Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Buffs look to avoid a sixth straight loss and bowl game elimination in Mel Tucker’s first season
For the first time since 1904, the Colorado Buffaloes (3-6, 1-5 Pac-12) will face a Stanford Cardinal (4-4, 3-3 Pac-12) team past the first week of November. Both teams are fighting for postseason hopes late in the season with no room for error. It’s not an easy road for either team considering Colorado needs to win out after losing five straight games, and Stanford needs two of the four remaining games with two them coming on the road, along with facing 15th-ranked Notre Dame in the season finale at home.
A season that started out at 1-3 for Shaw’s team improved to .500 with back-to-back wins at Oregon State and vs. No. 15 Washington to open October. Since that point, the Cardinal gave away a 34-16 loss to UCLA and took a 41-31 win over Arizona two weeks ago to remain even on the year. Stanford is one loss away from matching the worst record in Shaw’s tenure in Palo Alto— a 9-5 season that produced a Pac-12 North title in 2017 for the then 20th-ranked Cardinal.
Stanford struggled to make the postseason with a total eight bowl appearances prior to the Jim Harbaugh era. Since Shaw arrived in Palo Alto in 2011, the Cardinal have never missed the postseason and are trying for an extra game for the 11th year in a row as the most consistent team in the Pac-12, including four straight BCS bowls between 2010 and 2013 to make Stanford the winning-est conference program of the decade. The Cardinal has won 98 games since the start of the 2010 season, tied for the sixth-most in college football. Just five programs have reached 100 wins this decade.
However, Shaw’s focus isn’t looking ahead to December, but rather taking it one week at a time. “I’m not even thinking about bowl games,” Shaw said this week. “Our charge every week is to play our best football. We’re chasing that great game where you walk out of the stadium saying, ‘Guys, that was our best game.’ That’s what we want. The bowl game stuff will happen however it happens, but our focus is just on what happens on game day.”
The last time Colorado and Stanford meet on the gridiron was 2016. A defensive road battle decided by 10-5 score in favor of the Buffaloes and helped secure a bowl bid for the first time in a decade during “The Rise.” Since that time, CU has gone 9-20 against conference opponents including a 31-point blowout in the 2016 Pac-12 Championship at the hands of 4th-ranked Washington. Colorado has allowed 30+ points in 14 straight games going back to last season, the longest streak in FBS. On the other side, Stanford has surpassed the 30-point mark just twice this season both resulting in wins. Although, one thing to watch in the meeting between the Buffs and Cardinal is the 40-point mark. Stanford is 31-0 under Shaw when scoring 40-or-more points.
While Colorado’s defense has taken a beating as of late, the offense hasn’t produced outstanding numbers either. The Buffs averaged 34.6 points per game thru the first five contests of the season and a low 14.5-point average in the four games since. A look at the stat line over the past month tells a story of the past 16 quarters. A total of 49 offensive drives (not including end of half) resulting in 22 punts, 12 turnovers, 7 touchdowns, 5 missed FGs and 3 made FGs for the Buffs.
The Cardinal have done well defensively this season allowing 28.0 points per game, but still manages to be one of the seven Pac-12 teams to give up over 400+ yards a game. What offsets the lack of discipline is Stanford’s ability to score on both sides of the ball. The Cardinal is currently 15th in the nation and has scored three non-offensive touchdowns this season.
A shuffle for Stanford at quarterback with K.J. Costello returning in the win over Arizona after missing three games due to a thumb injury. The senior starter takes back control of Cardinal offense after backup Davis Mills passed for 890 yards and five touchdowns to an interception in Costello’s absence. Mills’ relief effort was the best start by a Stanford QB in their first three games since 2003. In 24 career starts, Costello has led the Cardinal to a 15-9 record. His 48 career touchdown passes are tied for sixth-most in school history.
After Bryce Love’s exit to the NFL, Stanford’s workhorse out of the backfield this season is Cameron Scarlett. The fifth-year senior from Portland, Ore has rushed for 700 yards and five touchdowns this season, and is 39 yards shy of matching Love’s rushing yard total from last season. Through eight games, Scarlett is second behind Mills with 859 all-purpose yards.
News and notes
Second Half Hustle: “Stanford is 75-7 when leading at halftime under David Shaw and has won 59 of its last 62 games when leading after three quarters.”
Showing up early and often: “Colorado’s attendance of 48,913 for the Southern California game pushed the season number to 203,593 for four games, including two sellouts (against Nebraska and Arizona State; the last time CU exceeded 200,000 for its first four home games was in 2011 (203,666), CU’s first year in the Pac-12. The Buffaloes are at 101.4 percent of capacity at this point, one of the top figures nationally (CU’s final season ticket count for the year was 20,414, while students purchased the full allotment of 12, 254 sport passes).”
No DirecTV— A big deal: Stanford’s David Shaw shared his thoughts about the Pac-12 needing a deal with DirecTV before the season. Here’s what he had to say.
From the desk of Dave Plati:
“Stat of the week: Third Down Successes. Colorado has been fairly proficient on third downs this season, especially when it comes to third-and-short (third-and-four or less). The Buffaloes are 38-of-55 in such situations, which translates to a 69.1 percent conversion rate (CU is 28-of-37 on third-and-three or less, 75.7 percent, and has earned a first down 10 of 12 times on third-and-one). Against UCLA, the Buffs converted all five times when faced with third-and-four or less. When CU has called a running play on third or fourth down, it has converted 33 of 45 times (73.3 percent), with WR Laviska Shenault leading the way (8-of-8), followed by TB Jaren Mangham (10-of-12) and TB Alex Fontenot (9-of-13).”
Colorado welcomes Stanford into Folsom Field for the first time since 2015 on Saturday, Nov. 9 at 1 p.m. MT. The Cardinal have won two of the past three over the Buffs, despite losing the most-recent meeting in 2016. Stanford holds a 6-4 all-time advantage over CU, 3-1 as members of the Pac-12.
TV: Pac-12 Network (except DirecTV)
Radio: 850 KOA (Regional) Mark Johnson (play-by-play)/ Gary Barnett (color)
Weather Forecast: 67°, clear at kickoff
Odds: -3 Stanford