Last season against Colorado, Arizona found itself down 10-7 after one quarter. Three quarters later, the Wildcats had won 56-31 behind 366 yards and five touchdowns from Ka'Deem Carey.
While the rushing numbers may be difficult for Carey to match Saturday at Colorado, Arizona is hoping for a similar result.
“They’re a little more experienced, a little bigger, and a little more physical," Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez said of Colorado. "They’re playing better. I think they are getting a little bit more confidence.
"They won a few games and the new staff has done a nice job of creating a good atmosphere it seems like and they are playing hard. It’ll be a good crowd, and they’ll be fired up to face Ka’Deem Carey and the Wildcats.”
It has only been one year, but the Buffs have undergone numerous changes, including at head coach, as Mike MacIntyre left San Jose State to take on the task of rebuilding the Buffs.
MacIntyre decided to try that rebuilding behind true freshman quarterback Sefo Liufau, who started the first game of his career last week against Charleston Southern. Liufau is 32-46 for 367 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
The Buffs have not really let him loose and may not on Saturday, but he is strong on the intermediate routes and good enough to get the job done.
Liufau’s job is made much easier by one of the best receivers in the conference and country as a whole. Junior Paul Richardson has 43 catches for 782 yards and six touchdowns with four games going over 100 yards, two of which went for over 200.
There aren’t many receivers in the country that are faster than Richardson and CU will try to get him involved as much as possible on Saturday.
Colorado will likely use two backs with freshman Michael Adkins emerging as the lead. He was actually recruited by Arizona a bit out of high school and has 49 carries for 315 yards and four touchdowns this season.
Christian Powell will get the second set of carries and had arguably the best game of his career against Arizona last season when he ran 32 times for 137 yards and two touchdowns. It will be interesting to see if the Buffs give him more carries than usual to start in order to see if he has a chance of matching last year’s production.
Defensively, Colorado is better and it is due to a nice mix of freshmen and returning players. Freshman MIKE linebacker Addison Gillam easily leads the Buffs in tackles with 67 tackles, 25 more than the next player. Gillam was going to grayshirt at San Jose State, but followed MacIntyre to Colorado and is now one of the better players on defense.
Junior Greg Henderson is probably the best corner on Colorado with 32 tackles and five pass breakups to go along with four picks. He is helped by free safety Jered Bell, who has two interceptions and returned one of them for a touchdown.
On the defensive line, Chidera Uzo-Diribe is first on the team with two sacks and also has six tackles for loss. He is one of the few Buffs that can consistently get pressure on the opposing quarterback and it is something that the CU coaching staff counts on in order for the defense to have any type of success.
The rest of the line is strong in size, but leaves something to be desired in production. It might be the weakest part of the Colorado defense, which is a big reason why Arizona was able to run the ball so easily last season.
It would be a surprise if Carey did not get significant yards and throughout the week it seemed as if MacIntyre was willing to concede that he is going to have success Saturday.
“He is phenomenal player, I wished we were playing Jim Carey instead of Ka’Deem,” MacIntyre said. “He is an unbelievable player. Not only is he a great runner, he is a physical tough guy and really makes things happen for them.”
The Arizona coaching staff has been consistent this week in telling the players to watch out for the potential of an upset and Rodriguez believes that they listened closely.
"The only way I can judge is by their actions and their actions so far in practice have been good, but it’s the same way every week for us in that regard," Rodriguez said.
"We talk about staying hungry and staying humble all the time anyway. We’re not undefeated and beating everybody by 40 points, so we’re a team that just has to be resilient and go play our tails off."
Matchups to Watch:
Arizona receivers vs. Colorado secondary: Arizona’s receivers actually got the better of a strong Utah secondary and it opened up the whole offense. Carey is going to get his yards, but Colorado is going to load the box. If Arizona’s receivers can get open, it will make everything easier offensively. If not, the CU defense has a chance to surprise, which means the game will be closer than most expect.
Colorado running backs vs. Arizona defensive line: One of the reasons why Powell was so successful last season is because the defensive line did not get any push. By the time Arizona got a body on Powell, he was already in the second tier. Arizona’s defensive line needs to get push similar to how it did against Utah or Colorado will have no problem continually running the ball.
Colorado offensive line vs. Arizona linebackers: With CU having a true freshman at quarterback, it makes sense to pressure him as much as possible. If the Buffs’ offensive line can block the blitzes, there will be numerous holes. If not, it is going to be a long night for the Colorado offense.
Keys to the Game:
Take the crowd out of it: Night games at Colorado do not happen as much as one would think and with it being Homecoming, you have to assume the place is going to be rocking. Arizona would be best served being aggressive early and trying to take the crowd out of it. A close game at the half could be dangerous for Arizona in terms of overall atmosphere.
Get Carey involved early and often: Arizona did a great job of doing this against Utah and it is no coincidence that the offense was successful throughout the night. Matching last week's number of carries will be difficult to do two weeks in a row, but 30 seems like a good number. If Arizona can get Carey involved early, it will open up the passing game and tire out a CU team with a lack of depth.
Make the correct reads: B.J. Denker is not going to make the right read every play and expecting him to do so is probably asking too much. However, he needs to make the right read as much as possible in order to avoid plays like the failed 4th and 2 against Utah. If Denker can make the majority of the right reads, the offense will obviously be better for it.