The Buffaloes (5-2, 2-2 Pac-12) are smarting from back-to-back losses to Washington and USC that erased their Top 25 ranking and put them into must-win mode. The Pac-12 South is a jumble at the top, but the Buffaloes must run the table and hope another team beats USC along the way to keep flickering divisional title hopes alive.
Pride is all that's left for the Beavers. Oregon State (1-6, 0-4) suffered its most lopsided loss of the season, falling to California 49-7 on Saturday. The Beavers have lost 13 straight games to Pac-12 opponents since beating Oregon in their 2016 season finale. With games still remaining against USC, Stanford, Washington and the Ducks, prospects for breaking that skid look bleak.
The all-time series is knotted up at 5-5. Colorado has won three straight against Oregon State, including a 47-6 victory over the Beavers in their most recent trip to Boulder in 2016.
Oregon State at Colorado
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 27 at 3 p.m. ET
TV: Pac-12 Networks
Three Things to Watch
1. Who will start at quarterback for Oregon State?
Injuries have turned the quarterback position into a revolving door for the Beavers this season. Jake Luton has missed four games while rehabbing a high ankle sprain. Conor Blount suffered a head injury in the second quarter against California. That left third-string quarterback Jack Colletto to guide the offense in the second half against the Bears.
Blount is in concussion protocol, and his status for Saturday's game is up in the air. Luton and Colletto are splitting reps in practice this week, but Luton remains a game-time decision at best at this point. This means that Colletto or even redshirt freshman Aidan Willard could get the call to direct the offense.
Colletto did not move the chains that well in his first extended action. He completed 11-of-20 passes for 104 yards against California. The Oregon State offense was crippled, though, by the absence of top RB Jermar Jefferson for most of the game. Jefferson, the top rusher in the Pac-12 with 899 yards, battled a quad injury and finished with 34 yards on only two carries.
2. Colorado's third down conversion rate
One common thread for the Buffaloes in their losses to USC and Washington was an inability to finish drives. Colorado could not move the chains on third down when it mattered in either game.
Colorado went 7-of-23 on third down against the Trojans. It ended up being even worse against Washington. The Buffaloes went 3-of-13 on third down against the Huskies. Struggles on first down contributed to those conversion problems. Colorado averaged just 1.5 yards per snap on first down against USC. The Buffaloes averaged 2.7 yards per snap on first down against Washington.
Colorado has converted as many as 50 percent of the team's third downs in only two games this season. It's a concerning trend that could cause some problems if Oregon State is able to establish the run game and control the ball with some degree of success.
3. Can the Buffaloes' backfield get back on track?
A strong running game became a staple of Colorado's 5-0 start. Things have regressed back to the mean over the past two weeks in the backfield. Getting the run to spark the offense again is necessary to snap the two-game skid.
Colorado totaled only 95 yards on the ground against USC. The Buffaloes followed that up with 119 yards against Washington. They managed just 2.6 yards per carry against the Trojans and 3.4 yards per carry against the Huskies.
Running well makes all the difference. Colorado is 4-0 this season when the Buffaloes gain at least 150 yards on the ground. Travon McMillian is the linchpin in making it happen. McMillian has had four 100-yard games this season — all Colorado victories. The senior has accumulated 646 yards and four touchdowns while averaging 5.1 yards per carry this season.
Oregon State's last road victory came in 2014 when the Beavers beat Colorado in Boulder. Both programs have headed in dramatically different directions since that time. Colorado is still in the mix for a Pac-12 South title. Injury-riddled Oregon State is trying to just get something positive going at this point. The Beavers will be forced to wait a while longer to get that elusive road victory.
Prediction: Colorado 38, Oregon State 20
— 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.