The Ducks are matching up with a Colorado team that came into Autzen three years ago and beat Oregon 41-38. Quarterback Steven Montez lit up the Ducks for three touchdowns and over 300 yards passing.
The Buffs will be led by Montez, who has the third-most passing attempts in the conference. The Colorado passing offense stands out in the Pac-12, with 1501 yards of offense through the air, and Montez’s throwing consistency means the Buffs will always have a fighting chance. Four of the five games Colorado has played have been decided by seven points or less. With that said, Oregon opens as a three-touchdown favorite to beat Colorado, according to sports gaming website Vegas Insider.
The Buffs won their first Pac-12 matchup when they defeated No. 24 Arizona State on the road. That victory was the first road win against a ranked opponent since 2002.
Colorado hopes to get the running game established, which then opens other opportunities for their offense to execute.
“They just do it so many different ways,” Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal said.
Responsible for 392 rushing yards, sophomore Alex Fontenot recorded his career high in Colorado’s first game of the season against Colorado State. Fontenot rushed for 125 yards and three touchdowns in the team’s 52-31 blowout. Behind him is freshman Jaren Mangham, who also gets a considerable amount of touches. This season, he has racked up 49 carries for 197 yards and three total touchdowns.
The Colorado receiving corps is spearheaded by senior Tony Brown, who has 29 catches on the season with four of them coming in the endzone. His 442 receiving yards are good enough to place him in the top five of the Pac-12.
Throughout the college football season, NFL analysts have released numerous mock drafts, with junior wideout Laviska Shenault Jr. projected as a top-10 draft choice in many of them. ESPN Senior Writer Todd McShay said he thinks Shenault Jr. will go No. 8 overall to the New York Giants.
“The Giants continue to look for receiving assets to replace Odell Beckham Jr., and the speedy, 6’2” Shenault would certainly give them an athletic target,” said McShay in his mock draft write-up.
The Buffaloes announced that Shenault has a muscle strain, but he is day-to-day and most likely going to be ready for their matchup against the Ducks. Considered one of the most productive receivers last year, Shenault Jr. was named to The Biletnikoff and Walter Camp Award Watch List for best receiver and player in college football.
With so many receiving options, the Ducks will have their hands full. The Ducks allowed their first touchdown since August in their most recent matchup with California. The single touchdown was all Oregon surrendered and proceeded to take down the Golden Bears 17-7.
Colorado’s defense is allowing over 30 points per game this season, second-to-last in the Pac-12 behind UCLA, which is allowing 37.7 per game. A depleted defensive line that is thin due to injuries is struggling to pressure opposing quarterbacks. Just nine sacks this year is the fewest in the conference — just ahead of Arizona — with only four quarterback takedowns.
Injuries are taking a toll on the Buffs. Defensive back Chris Miller is unlikely to return this season after he tore his ACL in the team’s win over ASU. With the loss at cornerback, true freshman K.J. Trujillo replaces Miller. Mikial Onu also appears on the injury report with lower back problems. Onu was leading the nation in forced turnovers and will be replaced by former backup quarterback Sam Noyer. A banged-up defensive line is another problem for the Buffs. Starting linemen Jalen Sami and Mustafa Johnson both find themselves on the injury report.
The Ducks are holding their opponents to 95.4 rushing yards per game, and with Colorado struggling to find its running game, expect the Ducks to control the game on the ground once again when they take on the Buffs on Friday evening.