November 12, 2008

Scouting the Buffs: Rough '08 for CU

At the very beginning of the season, the Oklahoma State-Colorado matchup was seen as a vital swing game for the Cowboys, possibly the difference between a seven-win or eight-win season.

But with the game between the Cowboys and Buffaloes only three days away, this game has an entirely different feel. For one, OSU is a solid favorite. Secondly, the Pokes ride to Boulder with eight wins already in the bag. Thirdly, the Buffaloes didn't live up to preseason expectations of being a darkhorse in the Big 12 North. The Silver and Gold are one win away from bowl-eligibility, with this game and a road trip to Nebraska still to come. The season has largely been a disappointment, with key injuries on the offensive line torpedoing things and poor quarterback play only making offensive woes worse.

This will mark the Pokes' first game at Folsom Field since a 42-14 walloping of the Buffaloes in 2004. Can this OSU team match that this time around?

BUFFALOES AT A GLANCE
Location:
Boulder, Colo.
2007 record: 7-6 (4-4)
Game time: 7 p.m. Central Time (TV: ABC)
Current record: 5-5 (2-4)
Last week: 28-24 win over Iowa State in Boulder
Current ranking: None
Fact of the week: Not counting the non-military schools in the United States, Colorado ranks in the top five in the number of astronauts who have flown in space, with 17.

THE BIG THING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT…
… the Buffalo offense:
Ranked 97th nationally (322 yards per game) and last in the Big 12, the Buffs are very anemic bunch with the football. They rank 103rd in scoring offense (19.3 points per game) and have scored 30 points in a game only twice this season - against Colorado State and Eastern Washington. Meanwhile, CU has scored 17 points of less in a game six times. Their quarterback situation is confused, oscillating between Cody Hawkins and Tyler Hansen, who had his redshirt pulled mid-way through the season because of Hawkins' lack of production. For the season, the son of the head coach has 1,472 yards passing, 15 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Before his four-TD outburst against Iowa State last weekend, Hawkins had gone scoreless in the last three games. Hansen didn't play until CU's seventh game and has 280 yards, one score and four picks in four games he's played in. The running game is just as unsettled. Rodney Stewart, a true freshman, appeared to show flashes of becoming a reliable Big 12 running back. Until he broke his fibula against Texas A&M. Up to that point, he had 622 yards and two touchdowns - including three 100-yard games. His backup, Darrell Scott, has zero 100-yard games. On the season, Scott has 344 yards and one touchdown (which came against CSU in the season opener). Hansen has some wheels, gaining 250 yards since taking to the field. Scotty McKnight (410 yards, four TDs) and Josh Smith (333 yards, three TDs) are the two top receivers on the year.
… the Buffalo defense: Ranking 72nd nationally (372 ypg) and fifth in the Big 12, the Buffs have been mediocre at best. CU is 72nd (213 ypg) in pass defense, 78th in rushing defense (159 ypg) and 83rd in scoring defense (28 ppg). The unit has eight interceptions on the year and six fumble recoveries. Linebacker Brad Jones leads the team with four sacks while Jeff Smart leads the tackles category with 91. This unit allowed 58 to a good Missouri team and 24 to a bad ISU squad.
… the coach: Now in his third season at CU, Dan Hawkins directed a huge turnaround for Ralphie's crew last season, jumping up to a 7-5 regular-season mark and Independence Bowl appearance after a 2-10 campaign in 2006. This season was supposed to build on the successes of 2007, but that hasn't happened. He has a young team and is still rebuilding after the disastrous ending to the Gary Barnett years. While some fans and alums are likely getting antsy with Hawkins, he'll likely have another season or two to bring his young team along.

OVERALL THOUGHTS
Remember when this game was in doubt for OSU? Much has changed since before the season when this game looked like one of those toss-ups that meant the difference between a lower bowl and say, the Alamo. The Pokes have exceeded just about everyone's expectations in 2008, while the Buffaloes have largely been a disappointment. So the Pokes head to the Flatirons in an enviable position: taking on a weak team on (mostly) national television. If you liked 2004, you'll love Saturday: OSU 49, CU 16.

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