Head coach Mike MacIntyre has been a major part of the turnaround in Colorado, and now the Buffaloes find themselves in a unique position with a shot at taking down No. 20 UCLA.
Jim Mora's Bruins are reeling after consecutive losses to then-ranked No. 13 Stanford and No. 3 Oregon—by a combined score of 66-24.
Colorado has not won a conference game in 12 attempts, sits at just 3-4 this year and has lost 20 straight games to ranked opponents on the road.
Still, a major opportunity awaits the Buffaloes at the Rose Bowl Saturday. Here's how McIntrye's team can pull off the upset.
Make Brett Hundley Take to the Air
Brett Hundley may be taking his talents to the NFL sooner rather than later and very well may become the all-time leading passer in UCLA history before he does, but he was weak against his last two credible opponents.
Against the Cardinal two weeks ago, Hundley managed just 192 yards on 39 attempts and threw one touchdown to two interceptions. The following week against Oregon, Hundley attempted just 19 passes for 64 yards with, again, just a single touchdown and two interceptions.
The opposition had a simple game plan—stack the box and stop the run in order to put the pressure on Hundley. Of course, another key is stopping Hundley on the ground, as he rumbled for over 70 yards and a score against Oregon.
Make no mistake—Colorado is no Stanford or Oregon. However, if the Buffaloes can effectively stop the run, recent weeks have shown Hundley can and will make mistakes through the air, which gives the Buffaloes a fighting chance.
Take Advantage of a Weak Offensive Line
Some of Hundley's issues spawn from a hobbled offensive line.
As Ryan Kartje of the Orange County Register illustrates, the Bruins will be without left tackle Simon Goines:
Simon Goines and Steven Manfro are out for Saturday's game against Colorado. Jordon James and Eric Kendricka are game time decisions.— Ryan Kartje (@Ryan_Kartje) October 31, 2013
That means the Buffaloes will have an advantage up front with the Bruins starting three freshmen along the line in Alex Redmond, Caleb Benenoch and Scott Quessenberry. Xavier Su'a-Filo will likely kick out to left tackle, whereas his natural position is on the interior.
UCLA saw Hundley sacked three times against Oregon. This parlays with the above point—if the Buffaloes can stunt the run and force the clearly shaken Hundley to the air, especially while under pressure, the Colorado defense gives itself a chance.
Continue What Works on Offense
Flip to the other side of the spectrum, and Buffaloes freshman quarterback Sefo Liufau has a tall order in front of him while avoiding elite pass-rushers like Anthony Barr.
Will Colorado pull off the upset?
In three games since taking over, Liufau has thrown for 579 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions. He's majorly helped by the presence of receiver Paul Richardson, who has 50 receptions for 914 yards and seven touchdowns. Richardson ranks third in the nation in yards per contest and fifth overall in receiving yards.
As a whole, the Buffaloes are a borderline top-50 team through the air with an average of 249.4 yards per game.
Colorado will likely do minimal running in the first place, so the best thing the team can do is continue to find creative ways to get Richardson the ball, as it sounds like he will be good to go, per John Taylor of College Football Talk, after an ankle scare the week before.
Through a savvy combination of the above, Colorado gives itself a solid shot at a major upset.