Saturday, the Ducks are going up against the hungry Colorado Buffaloes in Boulder. The Buffs are 3-1 this year and have shown they have a very potent offense.
Quarterback Sefo Liufau is returning as the leader of the experienced offense. The Buffaloes are also returning Nelson Spruce, the star receiver from last year who can take a pass to the house at any moment. Finally, Colorado is returning many of its running backs from last year including 6’0, 235 lb. Christian Powell.
Let’s start this analysis with the Buffs’ run game. Colorado is lined up in doubles with the quarterback in the shotgun and the running back to his right. The Ducks are lined up in a 4-3 defense, as you can see in the screenshot above.
At the snap, Colorado’s offensive line is going to seal the wide side edge for the running back. The quarterback is then going to hand the ball off to the running back running across his front side, like a zone read. The receivers are running deeper routes to draw the corners away from the line of scrimmage.
The offensive line doesn’t have to hold their blocks for a long time as the speed of the running back allows him to get to the outside quickly. As you can see above, there’s only one person who can stop this play — the corner.
The receiver gets away with a little block in the back here, but the Buffalo receivers are usually able to hold the blocks and allow the back to get outside.
Once the back gets to the numbers, he can turn it upfield for a big gain, as he does here. The Buffs average a hefty 272 yards per game rushing, about as many as the Ducks this year. So, watch out for the stable of Colorado running backs.
The Colorado passing game is interesting, as well. Mike MacIntyre, the Colorado head coach, loves mixing it up and throwing in some tweaks that will confuse the defense, much like Bill Belichick or Chris Petersen. Let’s take a look at one of these plays.
As you can see in the screenshot above, the Buffs’ offense is lined up in a 5-wide formation with trips to the left and doubles to the right.
The odd thing in this case is the fact that the front receiver in the trips is the left tackle and the right tackle is now the tight end, who is eligible. The Bears’ defense is lined up in a 4-3, looking fully able to stop this play.
At the snap, the bunch receivers run a screen to the left tackle, who is ineligible. The two receivers wide right are running a go and three-yard curl route.
The tight end, who is lined up on the line, as the right tackle, is also going to run a go route. The defense all the while seems as though they have not realized the left tackle was ineligible, as the linebackers are treating him as a threat.
The safeties and linebackers have some miscommunication which leads to a wide open tight end and an easy 22-yard touchdown pass. Oregon’s defense is going to need to be on top of their game if MacIntyre decides to pull something like this out of his hat.
Speaking of defense, Colorado’s defense has been much better than in years past, allowing only 16.5 points per game. This is what the Buffs have been looking for in order to take the next step. Let’s take a look at how the Buffs may try to combat the Ducks’ zone read.
As you see in the screenshot above, the Buffs are lined up in a 3-3-5 with the Ducks in their standard zone read formation.
When the ball is snapped, the majority of the front six is going to stretch the play by pushing left to the wide side of the field. The only defenders covering the quarterback are the right and middle linebackers.
As you also see in the screenshot above, the rest of the front six stretch the play wide, which creates a wall that the running back can’t get through. The result is a gain of zero and a long second down.
The Buffaloes feel that they are at their peak since they’ve joined the Pac-12, and they are looking to prove this by upsetting a wounded Duck team. Nobody is safe in the Pac this year; there are no cupcakes or guaranteed wins.
Despite this, I think the Ducks are going to come out hungry for blood and get the victory, no matter the quarterback, 42-24.
“Oh, how we love to learn about our opponents on FishDuck.com.”
Football Opponent Analyst for CFF Network/FishDuck.com
Top photo by Craig Strobeck