TUCSON, Ariz. – Colorado has plummeted from the top to the bottom of the Pac-12 South standings in the span of three weeks, while Arizona is riding high after its biggest win of the year. That sets the stage for Friday night when the Buffaloes and Wildcats clash in Tucson.
TV: 10:30 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1. LINE: Arizona -3.5
Arizona is playing its second straight home game after walloping No. 21 Oregon 44-15 late Saturday night. Quarterback Khalil Tate threw a trio of touchdown passes after missing the previous game with an ankle injury, while J.J. Taylor ran for 212 yards and two TDs as the Wildcats ended a two-game skid. Colorado, meanwhile, is doing some serious soul-searching after blowing a 31-3 third-quarter lead Saturday en route to a 41-34 homecoming loss to 24-point underdog Oregon State. It was the third straight loss for the Buffaloes who entered the stretch 5-0, 2-0 in the Pac-12 and ranked 18th nationally.
ABOUT COLORADO (5-3, 2-3 Pac-12)
The Buffaloes held a players-only meeting this week in the wake of their collapse against Oregon State, and their previously-solid defense will be under the microscope after surrendering 31 points over the final 23:17 of regulation and then the Beavers’ game-winning TD in overtime. The Colorado offense, meanwhile, managed only a field goal after Travon McMillian scored on a 75-yard burst 12 seconds into the second half to put the Buffaloes up 31-3, and the onus will be on junior quarterback Steven Montez, who’s averaged 211 passing yards and thrown for three TDs and two interceptions during the team’s three-game slide. Montez and Co., have badly missed do-it-all FBS receiving leader Laviska Shenault (10.0 receptions, 130.0 receiving yards per game), who’s sat out the last two contests with a toe injury and still was listed as “day-to-day” early this week.
ABOUT ARIZONA (4-5, 3-3)
Taylor ranks fourth in the Pac-12 in rushing with 114.3 yards per game and leads all Power Five players with 175.4 all-purpose yards with his conference-leading 447 kickoff return yards thrown in. Tate is coming off one of his most efficient passing games of the season but, by design of the offense, his rushing has fallen off considerably from last season, going from 1,411 yards on 153 carries a season ago to 139 on 53 attempts in eight games so far this season. Sophomore linebacker Colin Schooler averages a Pac-12-leading 1.78 tackles for loss to pace the defense which is limiting conference foes to 23.8 points, including a season-low 15 points and 260 total yards for Oregon on Saturday.
1. Arizona has won five of the seven meetings since Colorado joined the Pac-12 in 2011, including a 45-42 win in Boulder last season.
2. Last season’s Oct. 7 game was Tate’s coming out party as he entered the contest following an injury to then-starting QB Brandon Dawkins in the first quarter and proceeded to rush for a FBS quarterback-record 327 yards and four TDs while throwing for 154 yards and another score.
3. Turnovers could be even more important than usual in this matchup as the Buffaloes lead the Pac-12 with a plus-7 differential while the Wildcats have a league-best 12 takeaways in conference play.
PREDICTION: Colorado 33, Arizona 31