The Colorado Buffaloes travel to the Palouse this Saturday to face the Washington State Cougars at 1 p.m. on FX. The Colorado defense drew attention from people all across the country this weekend, as Fresno State steamrolled the Buffaloes on the way to a 69-14 victory.
The Fresno State offense wasn't the first poor performance of the season for the Buffaloes defense. The previous game against Sacramento State was a sign of things to come.
Against the Hornets, Colorado allowed 6.5 yards per play. To get an idea of how efficient that is, it's the same average that high-powered offenses like Clemson and Arizona are at this season. 6.5 yards per play is a good number for an offense, and would put a team around the 75th percentile nationally.
The Buffaloes allowed that to an FCS team. The Hornets went out the next week against Northern Colorado and gained less than five yards per play.
Then came that Fresno State game. The Bulldogs carved, shredded, and whatever else'd the Colorado defense for 9.9 yards per play. That was with Fresno State running the ball most of the second half. There were big plays where Colorado's defense just looked outmatched.
Similar to last year, the Colorado secondary has been banged up through the first three games. It's not as bad as when these two teams last met, when the Buffaloes were playing running backs in the secondary, but they've still had starters go down.
Right Cornerback Greg Henderson and free safety Ray Polk both suffered ankle injuries in the Buffaloes' opener. Polk, a fifth-year senior, has yet to return. Henderson is expected to be back in the lineup against WSU.
Parker Olms stepped in to replace Polk. The junior has 15 tackles, one tackle for loss, and one pass breakup on the season.
Kenneth Crawley will start opposite of Henderson at left corner. The freshman has 15 tackles, one tackle for loss, and a pass broken up. He will likely also be called on to return punts for Colorado.
The strong safety position has been held down by Terrel Smith. He's got 16 tackles, two passes broken up, and a quarterback hurry on the year. So, he may be blitzing on occasion.
Overall, the secondary hasn't done well. Colorado is allowing 9.9 yards per pass attempt, and is second-to-last in FBS in opponents' passing efficiency. Opponents have completed 68 percent of their passes, and the Buffaloes have only picked off one pass, which came from freshman Marques Mosley.
The Cougars should be able to pick up big chunks of yardage again in the passing game. This secondary is among the worst they will face this year, so Connor Halliday will have guys open down the field.
Click the jump for previews of the defensive backs, linebackers. and defensive line.
The Buffaloes run with three linebackers. They do blitz with them to get pressure, as linebackers account for two of the five sacks that Colorado has recorded.
Senior Jon Major mans the middle linebacker position for the Buffaloes. Major is second on the team with 17 tackles. He's also added a sack and a pass defensed.
Derrick Webb is the Will linebacker. He will be after the quarterback, as he has two tackles for loss, a sack, and three quarterback hurries.
Major is the best player in the group. He was rated preseason second team All-Pac-12 by Athlon and Lindy's.
The Buffaloes claim to run a 3-4 base, but list four defensive lineman and three linebacker positons on the depth chart. Maybe it is just a typo.
The only guy with multiple sacks on the team is defensive end Chidera Uzo-Diribe. The junior has three sacks and five total tackles for loss.
Will Pericak, Josh Tupou, and Nate Bonsu play the tackle positions. Periack shifts to the outside and plays end sometimes. He is tied for second on the team with two tackles for loss. Tupou, a freshman, has 1.5 tackles for loss, while Bonsu has six tackles.
Juda Parker will rotate with Pericak at the defensive end position. He has four tackles and a tackle for loss on the year.
This defensive line is playing as big a role as any in Colorado's failures. Teams are averaging 5.4 yards per carry against the Buffaloes. They did a decent job against Colorado State, allowing just 3.5 yards per carry, but the numbers have grown since that game. Sacramento State picked up 5.4, while Fresno State went for 7.6.
This is a defense that the Cougars should be able to score many points against. The secondary is bad, and the defensive line is bad enough with the run that WSU may be able to pick up enough on the ground to keep the Buffaloes from dropping eight guys straight back into coverage. Even if they do, Coug receivers might be able to get behind the defense for some big gains anyway.
Statistics come from cfbstats.com and Colorado's official site. Offensive preview can be found here. Be sure to check out Colorado blog Ralphie Report and stick with CougCenter all weekend for the best Cougar football coverage.