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Colorado Buffaloes vs. Arizona Wildcats Preview and Prediction

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Ranked No. 12 heading into Week 11, leading the Pac-12 South division, and based on recent precedent, Colorado would play in the Rose Bowl Game if it was scheduled for today.

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Yep. The same Colorado that just last week ended an 11-year run of sub-.500 finishes, and last bowled in 2007, would appear in the Granddaddy of 'Em All right now.

Of course, it's not yet Jan. 2, which means Colorado has work to do. The Buffs can sew up a spot in the Pac-12 Championship Game by winning out, starting with a road trip to Arizona.

The Wildcats are sputtering through their worst season under head coach Rich Rodriguez, and are in danger of their worst finish since the 2003 season, when John Mackovic was fired midway through.

In almost every season since then, though, starting with 2004, an Arizona team scored a November upset of a nationally ranked opponent. Last year it was Utah, which came into Tucson with aspirations similar to this Colorado team.

Colorado at Arizona

Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 12, 10 p.m. ET 

TV Channel: FS1

Spread: Colorado -16 

Three Things to Watch 

1. How Much Fight's Left in Arizona? 

Arizona suffered some heart-wrenching, albeit competitive losses early in the season. Week 1 came down to a BYU field goal; Washington needed overtime to avoid an upset in the desert. The Wildcats jumped on Utah early on the road, and only acquiesced the lead after quarterback Brandon Dawkins went down with injury.

But since falling at Utah, Arizona's losses have grown increasingly lopsided, with the bottom completely falling out last week at Washington State.

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Injuries ravaged the Wildcats early on, but the beatdown sustained on the Palouse speaks to a potentially larger problem. If Arizona comes out listless against Colorado's up-tempo offense, another blowout could be on its way.

2. Clean It Up

Colorado guaranteed a winning season last week, holding off UCLA at home, 20-10. The Buffs were their own worst enemy in the win, accruing 128 yards in penalties on 12 flags. Couple that with four turnovers, and the Colorado offense left last week's win owing its defense some comped meals.

Potential good news for Colorado: some of the turnovers were attributable to UCLA's tenacious pass rush, something Arizona would be hard-pressed to replicate. Quarterback Sefo Liufau faced constant pressure, particularly from the Bruins' standout defensive end, Takkarist McKinley.

Wildcats defensive coordinator Marcel Yates would like to have a defensive line of similar makeup to UCLA's but Arizona is a long way off. It would take some risky blitz packages to generate the necessary pressure to force Liufau into rushed decisions -- and with Colorado's deep wide receiving corps, even that's no guarantee the Wildcats can garner takeaways. Liufau entered last week without an interception thrown all season long.

3. Four Quarterbacks? 

Liufau's faced some injury issues this season, including last week. Backup Steven Montez has been solid, if not good, when called upon for Colorado.

Conversely, Arizona backup Brandon Dawkins has outshined Week 1 starter Anu Solomon, but both have dealt with a rash of injuries all season long. Wildcats head coach Rich Rodriguez anticipates playing both this week. Colorado's Mike MacIntyre would prefer roll with one quarterback, but the situation may be out of his hands. 

Despite Montez's dual-threat playmaking ability, Arizona's better off facing him than it is Liufau. As for the Wildcats, perhaps a week back as the starter will have Solomon better prepared than he was at Washington State. If not, expect to see more of the still-not-100 percent Dawkins.

Final Analysis

Two years ago, Arizona was playing for the Pac-12 South title at this juncture, and Colorado was simply seeking a conference win. The flip is somewhat startling, though not altogether surprising.

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Colorado is one of the most veteran teams in college football, while this Arizona team has been forced to play many underclassmen. The experience gap should be on display Saturday.

Arizona desperately needs a Pac-12 win, if for symbolic reasons alone, and its track record of November upsets looms large. However, Colorado is too good on both sides of the ball for the Wildcats to keep pace.

Prediction: Colorado 42, Arizona 27 

— Written by Kyle Kensing, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a sportswriter in Southern California. Kensing is publisher of CFBHuddle.com. Follow him on Twitter @kensing45.