The Buffaloes (3-0, 2-0 Pac-12) have had little reason to celebrate since winning their lone division title in 2016. That's all changed in 2020. Colorado has a potent offense again and the defense is making strides heading into December. The Buffaloes stymied San Diego State's offense in a 20-10 victory over the Aztecs last weekend in a game that came about after Colorado's scheduled meeting with USC was canceled. The Buffaloes allowed only 155 total yards and 10 first downs. The Aztecs converted just 4-of-17 third downs and scored their lone touchdown of the game off a pick-six.
The Wildcats (0-3, 0-3 Pac-12) are on the opposite end of the spectrum. It's safe to say that the wheels have fallen off in Tuscon. Arizona is mired in a school-record 10-game losing streak dating back to last season. Since suffering a final-minute loss to USC, the Wildcats have stumbled through back-to-back 17-point defeats against Washington and UCLA. Poor offense has been a culprit for struggles in both games. Arizona has been held scoreless in five of its last eight quarters of football.
Colorado holds a 14-8 lead in the all-time series but Arizona has won the last three meetings.
Colorado at Arizona
Kickoff: Saturday, Dec. 5 at 7 p.m. ET
Spread: Colorado -7.0
When Colorado Has the Ball
The Buffaloes' offense has traditionally worked best with a power back who can pile up yards left and right in the backfield. Colorado has found such a player in Jarek Broussard.
Broussard had his third straight 100-yard game to carry the Buffaloes against San Diego State. He finished with 124 yards on 32 carries. Through three games, Broussard ranks third in the Pac-12 with 432 total rushing yards. The sophomore is averaging 144 yards on 30 carries per game. His emergence as a workhorse has allowed Colorado to be balanced on offense and kept the Buffaloes' defense fresh at critical junctures.
Sam Noyer threw for 138 yards and a touchdown, while also running for another score in the win over the Aztecs. He struggled against a good defense, but Noyer opened the season with back-to-back 200-yard games. The senior ranks fourth in the Pac-12 in total passing yards (650) and passing yards per game (216.7). Noyer has favorable odds for crossing that 200-yard plateau once again while facing an Arizona pass defense that struggled against USC and Washington.
When Arizona Has the Ball
The Wildcats' offense stumbled in the absence of starting quarterback Grant Gunnell and could be without him this Saturday. Gunnell suffered a shoulder injury on the first play against UCLA and did not return. He is a game-time decision this weekend.
If Gunnell cannot go, that will deal a huge blow to Arizona. Over the team's first two games, he totaled 545 passing yards and six touchdowns while completing 68 percent of his attempts. Will Plummer will likely get the nod again if Gunnell is unable to play. Plummer, a freshman, struggled against the Bruins. He threw for 151 yards and tossed a pair of interceptions while completing just 48.6 percent of his passes.
Gary Brightwell will need to step up if Arizona hopes to have any success on offense. Brightwell was a bright spot against USC, totaling 112 yards on 21 carries. His impact has been much more limited since the opener. The senior managed only 57 yards on 17 carries against UCLA. Brightwell has the potential to make things happen in the backfield. He has four 100-yard games in his career and will likely need to produce a fifth to get the Wildcats back in the win column.
One thing is guaranteed when these two teams clash. There are always tons of fireworks on offense. This year should put that trend to the test. Colorado will be able to hold up its end. The Buffaloes have scored in all 12 quarters so far this season. Arizona's ability to find the end zone will be a bigger question mark because of the quarterback situation. Colorado hasn't had much recent success against Arizona, but that should change this weekend.
Prediction: Colorado 34, Arizona 20
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— Written by John Coon, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Coon has more than a decade of experience covering sports for different publications and outlets, including The Associated Press, Salt Lake Tribune, ESPN, Deseret News, MaxPreps, Yahoo! Sports, and many others. Follow him on Twitter @johncoonsports.
(Jarek Broussard photo courtesy of @CUBuffsFootball)