After convincing wins the first two games this season, #4 Michigan will face it’s most talented foe yet, the Colorado Buffaloes.
The last time these teams faced each other was 1997, with Michigan winning 27-3. Their previous meeting was the famous “Miracle at Michigan” in which Kordell Stewart completed a 64 yard hail mary to Michael Westbrook, off a planned deflection by Blake Anderson. All three players will be on hand for the game Saturday, along with Colorado’s head coach at the time, Bill McCartney.
While the program has had its ups and downs since the Stewart days, Colorado now appears to be a force in the PAC-12. They have talent on both sides of the football, with speed aplenty and good awareness mixed in. At 2-0 on the season, the Buffaloes have won convincingly in both match-ups, winning 44-7 over Colorado State, and 56-7 against Idaho State.
Offensively, Colorado is an up-tempo offense who snaps the ball quickly, much like Central Florida last week. The only difference is their execution has been stellar through two games. The offensive line is physical; protecting the quarterback and giving him time to throw, while also winning battles in short-yardage run situations. This has helped quarterback Sefo Liufau complete 74.5% of his throws while throwing zero interceptions, and has helped the run game average a solid 4.6 yards on the ground.
The Colorado running backs are all under-sized and not flashy. Michigan should be able to bottle them up consistently throughout the game. The key will be getting to Liufau, because he can scramble well and has a dangerous trio of wide receivers to throw to in Devin Ross, Shay Fields, and Bryce Bobo. All three are speedsters, with an average of 19.3 yards per catch between them. This unit will really test the Michigan secondary, will they be up to the challenge?
The other issue in stopping the offense will be eliminating quarterback scrambles, especially in third down situations, which has been a problem for Michigan early on. Don Brown did make adjustments in this regard in the second half against Central Florida, and that wrinkle very well could have solved this problem before the kick-off launches Saturday.
The Colorado defense is ranked No. 1 in total yards against. Jim Harbaugh is aware they’re a talented group. “Very aggressive, opportunistic. They dive on your mistakes, they create turnovers, very sound. It's already showing up. They're already getting turnovers. Playing with a lot of hustle and a lot of instinct and talent.” Through their first two games, the defensive unit has created five turnovers (three interceptions, two fumbles). The key player on the Colorado defense is cornerback Chidobe Awuzie, who should be drafted in the first three rounds of the 2017 NFL Draft. The 6 foot corner already has an interception on the year. Awuzie is also a great tackler at his position, notching 85 total tackles last season.
All in all, I expect Michigan to keep rolling, but this Colorado squad has NFL talent on the roster, with speed and toughness. They have talent that should be respected.