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First look at the Colorado Buffaloes

Arizona hosts Colorado under the Friday night lights

Arizona State v Colorado Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

The Arizona Wildcats are preparing for a rare Friday night visit from the Colorado Buffaloes, as they look to continue their push toward the top of the Pac-12 standings.

After their stunning blowout win against Oregon, the Wildcats (4-5, 3-3) can get back to .500 against the Buffaloes (5-3, 2-3), who are riding a three-game losing streak.

Friday’s kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m, PT and will be televised on FOX Sports 1.

First Look at Colorado

Key games

  • Week 2 win at Nebraska (33-28)
  • Week 6 win vs. ASU (28-21)
  • Week 7 loss at USC (31-20)
  • Week 8 loss at Washington (27-13)
  • Week 9 loss vs. Oregon State (41-34 OT)

Key Offensive Players: Steven Montez (QB), Travon McMillian (RB), Laviska Shenault Jr. (WR), Aaron Haigler (OT)

Key Defensive Players: Rick Gamboa (LB), Nate Landman (LB), Drew Lewis (LB), Evan Worthington (Safety)

The stats

Colorado enters Friday’s game as an underdog and responsible for one of the most embarrassing losses of the 2018 season. Despite taking a 31-3 lead after the first play of the second half, the Buffaloes would go on to lose to Oregon State 41-34 in overtime.

They were outscored 38-3 in the second half and overtime to an Oregon State program that had not beaten an FBS team since the 2016 season.

This epic collapse would maybe be something to easily shake off if it didn’t extend their losing streak to three games. After beginning the season 5-0, they are now sitting at 5-3 and have to travel to Tucson to take on a Wildcats team that is coming off their biggest win of the year.

The most hyped name on this roster, and for good reason, is wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. He has been battling a toe injury the last two weeks, which has caused him to miss those games. However, he still leads the team in receptions (60), receiving yards (780), receiving touchdowns (6) and total touchdowns (11).

When healthy, he is one of the most dynamic players in the country which makes quarterback Steven Montez’s job much easier.

The junior quarterback has had a very strong season as he currently holds a 14:4 touchdown-to-interception ratio. He’s completing just over 68 percent of his passes and has recorded 2,053 yards in the air.

Montez is also a capable runner as he’s carried the ball 57 times for 226 yards and four scores.

In their backfield is also Virginia Tech graduate transfer Travon McMillian who is on pace for nearly 1,200 yards on the ground. He will likely extend Colorado’s streak on 1,000 yard rushing seasons to three after picking up where Phillip Lindsay left off.

Defensively speaking, they rank 48th in terms of total defense where they are allowing 364.9 yards per game. They have created 13 takeaways, six fumble recoveries and seven interceptions.

Their linebacking corps is a very solid one led by seniors Drew Lewis and Rick Gamboa. They combine for 79 total tackles which is only four more than sophomore Nate Landman’s 75.

Landman has really come on in his second year at the FBS level. He saw action in 11 games last season but only in a reserve role. This season his playing time has dramatically increased and has recorded double-digit tackles in five of Colorado’s eight games. He has also tallied in two interceptions.

Senior safety Evan Worthington is another name you should be familiar with, as he has been one of the key returning defensive players from last season. In 2017, he was named to All Pac-12 Honorable Mention team. He recorded 37 tackles, one sack and one interception through eight games this season.

There are two obvious keys to this game in my mind and they are both health related. First, will Shenault be available? If so, how effective can he be? His toe injury has kept him out of their last two contests.

If he’s able to play, he adds a level of complexity to Colorado’s offense that is very difficult to defend. He will be used all over the field including behind center in Wildcat packages.

Secondly, can Khalil Tate replicate his performance against Oregon? He was healthy enough to scramble to avoid the collapsed pockets which kept plays alive.

There appeared to be no setbacks on Saturday, which means he should be healthy enough to orchestrate the offense again Friday. Tate’s ability to accurately deliver intermediate and long passes should allow J.J. Taylor and the running game to have another strong outing.