Colorado head coach Mike MacIntyre successfully turned around a faltering San Jose State football program prior to arriving in Boulder in 2013, and he now has sixteen returning starters to work with in 2015 (most of whom are his recruits). Entering the 2015 campaign, I had Colorado listed as one of the most improved teams in the nation under one of the best head coaches in the league.
Colorado is coming off a misleading 48-23 loss to Arizona State in a game in which the Buffaloes were only outgained by 41 yards (491-450). For the season, the Buffaloes are +46.0 yards per game whereas Arizona has actually been outgained by three opponents. My math model only favors Arizona by five points and the Buffaloes are a profitable 11-3 ATS at home under coach MacIntyre.
Offensive coordinator Brian Lindgren has watched his unit excel within the friendly confines of Folsom Field where the Buffaloes are averaging 40.0 points and 501 total yards at 5.9 yards per play and 12.5 yards per point this season. And, despite being 0.4 yards per play worse than average overall (5.6 yards per play against teams that would combine to allow 6.0 yards per play) the Buffaloes’ attack has continued to improve week-over-week.
Specifically, Colorado is averaging 31.7 points and 465 total yards at 5.8 yards per play over its last three games so Lindgren’s unit is certainly heading in the right direction. The Buffaloes offense has the opportunity to continue that improvement against a subpar Arizona stop unit that is allowing 37.5 points and 448 total yards per game at 6.2 yards per play on the road in 2015.
Overall, Arizona’s defense has been 0.1 yards per play worse than average (5.6 yards per play to teams that would combine to average 5.5 yards per play), which is still good enough to contain an improving Colorado attack. However, the Wildcats have given up 39.3 points and 439 yards per game at 6.3 yards per play and 11.2 yards per point over their last three contests.
Tonight’s game presents a perfect storm for Colorado investors: an offense that excels in the Boulder altitude against an Arizona stop unit that struggles on the road and takes the field in poor form. Moreover, Arizona will be without Scooby Wright, who led the nation in tackles last year (163) and earned the Nagurski, Lombardi and Badnarik Awards for his outstanding achievements on the field. Wright was diagnosed with a right foot sprain suffered in his return against UCLA.
The area in which Arizona will have success is on the ground where the Wildcats are 0.9 yards per rush play better than average (6.6 yards per rush attempt against teams that would combine to allow 5.7 yards per rush attempt, whereas the Buffaloes have struggled to stop the run this season (4.8 yards per rush play to teams that would combine to average 4.4 yards per rush play). Colorado’s secondary actually matches up well in this game so I expect the Wildcats to employ a run-first attack Saturday night.
From a technical standpoint, Arizona is a money-burning 5-11 ATS in its last 16 games off a win, 3-7 ATS in its last ten games following a win by 20 or more points and 2-7 ATS in its last nine games after covering the Vegas number. With Colorado standing at 5-1 ATS in its last six home games versus .501 or greater opposition, take the Buffaloes on Homecoming weekend!