as a Buff against Washington a year ago. Last week, he had a season-high nine tackles, including a tackle for loss. On the season, he has 36 tackles and two TFLs.

• RB Alex Fontenot: A week ago, he had one of the best games of his career, with 108 yards and a touchdown. He’s missed most of the season with injury but has 233 yards and a touchdown and is running well in recent weeks.

• LB Quinn Perry: The Buffs’ third-leading tackler, with 63 stops, he had his first sack of the season a week ago. He’s also one of the team leaders with seven third-down stops.

• TE Brady Russell: Receiving numbers aren’t what he would want (15 catches for 112 yards), but he’s capable of being a weapon in the passing game. He’s also been exceptional as a blocker in recent weeks.

• OLB Guy Thomas: Has the potential to be dangerous on the edge. He’s got 38 tackles, 5.5 TFLs and a pair of QB pressures on the season. Had four tackles and a TFL a week ago at USC.

Colorado offense

It’s certainly not one of the top offenses around; in fact, the Buffs rank near the bottom of the country in scoring and yards per game. CU has shown a lot of improvement in the last five weeks, however. After posting 13.4 points and 277.0 yards per game in the first five games, they’ve averaged 18.0 points and 320.6 yards in the last five games. The run game, behind Deion Smith and/or Alex Fontenot, has improved and that’s been a key. Quarterback JT Shrout has struggled at times, but has the arm talent to make game-breaking plays.

Colorado defense

In recent weeks, the Buffs have been better at producing tackles for loss and creating turnovers. They haven’t been able to come up with those often enough, however. The opposition has feasted on the Buffs all season and particularly in the last four weeks. Since a sensational game against California on Oct. 15, the Buffs have allowed 47.0 points and 509.8 yards per game.

Colorado special teams

Cole Becker continues to be one of the most reliable kickers around, as he is 11-for-13 on field goals (6-for-6 inside 40 yards) and 16-of-17 on extra points. Trent Carrizosa has had some ups and downs. He’s landed seven punts inside the opponents’ 30-yard line but has net average of just 36.9 yards. Nikko Reed has shown some explosive ability as a returner.

How Colorado can win

CU needs to fire on all cylinders offensively, finally getting the run game and pass game going at the same time; that hasn’t happened all year. If the Buffs can finally click, they can stay in the game. Defensively, they’ve got to get off the field on third downs, avoid giving up too many big plays and create turnovers.

Buffs notables

• CU is trying to avoid its 10th loss of the season. Since joining the Pac-12 in 2011, the Buffs have had three 10-loss seasons (2011, 2012, 2014). Prior to joining the Pac-12, CU had a total of three 10-loss seasons in 121 years of football, from 1890-2010 (1980, 1984, 2006).

• The Buffs have a 10-game losing streak on the road. Their last win away from Boulder came on Dec. 5, 2020, at Arizona.

• CU has lost 27 consecutive games against opponents ranked in the top 15 of the Associated Press poll. The last time CU beat a top-15 team was a 27-24 upset of No. 3 Oklahoma on Sept. 29, 2007, in Boulder. The Buffs have defeated a top-15 team on the road since a 16-6 win at No. 12 Kansas State on Oct. 2, 2001.

• CU’s season high in total yards is 367, in a 49-10 loss to Oregon on Nov. 5. The Buffs, in fact, have now been held under 400 yards in 24 consecutive games, dating back to 2020. CU is the only team in the Pac-12 without at least one 400-yard game this season.

• Running back Alex Fontenot is 17-of-21 in his career when trying to get first downs on third-and-1 and fourth-and-1 situations. He is 5-of-5 this season.

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