BOULDER, Colo. – Colorado hosts Arizona on Saturday in an early-season tussle for the Pac-12 South Division lead, and the focus is on several key injuries on both sides. Wide receiver Laviska Shenault and defensive lineman Mustafa Johnson, arguably the Buffaloes' best players on either side of the ball, are questionable as are Wildcats quarterback Khalil Tate and second-leading rusher J.J. Taylor.
TV: 4:30 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network. LINE: Colorado -4
The play-making Shenault, averaging 73 yards from scrimmage per game, suffered an unspecified injury in the first half of Colorado's Sept. 21 win at Arizona State and spent the second half in street clothes while Johnson (team-leading three sacks) also suffered an ankle injury in the same game. The Buffaloes had a bye week to aid in their recovery, but Buffaloes head coach Mel Tucker said Monday he expects the status of both players to come down to game-time decisions Saturday. Tate and Taylor, meanwhile, sat out Arizona's 20-17 win over UCLA on Saturday with hamstring and ankle injuries, respectively. "We're not going to put those guys in harm's way with the type of injuries they have because those guys are explosive players," Arizona coach Kevin Sumlin said of his quarterback and tailback, who are averaging a combined 376.7 total yards of offense per game. "When you have ankle or leg injuries like that, what you don't want is something that nags on for the whole year. We will assess (them) throughout the week."
ABOUT ARIZONA (3-1, 1-0 Pac-12)
True freshman Grant Gunnell stepped in for Tate against the Bruins and completed 29-of-44 passes for 352 yards and a touchdown, earning Pac-12 Freshman of the Week honors. The Wildcats' conference-leading rushing attack (255.5 yards per game), though, suffered without Taylor and Tate, easily sinking to a season low with 99 yards on 30 carries. Linebacker Colin Schooler has logged a team-most 32 total tackles for a leaky defense (29.3 points and 473.3 yards allowed per game) which has taken some strides of late, holding its last two foes (UCLA and Texas Tech) to a combined 31 points.
ABOUT COLORADO (3-1, 1-0)
Senior quarterback Steven Montez (1,164 yards, nine TDs, two interceptions) is off to a strong start, while Alex Fontenot and Jared Mangham provide a 1-2 rushing punch with 511 total yards and seven TDs between them. And if Shenault has to miss his first start of the season, fellow wideouts Tony Brown (19 receptions-301 yards-four TDs) and K.D. Nixon (17-295-1) are still dangerous. Linebacker Nate Landman has a team-leading 41 total tackles, including 28 solo stops, but the Buffs' defense overall ranks in the Pac-12's bottom three in points (30.8) and total yards (466.5) surrendered per game.
1. Arizona has won six of the eight meetings since Colorado joined the Pac-12 in 2011, including 42-34 and 45-42 victories the last two seasons.
2. Montez ranks second in the Pac-12 with his average of 291 passing yards per game and has thrown for 594 combined yards and six TDs in his last two game against Arizona.
3. Arizona is tops in the FBS with nine interceptions after picking off only seven passes all of last season.
PREDICTION: Colorado 34, Arizona 31