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UCLA Football @ Colorado Offensive Preview: Seeing Success in a Truly Balanced Offense

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UCLA is now in the unfortunate position to have to pull off an upset against Colorado. On the road. On a Thursday.

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Bruin fans who have stuck with this team through thick and thin know what I'm talking about...this game is making me extremely nervous. With a 1-4 conference record and 3-5 overall, the Bruins are now in a position where they have to win three out of four remaining games to even be considered for a bowl (technically, I suppose we could just win two of four, but ugh...), and one of those wins will have to come on a Thursday night on the road. Last year's Thursday game was against Cal at home, and turned out much better than many expected. Hopefully, we will be able to go into Folsom Field and regroup after the Utah loss. Colorado is stacked with returners (not many Buffs leave early for the NFL) and the experience is showing. Let's take a look at the Colorado offense.

Quarterback

Colorado is currently carrying seven quarterbacks on their roster and has been running a pro style offense with great success this year. Senior Sefo Liufau is the #1 man, and he has had quite a career with the Buffaloes. He has served his team as captain for the past three seasons and has set 80 school records (73 outright, seven tied), including total offensive yards (8,534), passing yards (7,969) and 300-yard passing games (10) in addition to numerous single-season and game records. He is poised to take over the mark for career touchdown passes (56, needs five) and currently owns the best career completion percentage (63.0). Against Michigan, he surpassed the 8,000 yard mark, but ended up leaving the game in the third quarter with an ankle injury. He then missed the following two games before returning on October 8 at USC with limited game time. He made his first real start returning from the injury on October 15 against Arizona State and led the Buffaloes to a 40-16 win. It is safe to say this year was a complete surprise for many, as no one really expected Colorado to have a breakout season and challenge for the Pac 12 South title.

Offensive Line

When breaking down the offensive line, you can see the benefits of having experience in your front five. A statistic that will leave Bruin fans both angry and disgusted is that on October 15 versus Arizona State, the offensive line helped the Buffaloes rush for 315 yards as a team, and running back Phillip Lindsay racked up 219 of those yards - the first 200-yard rushing game by a Buffalo since 2002. This is the same opponent that UCLA couldn't seem to score on, and also injured our quarterback for the time being. The importance of a competent offensive line cannot be stressed enough. Senior center Alex Kelley scored the first touchdown by a Buffalo offensive lineman since October 28, 1995 (when OG Heath Irwin recovered a fumble in the end zone in a 44-21 loss to Nebraska) when he pounced on a fumble in the end zone on Colorado's first drive of the season, and became the first offensive lineman in school history to score the team's first points of the year (that's 127 seasons!). On the left, we will see guard Gerrad Kough and tackle Jeromy Irwin. Kough had a career highlight game last year against UCLA with an 87.2 percent mark. Irwin missed most of the 2015 season with an ACL injury, but he is fully healed now and was voted one of the five captains by his teammates. On the right, Colorado has their only redshirt freshman, guard Tim Lynott. Lynott took 89 snaps in their season opener against Colorado State (the most of any offensive lineman), and was voted to Phil Steele's preseason Third All-Pac 12 Team. Junior Sam Kronshage ended spring drills tied atop the depth chart at right offensive tackle, eventually replacing four-year starter Stephane Nembot. This line is clearly stacked with experience and it shows. Yes, Colorado's quarterback suffered an injury too this year, but you can't ignore the fact that Colorado's run game has greatly improved while UCLA's has all but disappeared.

Running Backs

Junior running back Phillip Lindsay is currently occupying the #1 spot, and has more yards than the Bruins have as a team this year. Lindsay has 745 yards and nine touchdowns, including a 219 yard game against Arizona State. Redshirt sophomore Kyle Evans has 335 yards and three touchdowns, and most recently had 14 carries for 60 yards against Stanford. Ah, to have a rushing game. I seriously worry about our ability to stop the run when our team doesn't have a run game to practice against. Sure, we have extremely talented running backs, but is it possible the defense isn't getting the proper reps to practice against when our offensive line is so bad and our run game is so easy to stop? This is where both sides of the ball rely on each other, and one can affect the other. I hope I'm wrong. I hope they have the ability to set themselves up in an opponent's schemes so the defense has a fighting chance.

Wide Receivers

Rosen will see an old teammate of his, Junior Shay Fields, out of Saint John Bosco. The first thing I found out about him scares me after what we saw last week--he has nine career plays of fifty yards or more. Can we please not make it ten? He has a total of 563 receiving yards and six touchdowns so far this season. Junior Bryce Bobo has ended up on the Sports Center Top Ten not once, but twice this year with circus catches and had his first 100+ yard game against Arizona State. Redshirt Junior Devin Ross accomplished something against then number four Michigan that no other Buffalo has done since 1982--he caught two touchdown passes in the first quarter. He has a total of 491 yards and five touchdowns so far this year.

Analysis

We need to get our act together. I am finding myself more and more at a loss for words when it comes to this section of the article because we can so easily get torched in one or more areas of the game. Colorado's offense is balanced and clicking, something I can't say for the Bruins this year (even before Rosen's injury). I fear for our secondary after last week. I didn't think I'd ever see us give up 52 points this year, but we did. Now we're on the road on a Thursday, which is tough as it is, and we're completely lacking a run game. A full-scale upheaval of your offense is a sign of trouble and that's what we're looking at. But we've also seen glimpses of hope here and there, and all we can do is wait and see what materializes on Thursday.

Go Bruins!