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Buffs To Face Third Straight Ranked Team, Elite QB In Saturday's Game at UW

Nov 15, 2022
Brady Russell (38) and Daniel Arias (6) have been invited to play in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl.

BOULDER — After two straight weeks playing a team ranked eighth in the nation, the Colorado Buffaloes face No. 15 this week when they travel to Seattle for a 7 p.m. matchup Saturday against Washington.

But Colorado coach Mike Sanford said Tuesday these Huskies might just be the best team in the Pac-12 right now — at least if you use their last outing as a barometer.

Last weekend, Washington eliminated Oregon from playoff contention by marching into the Ducks' home stadium and taking a dramatic 37-34 victory. Kalen DeBoer's Huskies improved to 8-2 overall (5-2 in the Pac-12) while keeping alive their slim hopes for a berth in the Pac-12 championship game in the process.

"Today, this might be the best team in the conference," Sanford said. "After the Oregon game, just seeing the roster, seeing the top-to-bottom nature of who they are as a program … they're as good as any team right now and maybe in the top five, top 10 of college football because you're only as good as your last game."

The Huskies have been one of the bigger surprises this year in college football. After finishing 4-8 last season — including a 20-17 loss to Colorado in Boulder — Washington hired DeBoer. He immediately reshaped the UW roster via the transfer portal, with the biggest addition being quarterback Michael Penix. The former Indiana standout currently leads the nation in passing yards with 3,640. 

The Huskies sent a message early in the season when they thumped Michigan State, 39-28, en route to a 4-0 start. 

But they then dropped consecutive games to UCLA and Arizona State. That pushed them out of the top 25, but they have since climbed back in with four straight wins, including the victory over the Ducks.

Now, they pose a major test for the Buffs (1-9 overall, 1-6 Pac-12).

"From basically the first snap it was like Washington's better than Oregon on the field that day," Sanford said after watching film of the game. "It's a monumental task for our football team to go in there. And we're excited for that task."

Along with being the third straight week the Buffs have faced a ranked team (they will make it four in a row next week when they host Utah), CU will also face a standout transfer quarterback for the third game in a row.

Two weeks ago it was Oregon's Bo Nix (Auburn). Last week it was USC's Caleb Williams (Oklahoma). Now, it's Penix, who has helped the Huskies become the nation's No. 8 team in total offense, averaging nearly 500 yards per game.

It's no coincidence that USC and Washington, both of who finished 4-8 a year ago, are riding high this year. The addition of an elite quarterback and a new head coach have rejuvenated both programs almost overnight.

"I've been watching Michael Penix for the last several years," said Sanford, who spent two seasons at Minnesota before coming to Colorado. "He has elite arm talent in terms of velocity, RPMs on the ball. You can't find a guy that throws the ball with as much conviction as he does. But he also has that trait I keep talking about as a 'creator.' A play breaks down and he's a threat to run, a threat to create an explosive play."

But Penix is by no means the only playmaker on UW's roster. The Huskies have had nine 100-yard receiving efforts this year from four different players, including five from Rome Odunze. The Huskies' leading rusher, Wayne Taulapapa (546 yards, 7 TDs), is also a transfer, as is second-leading tackler Cam Bright.

"At the end of the day, when you have a proven trigger puller that's done it at a very high level, and then you surround them with skill, whether you retain that skill or whether you add that skill it's obviously lending itself to a quick turnaround," Sanford said. "But there are things in place that you have to have as an institution to be able to give yourself that chance for that talent acquisition and make a massive impact."

CONDOLENCES: Sanford opened his press conference by sending CU's condolences to the Virginia football program and the entire university. The school saw three students — all football players — killed in a Sunday night shooting.

Sanford said the team met and talked about the incident Tuesday morning. That's when he found out that CU defensive back Tyrin Taylor went to high school with one of the victims, wide receiver Devin Chandler.

"Just an absolute atrocity," Sanford said. "There's a lot of people that are hurting out there. We just wanted to create a safe space for our players to be able to talk about things that are going on to acknowledge that there are a lot of challenges that face every one of us."

BUFFS NOTES: Sanford said wide receiver Jordyn Tyson, who suffered a season-ending injury in the Oregon game, underwent surgery on Tuesday. Sanford also said that Tyson told him he has been the recipient of some NIL money. That money will no doubt be a boost for Tyson as his family negotiates the logistics of flying back and forth as he recovers …

Sanford said CU senior wide receiver Daniel Arias and tight end Brady Russell have been invited to participate in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, a postseason all-star game … Both running back Deion Smith and safety Trevor Woods, who missed last week's game vs. USC, practiced on Tuesday and should be available for Saturday's game.