Three things to watch
1. Will they play? The coronavirus pandemic canceled the California-at-Arizona State game on Saturday after multiple positive COVID-19 tests for ASU. The Pac-12’s rapid daily testing means every team will anxiously await each kickoff with the fear a game might get axed at any moment. CU fans should expect the unexpected.
2. Help on the way. CU wide receiver La’Vontae Shenault will return after his one-game suspension. It’s also possible that speedy pass-catcher K.D. Nixon — returned to Boulder after considering the NFL Draft — is back in the fold after dealing with a hamstring injury. Nixon is considered day-to-day for return. Both players would be welcomed additions for the Buffs’ offense.
3. Road woes. CU’s recent history in road games has been dismal. The Buffs are 6-12 (including the Rocky Mountain Showdown) when playing away from Folsom Field over the past three seasons. Dorrell can go a long way in ensuring the trust of CU fans with a rare road win.
Who has the edge?
When Stanford runs
Cardinal running back Austin Jones appears to be the team’s most dynamic playmaker after a Week 1 loss with 100 yards rushing and two receiving touchdowns. The offensive line is anchored by Drew Dalman, arguably the Pac-12’s best center. CU’s defense allowed UCLA to average 7 yards per carry in the opener, which suggests the Buffs might struggle against Stanford’s ground game.
When Stanford passes
Stanford was dealt an unlucky hand last week when starting quarterback Davis Mills was reportedly held out with a false positive COVID-19 test. The Pac-12 publicly apologized for the error. Should Mills play this weekend (unknown as of Friday), he brings senior leadership after 11 touchdown passes over eight games a year ago. CU’s secondary suffered multiple coverage lapses against UCLA and gave up four TDs through the air. The Buffs need to create turnovers.
When the Buffs run
Jarek Broussard’s electrifying debut as CU’s starting running back (31 carries, 187 yards, 3 TDs) was aided by a strong push from the Buffs’ mostly veteran offensive line. You can expect another strong Broussard performance this week against a Stanford defense that couldn’t stop Oregon’s rushing game in the opener — allowing 269 yards and four touchdowns.
When the Buffs pass
CU quarterback Sam Noyer was an excellent game manager in his first career start and made several clutch throws late to secure victory against UCLA. The former safety completed 22 passes to eight different targets. CU still needs to establish a true No. 1 wide receiver with several contenders. Stanford intercepted Oregon once in its opener, but the Cardinal secondary also gave up 277 yards passing and a touchdown. Noyer must be consistent to erase any doubt he’s the starter.
CU placekicker James Stefanou retired this week after a string of injuries. His replacement, Evan Price, hit two critical field goals to stave off UCLA’s comeback. But CU also gave up a pair of blocked field goals in the game. Stanford’s special teams were much cleaner in its opener with Nathaniel Peat averaging nearly 25 yards per kick return against Oregon.
Sean Keeler, columnist: Stanford 28, CU 24
The Buffs came out snorting fire against the Bruins, but CU on the road? Different animal. You just can’t shake the feeling that Oregon really is THAT good. And UCLA really is THAT bad.
Matt Schubert, deputy sports editor: Stanford 24, Colorado 20
With QB Davis Mills lost to a false positive virus test a week ago, the Cardinal fell flat in Oregon. Presuming he’s a go Saturday, Stanford should match CU’s offensive firepower without making nearly as many mistakes as UCLA.
Kyle Fredrickson, beat writer: Stanford 27, Colorado 21
CU proved it can score in bunches against a bad defense at home. Can the Buffs now do it against better competition on the road? This game has “learning experience” written all over it for first-year coach Karl Dorrell.
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