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Week 9 Matchups to Watch: Beaver Pass Defense Gets a Test

NCAA Football: Utah at Oregon State Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

The hype train has slowed on the Colorado Buffalos since their 3-0 start, and they are currently tied for 8th in the Pac-12 with a 1-4 record. Deon Sanders and Sons are capable of going toe-to-toe with any offense in the country with an explosive vertical passing game, but the lack of a run game to turn to and a defense that allowed 46 points to Stanford means that if the Beavers can limit explosive plays, they will be well positioned to take home a road win in Boulder.

Beavers on Offense

Colorado’s defense is 126th of 133 teams in success rate allowed, and 131st of 133 in explosiveness. They are awful against the pass (.346 EPA/play) and merely bad against the run (.211 EPA/play). They allow a tremendous 56.6% success rate on 3rd downs, grows to 67% on 3rd and short. Oregon State has had some issues on 3rd and short (73rd in EPA/play in those situations), but can still count on a quality offensive line, talented running backs, and a 6’4”, 250 pound quarterback to gain a couple yards.

First down will be a situation to watch. Oregon State is 3rd in the nation in success rate in those situations (53.9%), while Colorado is 111th in defending them (45.4%).

QB #5 DJ Uiagalelei vs CB #1 Travis Hunter

The Colorado defense gives up a lot of yards, but they are opportunistic. The Buffalos have a +10 turnover differential, including 10 interceptions so far this year. Travis Hunter famously plays both ways but is a slightly better corner than a receiver so far this year. He has three of those 10 interceptions, including two in last week’s matchup against UCLA. The Beavers have protected the ball well this year, but Colorado’s best chance to make this a game is big plays on defense.

LT #67 Joshua Gray vs ED #44 Jordan Domineck

Gray had one of his tougher games of the season last week, allowing a season high 4 QB pressures. Domineck leads the Buffalos with 19 pressures, 4 sacks, 21 stops. The sixth-year senior played at Georgia Tech and Arkansas before transferring to Colorado this year. He will line up on both sides of the ball and drop back into coverage occasionally but will spend most of the day trying to disrupt the timing of the OSU passing game.

Beavers on Defense

QB Shedeur Sanders has been excellent. He is completing 70% of his passes to go along with a 7.3 TD/INT ratio and is the team’s leading rusher, averaging 7.1 yards per carry (mostly on scrambles). He does take a ton of sacks, 39 so far this year which is the most in the country. Some of that is on the O-line, some of that is Sanders holding onto the ball and trying to make a play.

Colorado passes early and passes often. The run game outside of Sanders scrambling is practically non-existent (their 78.6 yards per game is high than only Colorado State and Hawaii). They are explosive in the pass game and that goes for both early and late downs. WR Jimmy Horn Jr. and TE Michael Harrison are the short targets, while WRs Xavier Weaver and Travis Hunter stretch the field. The Buffalos are more about throwing vertical than yards after the catch, although RB Dylan Edwards is a threat out of the backfield.

WR #10 Xaviar Weaver vs CB #23 Jermod McCoy

The senior transfer from South Florida leads Colorado in targets (77), receptions (55), and yards (717). Weaver is a legit downfield threat, with an average depth of target over 12 yards, but has shot area quickness to take advantage of short passes, especially to the right side of the field.

McCoy allowed a team high 6 catches on 6 targets against Arizona and will get picked on again with Colorado’s heavy passing attack and Jaden Robinson on the other side. The freshman was solid against Cal & UCLA and has an opportunity to get back to that after a tough Arizona game.

LG #65 Jack Bailey vs DL #95 Joe Golden

Baily is a grad student transfer from Kent State. He has allowed 16 pressures and is the lowest graded pass blocker an offensive line that is not particularly adept at pass protection.

Two of Golden’s 4 sacks and 5 of his 15 pressures have come in the last two games and so have 4 of his 11 stops. He is peaking at the right time to face one of the weaker offensive lines the Beavers will see this year. Whether it is sacks for Golden or pushing Sanders out into the arms of the outside linebackers, interior pressure will be a sign of how much the Beavers can disrupt the Colorado passing attack (and good prep for the passing attacks of Oregon and Washington later this year).