Pac-12 South foes will clash on Saturday afternoon when the Arizona Wildcats visit the Colorado Buffaloes at Folsom Field. Arizona is still searching for its first win of the season at 0-5 (0-2 Pac-12) after losing 34-16 to the UCLA Bruins last Saturday as a 16.5-point home underdog. Colorado last played on October 2 in a 37-14 loss to the USC Trojans as a 9.5-point home underdog before a bye week, and will now hope to get things turned around at 1-4 (0-2 Pac-12) overall this season.
The Buffaloes lead the all-time series 15-8 after picking up a 24-13 win in Tucson last season, although Arizona has still won seven of the 10 matchups since both teams joined the Pac-12.
Arizona's losing streak reaches 17 gamesThere are a few positives to take away from last Saturday's game for a Wildcats team that was at least within striking distance in the second half against UCLA, but ultimately Arizona is still searching for its first win in over two full calendar years. Michael Wiley scored on a 10-yard touchdown pass just before the halftime break to cut UCLA's lead to 14-13 and it was still a one-score game midway through the fourth, yet Arizona could only manage a lone field goal in the second half as a long touchdown run from the Bruins with 7:48 left sealed it.
Quarterback Jordan McCloud completed 21 of 30 passes for 182 yards while adding six carries for 21 yards, but unfortunatley sustained a season-ending lower body injury late in the game. Drake Anderson led the way on the ground with 16 carries for 58 yards, while Stanley Berryhill III racked up seven catches for 59 yards. While Arizona was only outgained 411-362 overall, the Wildcats could do nothing to stop UCLA on the ground, with the Bruins piling up 329 yards on 47 carries as a team.
"Schematically, we throw a lot at the guys. We’re still making some critical errors," coordinator Don Brown told AZ Central about the learning curve for a new-look defense. "There’s a lot of learning to be done here. It just isn’t gonna get solved now. I’m not saying that makes excuses for being competitive."
Arizona has been better against the spread at 2-3, with its two covers coming as a big underdog against No. 10 Oregon and No. 19 BYU earlier in the season. Overs are also 2-3 for the Wildcats after last Saturday's contest fell short of the betting total of 61 points.
The Wildcats offense has been a bottom 10 unit in college football with an average of 16.3 points and 363.2 yards per game. Arizona's defense has only been marginally more successful, with opponents putting up 31.6 points and 373.2 yards per contest.
With McCloud out, Gunner Cruz is back atop the depth chart after originally winning the job out of camp, having completed 48 of his 71 pass attempts for 454 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions in three games this year. Anderson is the Wildcats' leading rusher with 62 carries for 240 yards and a score, while Berryhill III is a prolific receiver with 40 catches for 390 yards and a score. Linebacker Anthony Pandy is the leader of the Arizona defense with 42 tackles and a forced fumble.
The Arizona quarterback is further shorthanded beyond just McCloud being done for the year, as Will Plummer has missed the last two games for undisclosed reasons after going 29/54 passing for 309 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions in parts of three contests earlier in the year. Freshman linebacker Jabar Triplett is recovering from offseason knee surgery. Cornerback Isaiah Rutherford (illness) and defensive lineman JB Brown (personal) are expected back in the lineup after missing last Saturday.
Colorado hopes to jumpstart offense after bye weekAfter being far better than anyone expected in year one under head coach Karl Dorrell in 2020 with a 4-2 finish, Colorado has fallen apart this season and is still searching for its first win over an FBS opponent this season following another blowout loss to USC two weeks ago. Colorado didn't get on the board until the last minute of the first half on Deion Smith's short run, but USC's lead ballooned to 30-7 midway through the third quarter and a seven-yard touchdown catch by Chase Penry wasn't nearly enough for a rally.
Brendon Lewis was efficient through the air, completing 10 of 17 pass attempts for 196 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Brady Russell made some big plays for the Buffaloes with three catches for 87 yards. USC thoroughly dominated the Buffaloes with a 494-242 advantage in total yards, and Colorado was just 1-10 on third down with two turnovers.
“We got the chance as a team to take a break, recoup, kind of figure some things out on our own, come back and piece it all together as a team,” running back Jarek Broussard said to The Denver Post after the bye week. “Honestly as an offense, we’re feeling pretty confident. I feel like some guys kind of got some time away, got to relax, see the family and they came back with their head on straight.”
Colorado is also struggling against the spread at 1-4, with the only win coming back on September 11 when its upset bid as a big underdog against No. 21 Texas A&M fell just short in a 10-7 loss. Overs are 2-3 for the Buffaloes, with each of their last two games going under the betting total after the contest against USC cleared 50.5 points.
It's been a massive struggle offensively for the Buffaloes, who are second to last in scoring nationally at 13.8 points per game on just 239.6 yards per contest. Colorado's defense is at least solid, with opponents putting up 23.8 points and 383.6 yards per contest.
Lewis hasn't been able to push the ball downfield much, completing 48 of his 90 pass attempts for 475 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions while adding 43 carries for 119 yards. Broussard has fallen off from his brilliant 2020 numbers but is still effective, carrying the ball 60 times for 256 yards and two scores. Nate Landman is the leader of the Buffaloes defense with 46 tackles including five for loss, three pass breakups and a forced fumble.
Offensive tackle Max Wray hopes to return to the Colorado lineup this week, as he is out of concussion protocol after missing two games. Starting linebacker Quinn Perry is also questionable with a leg injury. Quarterback J.T. Shrout, who was expected to get the starting job, suffered a season-ending knee injury in training camp. The wide reciever room is shorthanded, with Maurice Bell (Achillies), La'Vontae Shenault (suspension) and Jaylon Jackson (undisclosed) all out.
Best Bets for this Game
Full-Game Side Bet
As much as the Wildcats have struggled, Colorado shouldn't be favored this much over anyone with an offense that is one of the worst in college football. Arizona has at least kept things competitive in a couple of games this season despite being at a talent disadvantage while playing hard for first-year head coach Jedd Fisch, and this will be an ugly low-scoring affair where neither team generates enough offense to go up by more than one score.
The Buffaloes are dead last nationally with a miserable 3.4 yards per play, as Lewis is having a rough go under center as an inexperienced freshman while not getting much support, as the offensive line as allowed sacks on a whopping 13.54% of his dropbacks and no wide receivers have stepped up. Arizona's defense has at least been closer to average than the bottom of the leaderboard with 5.8 yards per play allowed, and can easily prepare for a Colorado team that relies way too heavily on Broussard to carry the entire offense.
Results like losing by eight to a good BYU team and keeping within one score of UCLA until the final minutes show Arizona has some fight, and the Wildcats will come out fired up in their best chance to break this horrendous losing streak. Even if that doesn't happen on Saturday, Colorado won't be able to cover a spread this big as its offense won't sustain enough drives.
Full-Game Total Pick
Both of these offenses rank in the bottom seven across all of college football in scoring, and neither has managed more than 19 points in any game against an FBS opponent all season. Arizona also takes a further hit with McCloud's injury, as Cruz can't provide a similar type of threat as a scrambler.
Colorado's defense has done an admirable enough job considering the lack of support from the offense, ranking slightly above average in scoring and yards per game allowed. Expect an ugly punt-filled afternoon between two of the worst offenses in the entire nation.