Washington State (8-2, 7-0) at Colorado (8-2, 6-1)
When: Saturday, November 19th 2016
Where: Folsom Field, Boulder, CO
Time: 3:30 ET | TV: FOX
In what could be a preview of the Pac-12 Championship Game next month, the Colorado Buffaloes host the Washington State Cougars on Saturday afternoon in Boulder. From 2006-15, these schools had the two worst winning percentages of all Power Five schools, so it’s surprising that they find themselves in this position. Colorado brings a strong defense and balanced offense into this contest and a half a game lead of USC in the South Division. Colorado’s only two losses this season came to the Trojans and a non-conference loss to Michigan in which they led 21-7 after one quarter. Utah is also alive in the South at 5-2, and will play Colorado next week. Quarterback Sefo Liufau matched his single-game season high last week with three touchdown passes in a 49-24 win at Arizona, but he also has thrown all three of his interceptions this season in the last two games. The running game is led by tailback Phillip Lindsay, who is third in the Pac-12 with 93.7 rushing yards per game. Wide receiver Shay Fields is third on the Pac-12 with 71 receiving yards per game. Defensively, outside linebacker Jimmie Gilbert (nine sacks, 11 tackles for losses) and a strong secondary lead a unit that is ranked tops in the conference in scoring defense (17.9 points allowed), total defense (308.4 yards) and passing defense (176.9 yards).
It looked like another long year in Pullman when the Cougars dropped their first two games to FCS Eastern Washington and Boise State, but Washington State has reeled off eight straight victories and stand the only team without a conference loss. During the streak, the Cougars have averaged 46.6 points per game and their average margin of victory has been 25.8. Junior quarterback Luke Falk leads the offense and is tops in the country in completion percentage at 73.9, second in passing yards with 3,610 and is tied for fifth with 33 passing touchdowns. He’ll be without second-leading receiver River Cracraft (53 catches-701 yards-five TDs) as the slot wideout suffered a season-ending torn ACL in the third quarter of last Saturday’s 56-21 win versus California. Cougars running backs lead the Pac-12 with a combined 2,299 total yards and 29 rushing/receiving touchdowns this season. Defensive end Hercules Mata’afa (11 tackles for loss) leads a defense which has been the conference’s best against the run at 116.9 yards allowed per game and ranks sixth in the league allowing just 24.3 points per contest.
This game could go either way. Both are having outstanding seasons and could meet in the Pac-12 Championship. Liufau has had a couple of suspect games of late, but he has a talented team around him to make up for it. Washington State just can’t stop scoring and the defense has been underrated. I’m going to take the points in what I think is a toss-up game.
Pick: Washington State +4.5