Colorado Football: Oklahoma Preview

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Colorado Football: Oklahoma Preview
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From www.cuatthegame.com

There have been comparisons of late between the state of the Colorado football program under Dan Hawkins to the state of the program when Chuck Fairbanks was the head coach.

There certainly are similarities.

Chuck Fairbanks was the Buffs’ head coach from 1979 to 1981. In his three years in Boulder, he compiled a 7-26 record. Among the more notable disasters during Fairbanks’ tenure were back-to-back home losses to Drake; four shutout losses (44-0 to LSU; 59-0 to Nebraska; 49-0 to Oklahoma; and 27-0 to Kansas, the latter three all in 1981); the infamous Sports Illustrated article about Fairbanks’ remodeled office during a time when CU was cutting baseball and wrestling; and, of course, the record-setting 82-42 loss to Oklahoma in 1980.

Dan Hawkins has been the Buffs’ head coach since 2006. In his 4-plus years in Boulder, he has compiled a 19-37 record. Among the more notable disasters during the Hawkins’ tenure have been the home loss to Montana State (in the first-ever game between Colorado and a 1-AA school); two shutout losses (both to Missouri, 58-0 and 26-0, with the former loss bringing an end to a record-setting string of games in which the Buffs had scored, dating back almost 20 seasons); the infamous “ten wins; no excuses” speech; and, of course, there is the road losing streak.

While the assumption is that the Dan Hawkins’ era is all but over, the calendar still says that Colorado has a game against Oklahoma this weekend, so let us turn our attention toward the Sooners.

Here are this week’s “T.I.P.S.” for the Game:

T – Talent

Until Oklahoma lost to Missouri last weekend to fall from the No. 1 spot in the BCS rankings, sophomore quarterback Landry Jones was a poor man’s Heisman trophy candidate. The leader of a potent offense, Jones has put up excellent numbers, completing 66% of his passes for over 2,000 yards and 17 touchdowns. Overall, Landry Jones is 18th in the nation in total offense, generating close to 300 yards per game. Jones had three touchdown passes against Missouri, but did suffer two interceptions.

When he drops back to pass, Jones often is able to locate wide receiver Ryan Broyles. The junior is leading the nation with 69 catches in seven games, and is fourth in the country in receiving yards, collecting 115 yards per game. Last week, Broyles had two bad ankles and didn’t practice until Thursday – so all he did against Missouri was catch eight balls for 110 yards.

While Oklahoma is ranked 12th in the nation in passing offense, that does not mean that the rushing game is being neglected. Running back DeMarco Murray is averaging over 100 yards per game rushing, and has already scored 11 touchdowns. When combined with Murray’s three touchdown receptions, the senior running back is averaging an even two touchdowns per game. This is not unusual for DeMarco, who this season became the all-time leader in touchdowns at Oklahoma when he crossed the goal line for the 58th time against Iowa State earlier this season. DeMarco broke the 41-year old record held by Steve Owens. Considering the number of famous names who have carried the ball for the Sooners, and who have won or finished second in Heisman trophy balloting - Billy Vessels, Steve Owens, Greg Pruitt, Billy Sims and Adrian Peterson – this touchdown record is quite an accomplishment. Those in attendance at the sold-out Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium this weekend will be expecting more of the same.

On defense, look for weakside linebacker Travis Lewis to exert his presence. Lewis led the Sooners in tackles in each of his first two seasons, and is doing so again in 2010, with 67 tackles in seven games. When the Buffs drop back to pass (which should be early and often with Cody Hawkins replacing Tyler Hansen in the lineup), keep an eye on defensive end Jeremy Beal. The senior has 12.5 tackles for loss (ranked 10th nationally), and has six sacks.

If Lewis and Beal can be contained – a big “if” – Oklahoma can be vulnerable to the pass. The Sooners are ranked 91st in pass defense, giving up almost 240 yards per game. Overall, Oklahoma is ranked 80th in total defense, but is ranked 44th in scoring defense, giving up only 21 points per game.

Colorado is averaging only 20 points per game, so the Oklahoma defense should be quite at home against the Buffs – especially if Landry Jones, Ryan Boyles, and DeMarco Murray hold to their season averages.

I – Intangibles

Is there any good karma out there for Colorado, heading to Norman with a three-year road losing streak weighing them down?

Not really.

Well, Cody Hawkins is 1-0 v. Oklahoma. As a red-shirt freshman, Hawkins led the Buffs to a 27-24 upset win over No. 3 Oklahoma in 2007. Of course, the game was in Boulder, and this game was in Norman. But, if you want to re-live the game (along with YouTube video and the KOA call of the final play), here’s a quick link to the CU at the Game archives … http://www.cuatthegame.com/2007/cu-vs-oklahoma/#review

Anything else?

Two other stretches … First, the Buffs have absolutely nothing to lose. Oklahoma is on a 34-game home winning streak, the longest in school history; Colorado is a 14-game road losing streak, the longest in school history. The Buffs lost their starting quarterback to a ruptured spleen against Texas Tech, and will be putting the less mobile Cody Hawkins out against a tenacious Oklahoma defense. Colorado has already been shut out twice during the Dan Hawkins’ era, already lost this season in a blowout (52-7 at Cal). There is nothing about the game which favors the Buffs …

… which should give Dan Hawkins and his coaching staff a free hand. Onside kicks? Fake punts? Double reverses?

Why not? The Buffs are going to lose, and probably by a wide margin. Why not try every play in the playbook?

Secondly, there is the “Iowa State syndrome”. Two weeks ago, Oklahoma mauled the Cyclones, 52-0. The following week, Iowa State traveled to Austin to face the Texas Longhorns. Another blowout was in the offing. Perhaps over-confident after watching the OU/ISU tapes, Texas laid an egg, losing 28-21.

Should the Sooners be over-confident – and why shouldn’t they be? – the Buffs actually have an opportunity to catch the Sooners and their fans off-guard.

Not much … but surprise might be the Buffs’ best chance.

P – Preparation / Schedule

Oklahoma limps home after falling to No. 11 Missouri, 36-27. National championship hopes now hinge upon teams ranked above them falling in a series of upsets. Still, having already defeated Texas, the path to the Big 12 championship still runs through Norman. After taking on the Buffs, Oklahoma goes on the road for three of their next four games, including a road game to College Station to face Texas A&M next week. Road games at potential Big 12 South usurpers Baylor and Oklahoma State soon follow.

The Sooners would be forgiven for looking past the 3-4 Buffs.

Colorado players have no such reason to look ahead. Next week brings about another road game, this time against Kansas. While the Jayhawks are awful in 2010, and may represent the last best chance for Dan Hawkins to win a game on the road before leaving Boulder, it is still another road game.

In short, Oklahoma players would be forgiven for paying more attention Saturday afternoon to the results of the Texas Tech / Texas A&M game (the next two Sooner opponents) than to their visitors Saturday night.

Colorado players will have no such luxury.

S – Statistics

Now, it really gets ugly.

If the 34-game home winning streak v. the 14-game losing streak does not tell you all you need to know about the Colorado / Oklahoma game, try on some of these numbers …

- Under Bob Stoops, Oklahoma is 70-2 at Owen Field, and is 36-6 against the Big 12 North;

- Oklahoma has had at least a 15-point lead in six of seven games this season; and

- Colorado is bemoaning about having to burn red-shirts and constantly having to play younger players. At the same time, the 9th-ranked Sooners have gotten by just fine with 13 true freshman playing so far in 2010, with five players already having started a game.

Any good stats for the Buffs?

- Colorado was a minus-four in turnovers at halftime of the Hawai’i game. Since then, Colorado has generated 11 turnovers, while giving up only five. The Texas Tech game was the first turover-free game since the 65-51 win over Nebraska in 2007;

- True freshman safety Terrel Smith tore off his red-shirt against Texas Tech, and responded with a team-leading 15 tackles. The mark is the highest for a true freshman since J.J. Billingsley also had 15 tackles against San Diego State in 2002;

- Colorado has allowed only four rushing touchdowns this season, tied for the sixth best mark in the country; and

- Colorado has a 3-2 record against Oklahoma in games played on October 30th, including a 1-0 record in Norman (of course, that game was played in 1965).

Hey, if you are a Colorado fan, you take what you can get …

More on Colorado football at www.cuatthegame.com

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