With seven touchdown receptions, Oregon State's Brandin Cooks leads the nation. With 208.5 yards receiving per game, Colorado's Paul Richardson leads the nation. Saturday's matchup of the Buffaloes and Beavers may fly under the national radar, but the two star wide receivers should light it up.
Both can wreak havoc on opposing defenses, particularly for those unprepared to address their individual skill sets.
Practicing against a similar playmaker every day isn't the worst preparation for Saturday's Pac-12 clash.
"It's always good to practice against Paul," Colorado head coach Mike MacIntyre said on Tuesday's coaches' teleconference call. "We go against each other at the speed of the game...in passing situations."
MacIntyre compared Richardson's quickness to that of Cooks, a facet of the Buffalo junior's game that has produced four touchdowns in Colorado's first two wins.
Few wideouts exhibit the same big-play abilities as Cooks, who has three games with over 100 yards and 639 total through four games.
But if there's anyone in the Pac-12 able to match his breakaway speed, it's Richardson.
His return from an ACL injury that sidelined him throughout 2012 has been outstanding. Passing offense appeared to be one of the myriad challenges facing MacIntyre and his new staff in their first year at Colorado, but Richardson's steady presence has helped quarterback Connor Wood get to six touchdowns and well over 700 yards.
Richardson's work in recent weeks has been limited to workouts with his Buffalo teammates. Colorado is back in action for the first time in three weeks after its bye last Saturday and a postponement of its Week 3 date against Fresno State.
Efforts to find a new date with Fresno State are not progressing currently. In the interim, the Buffaloes must try to reestablish the momentum they built in the program's first win streak since Nov. 2010.
"It seems like three years ago since we last played," MacIntyre said. "We've done [all] we can to keep [up to] the speed of the game. This is like another opening game for us."
Saturday is indeed an opening game for the Buffs in that Oregon State is Colorado's first Pac-12 opponent. The Beavers have been through the conference wringer once so far this season, outlasting Utah in a thrilling 51-48 overtime shootout in Week 3.
Never was Cooks' presence more evident than on that night, when the junior hauled in three touchdown receptions.
Last week's win over San Diego State was Cooks' first appearance this season without a touchdown catch, but he proved how much of a game-changer he can still be without reaching the end zone. His line: 14 catches for 141 yards.
Cooks is able to accelerate beyond defensive backs for the deep ball, but it's his play closer to the line that MacInyre said makes him especially dangerous.
"Run after catch," MacIntyre said. "A lot of his passes that he makes big plays on are screen catches that he makes two or three people miss."
Cooks' skill along the edges and in space made him an invaluable asset to the Beaver aerial attack a season ago, but even with over 1,100 yards receiving he lived in the shadow of teammate Markus Wheaton.
Now, he takes up top billing for the 3-1 Beavers alongside quarterback Sean Mannion.
"Brandin has always been a talented, fun, hardworking kid," Oregon State coach Mike Riley said on Tuesday's call. "Markus got a lot of attention, and well-deserved...But Brandin just had a really big-time offseason. He's improved his strength. He's harder to tackle."
Both Cooks and Richardson should have yet another big game in front of them Saturday. Each team has had its struggles defensively without seeing a playmaker in the opposite receiving corps of their caliber.
The lofty benchmark each has set the nation's No. 1 and 2 overall receivers is likely to rise.
Kyle Kensing is the Pac-12 Lead Writer. All quotes were obtained firsthand, unless otherwise noted. Follow Kyle on Twitter: @kensing45.
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