Washington (6-4, 3-4 Pac-12) is certainly more vulnerable to an upset than in past seasons. The Huskies are trying to avoid finishing with a losing record in Pac-12 play for the first time since 2015. Washington enjoyed a bye week after beating Oregon State 19-7 two weeks ago. The Huskies put together their best defensive performance of the season against the Beavers. They held Oregon State to 119 total yards. The Beavers punted 10 times and never scored an offensive TD.
Any lingering hopes Colorado (4-6, 2-5) holds for reaching a bowl game rest on pulling upsets over Washington this week and then Utah the following week. That's a tall task for any team. The Buffaloes gained some renewed hope after edging Stanford 16-13 two weeks ago to snap a five-game losing streak. Evan Price kicked a pair of fourth-quarter field goals – including one on the game's final play – to help Colorado survive a sluggish offensive outing.
Washington holds a 10-3 lead in the series with Colorado. The Buffaloes have lost nine in a row to the Huskies, with their most recent win occurring in 1996.
Washington at Colorado
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 23 at 10 p.m. ET
Spread: Washington – 14.5
When Washington Has the Ball
The Huskies have not been a model of consistency on offense this season. Defensive inexperience has made it tougher to mask erratic play on the other side of the ball and has cost Washington when facing tougher defensive teams.
Still, there are reasons to feel optimistic that the Huskies are trending upward. Salvon Ahmed seems to have finally emerged as the feature back Washington has searched for all season. Ahmed ran for a career-high 174 yards and two touchdowns against Oregon State. His 886 total rushing yards rank third in the Pac-12 – trailing only Utah's Zack Moss and UCLA's Joshua Kelley. The junior has churned out more than 100 yards on the ground in two of his last three games.
Ahmed's emergence can take some pressure to produce off of Jacob Eason's shoulders. Eason has struggled in his last two games, throwing four interceptions in that stretch after totaling just three picks in Washington's first eight games. He threw for only 175 yards against Oregon State, his second-lowest total in a game this season. Ironically, Eason threw for a season-high 316 yards against Utah a week earlier. If Eason can get back on track in the turnover department, he possesses more than enough talent to pick apart Colorado's secondary.
When Colorado Has the Ball
Aside from two good quarters against USC, Colorado has been largely unproductive on offense over the last five games. The Buffaloes have scored 14.8 points per game in that stretch and have been held under 400 total yards in four of the five contests. That's not a great sign going up against a Washington team that's allowing 21.2 points and 349.7 yards per game.
A big day from Steven Montez could go a long way to helping Colorado build offensive momentum. Montez is closing in on a trio of school records. He needs one touchdown pass, 300 passing yards, and 316 yards of total offense to become the career leader in those categories at Colorado. The senior QB has set 28 school records and tied 14 others during his time with the Buffaloes. Montez is certainly capable of putting together a big performance. He already has 13 300-yard passing games in his career.
Establishing a consistent run game will be critical to Colorado's upset hopes. The Buffaloes have a nice one-two punch in the backfield with Alex Fontenot and Jaren Mangham. They have combined for 1,134 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground through 10 games. After missing the UCLA game, Fontenot put up 95 yards against Stanford. He averaged 5.3 yards per carry – the third time this season he has averaged five or more yards per carry in a game.
Facing the Huskies' solid defense is tough enough when you have a good offense. When your offense is inconsistent and mediocre, as is the case with the Buffaloes, it is not a winning formula. Washington is not the elite team it was a year ago, but the Huskies are still one of the more formidable teams in the Pac-12. They will experience little trouble locking down Colorado. The Buffaloes, barring a miracle, seem ticketed for their 10th straight loss to the Huskies.
Prediction: Washington 31, Colorado 13
— 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.