The Colorado Buffaloes are facing a must-win situation this weekend when they play host to the Stanford Cardinal, who are also getting desperate for wins late in the season. Kickoff is scheduled for 3:00 EST on Saturday, November 9 at Folsom Field in Boulder, Colorado. Fans can find the game on the Pac-12 Network.
Current odds list Stanford as 3-point favorites on the road with an over/under of 56 points. Click here to check out a full list of this week’s college football betting odds.
As mentioned, it’s do-or-die time for the Buffaloes, who have lost five games in a row. At home, Colorado has managed to stay competitive in losses to Arizona and USC. However, away from home, the Buffs have struggled, losing to Oregon, Washington State, and UCLA by lopsided margins. Even in what seemed like a winnable game last week, Colorado lost to UCLA 31-14, dropping them to 3-6 on the season despite promising wins over Colorado State, Nebraska, and Arizona State early in the year.
The good news is that the Buffaloes will play two of their final three games of the season at home, giving them a glimmer of hope. On the downside, they also have Washington and a top-10 Utah team left on their schedule. Of course, those games won’t mean anything unless Colorado can get a win over Stanford this weekend.
The Cardinal has also endured some low points during the season, most notably a three-game losing streak in September and injuries to their top two quarterbacks. However, David Shaw’s team has persevered and found a way to win three of their last four games, including an upset of Washington. But after a three-game homestand, the Cardinal hits the road the next two weeks as they look to stay hot.
At 4-4, Stanford needs two more wins if they expect to play in a bowl game for the 11th straight season. A home game with rival Notre Dame looms the last week of the season, putting the Cardinal under a little bit of pressure to reach six wins before then. That makes this week’s game against Colorado critical to their bowl hopes with tricky games against Washington State and Cal still left on their schedule.
This will be the first meeting between Stanford and Colorado since 2016, so there should be little familiarity between the players and coaches. The Buffs won that game in Palo Alto by a 10-5 scoreline. However, the Cardinal has won their three other meetings with the Buffs since Colorado joined the Pac-12. For what it’s worth, those three Stanford wins came by an average margin of 40 points.
Colorado’s propensity for losing close games at home makes this game a little difficult to call. I’ll admit that the Buffs have a fighting chance to win, as their desperation works in their favor. But I think Stanford is the better team, especially with starting quarterback K.J. Costello back healthy. If the spread were any higher, I might have second thoughts. But I feel good about the Cardinal being able to cover a field goal on the road.
The deciding factor in this game for me was the Colorado defense. Head coach Mel Tucker has a great reputation as a defensive coach, but he’s got a lot of work to do with the Buffaloes. All nine teams Colorado has played this year have scored at least 30 points against them with Pac-12 opponents averaging better than 36 points per game. To be fair, that’s remarkable consistency, although it doesn’t exactly help the Buffaloes win games. Even when Colorado has led games late, the defense has failed to hold on and secure the win.
As mentioned, Costello is back healthy for the Cardinal, which makes me think the Stanford offense should have no problem scoring 30-plus points against Colorado. In his first game back, Costello threw for over 300 yards and three touchdowns against an Arizona defense that might be as bad as the Colorado defense. On top of that, Stanford’s rushing attack has gradually improved over the course of the season. Cameron Scarlet has rushed for at least 90 yards in five of his last six games. I see no reason why that won’t continue against the Buffs.
If Colorado has any chance in this game, they’ll need their offense to outscore Stanford in a shootout. The Buffaloes actually have the talent to do that. Quarterback Steven Montez has the arm talent to push the ball down the field and a pair of talented receivers in Laviska Shenault and Tony Browns. However, the Colorado offense has gone cold on more than one occasion this season. Even against a Stanford defense that’s average at best, it’s hard to trust the Buffaloes to move the ball consistently for four quarters. Given the struggles of the defense, the Colorado offense will have to score points on almost every possession to give the Buffaloes a chance.
In the end, the Stanford defense is good enough to get a stop or two when they need one, but I can’t say the same thing for the Colorado defense. The Buffaloes will make this an interesting game because they should be able to score a fair amount of points. But I think the Cardinal will pull away at the end and be able to cover the 3-point spread.