The road has been an unkind place for Arizona under Kevin Sumlin, with the Arizona Wildcats going 1-5 outside of Tucson since the start of the 2018 season.
Yet one place Arizona has fared well on the road is Folsom Field in Boulder, which happens to be where it’s playing on Saturday afternoon against the Colorado Buffaloes in a battle of 1-0 Pac-12 teams.
To help better understand the Wildcats’ next opponent, we asked Jack Barsch of SB Nation sister site Ralphie Report to give us his inside on Colorado and new coach Mel Tucker.
Below are his top-notch answers to our middle-of-the-road questions:
Mel Tucker seems to be making a pretty good first impression with a 3-1 start and a couple of big wins, including the Pac-12 opener at ASU. In what areas has he had the greatest impact compared to Mike MacIntyre?
The biggest change is in attitude. Mel Tucker has taken a talented, but thin roster and instilled toughness that wasn’t there before. CU has already scored more points in the fourth quarter this year than it did in all of 2018. That comes from increased conditioning and toughness. This team is always calm, ready for a counterpunch. Mel Tucker’s unflappable attitude has permeated through this team, despite all being recruited by a different coach. It’s a testament to Tucker and this team that his personality has taken hold so quickly in Boulder.
Quarterback Steven Montez feels like he’s been there for 10 years. What is he doing best this season?
Now that he has an offensive line that gives him time, Steven has been so solid this year in the pocket. He’s panicking less, stepping into throws more, and as a result his passing has gotten more consistent. His deep balls are usually on target, and he actually looks at the middle of the field consistently.
Montez is making the right decisions on 3rd and 10, and instead of forcing a ball into triple coverage to (Laviska) Shenault, he’s taking the dump to the running back or tight end and giving the team a chance. He struggled against Air Force, but he has been great in the other three games. The record reflects that.
Laviska Shenault Jr. is a tremendous talent but it seems like he can’t stay healthy. Yet the offense hasn’t really missed him because of Tony Brown. How has he managed to fill that void?
While Tony Brown has been fantastic in increased minutes, it really does take a village to replicate Shenault’s impact. I would argue that Tony has always been this receiver, and the increased snaps due to Laviska’s absence is allowing him to showcase what he can do with added volume. He is just so consistent and solid on the outside, and he has great chemistry with Steven Montez. He’s a technician on the outside, and while he isn’t the explosive athlete that Laviska is, he catches most balls thrown his way and knows what to do with them. However, K.D. Nixon and Dimitri Stanley have also stepped up in Shenault’s absence.
Khalil Tate went off the last time Arizona played in Boulder, but his status for this game is up in the air? Would Colorado’s defense face him a third time or deal with promising freshman Grant Gunnell?
I can guarantee you they would rather face Gunnell. I know CU fans are still scarred from 2017, when Brandon Dawkins paved the way to history by pulling himself out of the game with an injury. If football fields were 200 yards long, Tate might have broken 1,000 that night. Gunnell might be promising and more unknown, but he can’t replicate Tate’s speed. It’s like Khalil is constantly playing with a gamebreaker from NFL Street—remember that game?—which is terrifying to this defense that’s already soft on the edges. CU wrapped up Jayden Daniels pretty nicely on the ground, but UA fans know that Tate is a different beast.
Okay, who’s going to come out on top? Will Arizona win at Folsom Field for the fourth straight time or can the Buffs win at home against the Wildcats for the first time since the Jon Embree era?
Has it really been that long? That is distressing. Vegas is putting this game down as a 3-point Colorado victory, which means they see these teams as evenly-matched. I do, too. On paper, these offenses are explosive and these defenses are paper-mache. That means a lot of points and a frantic pace. I’ll put my prediction on the home team in that case. Arizona will run at will on CU, but turnovers and a lack of defense makes this a CU win.