Scouting report for the Colorado Buffaloes
Deion Sanders, first season as head coach (4-2, 31-8 lifetime).
Season 2023: 4-2, 1-2 Pac-12
Last week, they defeated Arizona State, 27-24.
• Jimmy Horn Jr., Wide Receiver: He’s been a reliable weapon all season, and his speed will be an advantage against Stanford. Horn has caught 39 passes for 376 yards and has at least five catches in five of the six games this season.
• Travis Hunter, CB/WR: After missing three games due to injury, Hunter returned to practice this week and might be back in the starting on Friday night. He has 16 receptions for 213 yards, nine tackles, an interception, and two pass breakups.
• LB Demouy Kennedy: The Alabama transfer has primarily contributed on special teams this season, but he appears to be poised to make an impact on defense.
• RB Alton McCaskill IV: He has only six carries this season, but coach Sanders indicated the Houston transfer could see more action this week.
• DL Amari McNeill has 13 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, and 2.5 sacks in the last four games. In three of the last four games, he’s got at least half a sack.
The Colorado offensive
Despite having a bevy of weapons at the skill positions and one of the finest quarterbacks in the country in Shedeur Sanders, the Buffs’ offense has been very hot and cold this season. The Buffs have struggled with slow starts for several weeks, with only seven first-quarter scores in their last three games. “We’re better than what we’re showing,” remarked Coach Prime this week. “We’re better than that and we’re gonna prove it.” Getting the running game back on track would be beneficial. With 78.7 yards per game, Colorado is the Pac-12’s worst rushing offense. Coach Prime stated that the scheme will be approached differently this week.
The Buffs have struggled on this side of the ball this season, but there have been some encouraging signs in recent weeks. In the last two games, they’ve slowed down the run more, while also showing greater ability to go to the quarterback. “I think we moved to the ball a lot better, a lot more communication,” CU linebackers coach Andre Hart said of the team’s previous game against Arizona State. Coach Prime stated that the defensive approach may alter this week, as it did last week. The return of Travis Hunter and the likely inclusion of Demouy Kennedy will provide extra speed to the field.
Special teams in Colorado
The special teams have had their ups and downs, but the Buffs are coming off probably their greatest game in this period. Alejandro Mata, who is 4-for-4 on the season, hit both of his field goals last week. Mark Vassett, the team’s punter, had his best game of the season, averaging 49.6 yards per punt. Kickoffs haven’t been consistent, but with Mata and Vassett, the Buffs should be solid in the kicking game.
How Colorado can triumph
CU can’t look beyond the Cardinal, who are currently last in the Pac-12. CU is still looking for a full game, and Friday could be an excellent opportunity. The Buffs will need to get off to a good offensive start and shut down the run on defense if they are to win their second game in a row.
• Colorado has won three straight games against Stanford, tying the longest winning streak against a Pac-12 opponent since the league’s inception in 2011 (CU also won three straight games against Oregon State from 2015-17).
• If the Buffs defeat the Cardinal, they will improve to 5-2. CU has only had two prior 5-2 starts to a season in the last 18 seasons (since 2006), in 2016 and 2018.
• The Buffs are sixth in the Pac-12 in scoring (33.0 points per game) and ninth in overall offense (415.8 yards per game) heading into this week. They rank 11th in terms of points allowed (34.2) and 12th in terms of yards allowed (465.5).
• Colorado has converted on all 20 of its red zone opportunities (15 touchdowns, 5 field goals). The Buffs are one of only five teams in the country that have converted all of their red zone opportunities into points. Florida State, Oregon State, South Alabama, and Western Kentucky are the other teams with a perfect record.
• Shedeur Sanders only needs seven throwing yards to achieve 9,000 for his college career. Sanders has thrown for 2,020 yards this season and 8,993 yards in his career.