The Deion Sanders hype train has hit a snag.
The Colorado Buffaloes were the talk of college football for all of September after getting off to a 3-0 start. Wins over then-ranked TCU, Nebraska and Colorado State had the Buffaloes in the limelight, and Sanders’ turnaround in Boulder was viewed as transcendent.
No one had done what Sanders had done at Colorado, completely flipping the roster after a 1-11 season using the transfer portal.
Following Colorado’s win over Arizona State in Week 6, the Buffaloes moved to 4-2, needing just two more wins to reach bowl eligibility.
Friday’s matchup against Stanford appeared to be an easy fifth win for Sanders and Colorado as the Buffaloes jumped out to a 29-0 halftime lead.
A win would have put Colorado within one win of bowl eligibility, an accomplishment that most did not see as a possibility in Sanders’ first season in Boulder.
Then, Colorado collapsed.
Stanford completed the biggest comeback in school history, winning 46-43 in double overtime.
The loss, the largest blown lead in Colorado history, was a major blow to Colorado’s bowl chances. The Buffaloes need two more wins to reach the minimum requirement of six victories to compete in the postseason. Colorado could be selected for a bowl game if it goes 5-7 and there aren’t enough eligible 6-6 teams.
Colorado’s schedule is daunting the rest of the way. Four of its remaining opponents have been ranked this season. So, let’s take a look at each of the final five matchups for the Buffaloes.
Colorado has to win games in shootouts due to its inability to stop anyone on defense.
The Buffaloes’ defense is ranked dead last in the Pac-12 in total yards (473.7) and rushing yards (157.4) per game.
UCLA’s rushing attack is second in the Pac-12, averaging 214.7 yards per game on the ground. The Bruins have the ability to keep the ball out of the hands of Colorado quarterback Sheduer Sanders.
And then there’s UCLA’s defense, which has been one of the better units in college football through seven weeks.
Heading into its matchup with Oregon State in Week 7, UCLA’s defense was fifth in the country in yards per game (254.2), eighth in points per game (12.2) and tied with Oregon for first in yards allowed per play.
Even after allowing 36 points to Oregon State, UCLA is 11th in the country in yards allowed per game (281).
The Buffaloes will be the underdogs in Week 9.
Oregon State’s only loss of the season came in a shootout against Washington State, and the Beavers have beaten two top 20 teams so far this season.
Oregon State is rushing for 195.1 yards per game and just beat a very good UCLA team.
Quarterback DJ Uiagalelei has helped give the Beavers a balanced offensive attack and threw for 266 yards and two scores against the Bruins.
“It was a great challenge for us, and I feel like we did a really good job staying balanced,” Uiagalelei said after beating UCLA. “We took our shots, and we made them.”
Uiagalelei has thrown 15 touchdown passes and just four interceptions in his first season with Oregon State after transferring from Clemson.
The most winnable game of Colorado’s next three matchups will not be an easy one.
The Wildcats are playing excellent football after just demolishing No. 19 Washington State, 44-6. The win came one week after Arizona nearly took down USC before losing in triple overtime.
Quarterback Noah Fifita has filled in admirably for the injured Jayden de Laura and may have earned himself the starting gig.
Since taking over for de Laura after the junior quarterback injured his ankle against Stanford, Fifita has looked the part, named Pac-12 Freshman of the Week on Monday for the second consecutive week.
Fifita has thrown for 924 yards, eight touchdowns and two interceptions, while completing 74% of his passes.
As the Wildcats enter their bye week, head coach Jedd Fisch would not declare a full-time starter at QB.
“Right now, being in the bye week, as we’re evaluating where we are and as a team where we’ve been, we’re very fortunate,” Fisch said, per the Arizona Daily Star. “Two is better than none. So, we have the ability to continue to grow in that position, grow in that quarterback room and see how good both of those guys can get.
“I think we all saw when Jayden went out there to take a knee, that was quite a hobble out there. That wasn’t a pretty jog. We really have to see how this ankle is coming along as we continue to work through what we’re going to do.”
The Cougars have struggled the past two weeks, losing back-to-back games to UCLA and Arizona.
But the Cougars started the year 4-0 and were ranked No. 13 in The Associated Press Top 25 heading into Week 6.
Washington State is third in the Pac-12 in passing yards per game (337.8) while Colorado’s pass defense is second to last in the conference (316.3). Cougars quarterback Cameron Ward has thrown for 14 touchdowns with just three interceptions.
Washington State’s defense is not very good, however, giving Sanders and Colorado’s high-powered passing attack a chance to thrive.
The Cougars allow 272.5 yards per game through the air, third-worst in the conference, while Colorado is second in the Pac-12 with 346.1 passing yards per game.
The Utes have the best defense in the Pac-12 and the worst offense in the conference.
Allowing just 277.8 yards per game, Utah is only gaining 322.2 yards per game without the services of quarterback Cam Rising, though they continue to win.
Utah has leaned heavily on its running attack through the first seven weeks of the season, rushing for 172.7 yards per game.
The Associated Press contributed to this report