As the Bruins prepare to play the Buffaloes tomorrow at the Rose Bowl, let's look at Colorado's Coaching Staff and Special Teams.
The head coach of Colorado is Mike McIntyre, who is in his third season with the Buffs and he is in his sixth season as a head coach, having turned around San Jose State prior to taking the job in Boulder. Before becoming a head coach, McIntyre was primarily an defensive assistant with the Dallas Cowboys, under legendary coach Bill Parcells, and the New York Jets, where he was on the same coaching staff as UCLA's Offensive Coordinator Noel Mazzone. He also worked in the college ranks at schools like Duke, Ole Miss and Temple. In every one of those stops, he worked on the defensive side of the ball except Ole Miss where he coached wide receivers for two years before switching to coach defensive backs. So, he's primarily a defensive-minded coach.
That's what makes figuring out what's up with Colorado all the more puzzling. Last season, Colorado was one of the worst defensive teams in the country. But, McIntyre's DC from last season Kent Baer left to become the DC at UNLV and McIntyre brought in Jim Leavitt, the former head coach at the University of South Florida. (Don't confuse him with Jim Haslett, the NFL retread that IE Angel wrote about before we hired Tom Bradley.) Leavitt's name was mentioned as a possible defensive coordinator back when Coach Mora was hired in 2012 and he was IE's top pick.
The Colorado defensive scheme is a 3-4 with 2 defensive tackles, one end and four linebackers. So, it isn't your standard 3-4 defensive with a nose and two ends. Essentially, in this scenario, the Sam linebacker will be a strong-side stand-up end who can drop into pass coverage, if necessary.
As orlandobruin pointed out in his defensive preview, the Buffs have a much better pass defense than run defense. So, knowing that, I would look for our offense to establish the run first again this week, much like they did in the first quarter last week against Cal before letting Rosen tear apart the secondary. In fact, the passing game may actually prove to be tougher against Colorado than it was against Cal, considering that Cal is now ranked 101 in passing yards allowed while the Buffs are ranked 61st.
Colorado's offensive coordinator is Brian Lindgren who was selected as one of the top ten offensive coordinator hires in the nation in 2013 by Athlon Sports. Prior to joining Colorado, Lindgren coached with McIntyre at San Jose State in 2012. Lindgren coached at Northern Arizona as well as Redlands before taking the job at SJSU.
The Buffs' offensive scheme seems to rely more on running the ball than passing. Lindgren's offense has been averaging 189 yards per game on the ground and the rushing game is responsible for twice as many touchdowns as the passing game. That isn't saying that the passing game for Colorado is bad. It's really got more to do with what has worked better for them so far.
Your obscure offensive stat of the week is that, prior to this season, Colorado QB Sefo Liufau had never rushed for a touchdown. This season, he has five rushing TDs.
Considering that, the key to stopping the Colorado offense appears to be keeping the ground game in check and keeping Liufau and running backs Phillip Lindsay and Christian Powell out of the end zone.
On Special Teams, it's worth noting that Colorado is one of those few teams who have an assistant coach in Toby Neinas devoted to nothing but special teams.
In other words, they don't treat Special Teams like the redheaded step-child.
Colorado has performed well this year on kickoff returns with the bulk of the duties handled by RB Donovan Lee even though Lee's long for the year is only 35 yards.
The other area where the Buffs have done well is in placekicking where junior Diego Gonzalez is perfect on 27 PATs and 12 for 17 on field goal attempts. While he has hit 2 FGs of 50 yards or more, he has struggled the most in the 40-49 yard range where he has missed three attempts.
Freshman punter Alex Kinney has an average of 39.58 yards per kick and a net punting average of 37.8 yards. So, opponents aren't generally going to get big yards when the Buffs punt.
And, finally, kickoff duties fall to sophomore Chris Graham. 16 of 46 kickoffs have gone for touchbacks and Graham's average starting yard line for Colorado's opponents is the 25 yard line. That means that even those kickoffs not going into the end zone aren't being returned far.
Keys to the Game
Here are my keys to the game:
1. Limit the ground game and keep the Colorado backs out of the end zone.
2. Use the running game to open up the passing game.
3. End the game in regulation. Last year's game went into double OT and it came down to Brett Hundley running in for a TD to end it. If the game turns into a game of field goals, Colorado may be able to pull it off.
And, that wraps up our final preview of tomorrow's Homecoming Game against Colorado.