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Buffs Gear Up For Visit From No. 8 Oregon

Nov 1, 2022

BOULDER — In a season in which the Colorado Buffaloes have already played two teams currently ranked in the nation's top 10 — No. 7 TCU and No. 10 UCLA — the road only gets tougher over the next two weeks.

Saturday the Buffs play host to No. 8 Oregon in a 1:30 p.m. game at Folsom Field (ESPN). Six days later, they head to the West Coast for a Friday night game against No. 9 USC at the Coliseum (7:30 p.m., FS1). Throw in a Nov. 26 season finale against No. 12 Utah, and it's a difficult lineup for anyone — never mind a Buffs team that is still trying to find its way in a 1-7 season.

But coach Mike Sanford and the Buffs aren't looking ahead to anything — or anyone else — other than the Ducks. Oregon boasts a Heisman candidate quarterback in Bo Nix, excellent speed at the skill positions and salty lineups on both sides of the ball in the trenches.

But perhaps most importantly, Oregon is still in contention for a CFP playoff berth and the Ducks know every one of their games will be under the microscope.

"Big, big week this week," Sanford said at his weekly Tuesday press conference. "Tremendous football team, a lot of team speed. Probably some of the best line play that you will see, particularly their defensive line and the veterans on their offensive line."

Indeed, the Ducks had a trio of Pac-12 honorees last week. Nix was named the conference's offensive player of the week for the second week in a row, while Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu earned offensive lineman of the week honors and DJ Johnson was tabbed as the defensive lineman of the week.

"We look forward to the challenge," Sanford said. "It's obviously a big challenge for us. We understand that we have to play extremely hard and we have to play with extreme discipline. We have to make the plays that are there to be made to take this game to where it needs to go. We all understand it's going to be a tall task, but it's a task that we are fully up for and we're going to continue to embrace as we go."

The Buffs have already watched plenty of film on the Ducks. They know Nix is a terrific passer (20 touchdowns and three interceptions in his last seven games) as well as a capable runner. They also are aware of the team speed at receiver and running back, and they know the Ducks boast a big, veteran offensive line. 

"They have a good system," said CU defensive lineman Jalen Sami, who last week was selected by coaches as the Buffs' defensive player of the game. "They have a lot of athletes on the edge on the perimeter, so we just have to contain them in a rush. Just don't have fear. We have to be able to attack and have that mindset of attack and defense, stopping the ground attack and then getting (tackles for loss) and putting them in negative positions …  I have to make sure (Nix) stays in the pocket and just wreak havoc in the backfield."

Since opening with a 49-3 loss to Georgia, the Ducks have won seven in a row while scoring at least 41 points in every game. The Buffs meanwhile, have yielded at least 38 points in seven of their eight games.

But Sanford believes CU's defense can hang with Oregon — if the Buffs execute like they did in their win over Cal and continue to play with the passion they have exhibited over the last few weeks.

"It's all about ignoring the noise outside and realizing that if we play harder than our opponent and we play to our maximum potential of how hard we play, that's what ultimately yielded the results defensively against Cal," he said. "We just played incredibly hard. I think last game we played incredibly hard. If we can combine playing very hard and surpassing how hard we played last week and week before and the week before and combine that with execution and being in the right spots and executing the calls, then it gives you a chance."

RB UPDATE: Sanford said running back Alex Fontenot, who hasn't played since Week 2 vs. Air Force, should be able to return to contact drills Wednesday and will likely be available Saturday. Sanford also said freshman Anthony Hankerson, who missed last week's game against ASU, should also be ready.

But Sanford also said the challenge will be developing a rotation, as junior Deion Smith is coming off his best game as a Buff, a 111-yard, one touchdown effort against the Sun Devils.

"The challenge is that Dion is playing such good football right now," Sanford said. "Getting him into a rhythm is incredibly important because he does provide that opportunity for an explosive play at any time."