Colorado expert gives his take and prediction on Saturday's game in Boulder
After a shaky season opener against South Alabama, Nebraska travels to Colorado to renew an old rivalry on Saturday.
The Huskers will try to avenge last year's loss to the Buffs, as CU won their season opener for the second year in a row against Colorado State.
As we do each week, HuskerOnline went in-depth with an expert that covers NU's upcoming opponent. In this week's "Ask the Expert," we caught up with CUSportsNation.com's Justin Guerriero to get his thoughts and perspective on Saturday's game in Boulder.
What is the mood going into this game in Boulder knowing 25,000+ Nebraska fans are probably making their way into town this weekend?
"Well, right off the bat, I can tell you that the athletic department at CU has for a long time been aware of how well Huskers fans travel and thus have worked hard to ensure that a sea of red will not be present at Folsom Field this Saturday.
"Personally, I'd take the under on 12,000 Nebraska fans entering Folsom with tickets for this game. I'll be interested to see if my projection comes true, though. Ultimately, I think the Colorado fan base knows very well what's at stake in this game and how many enemy fans are going to be flooding Boulder. As for Mel Tucker and the Buffs themselves, I haven't detected a worry regarding the wave of fans expected. I think they're very much laser-focused on game-related items. That said, if they take the field and throughout the game, Husker chants are drumming out those for the Buffs, obviously that'll be a rather large deflator."
Game 1 for a new staff always can have its challenges. What things need to be cleaned up for CU from their win over Colorado State?
"Well, put simply, a lot of bolts need to be tightened on defense. Colorado didn't even force CSU to punt for the first time until the fourth quarter. For those that observed this team through spring and summer, we have known for a while that the offense was the big strength of the team and that defensively, there were question marks all around. Versus the Rams, the secondary got beat often. Mikial Onu, CU's graduate transfer safety from SMU, was solid, recording two interceptions in the game and handling most of his assignments effectively, but the rest of that lot, especially cornerbacks Mekhi Blackmon and Delrick Abrams, need to perform worlds better this Saturday.
"The d-line didn't apply much pressure and even the normally resolute ILB Nate Landman was at times shaky with missed tackles and coverage duties. Overall, the main areas that need to be improved upon (I might say drastically) all lie on the defensive side of the ball. Offensively, CU looked good. Steven Montez took a bit to warm up, but the depth at WR showed and at running back, new starter Alex Fontenot was very fun to watch. The o-line performed up to par in my opinion."
Colorado had a very dynamic offense last season with most of those same faces coming back in 2019. Is there anything different about what they are doing this season?
"Well on offense, the Buffs are now incorporating tight ends, something Mike MacIntyre never did. In fact, one game deep into 2019, Colorado TEs have caught two thirds as many passes already that TEs caught during the entire 2018 season. I think the Buffs have strived towards an offensive attack that uses the many talented guys at WR in a way that alleviates pressure from the big-name wideouts, K.D. Nixon and Laviska Shenault. Get ready to see contributions from the likes of Tony Brown and Dimitri Stanley.
"WR is the biggest strength on this entire team and the Buffs want to flex that talent as much as possible. At RB, CU basically had to start from scratch, but as I mentioned, Fontenot, a redshirt sophomore, seems primed to rise to the occasion and his immediate backup, redshirt frosh Jaren Mangham, scored a TD vs. CSU and did well in his first action. I don't really have many concerns on offense, but I'd like the o-line to go from good to great. The Rams were able to hurry Steven Montez a few times more than what I would have preferred last Friday."
How do you see Colorado having their best success attacking Nebraska?
"Colorado needs to come out swinging early. There can't be stagnation on offense and across the board, there can't be a quarter-long war up period. The Buffs were good at mixing up formations on offense, a testament to OC Jay Johnson, and I'd like to see the same on Saturday. That's how Colorado wins.
"Think of it this way: if the offense gets an A+ and the defense earns an F, then the Buffs can still skate by with a C. Not the perfect analogy, I know, but that's what this game comes down to — Colorado's ability to make up for deficiencies on defense by a nonstop offensive attack."
On the flip side, what concerns you the most about this match-up for Colorado?
"I don't have doubts that the offense is capable of scoring often, what I do have doubts about is the defense's ability to make stops when needed. I'll be an optimist and say that against CSU, the defensive 11 got the jitters out and is ready to be better vs. Nebraska, but if the Huskers' first couple drives lead to relatively easy points, the Buffs might be in for a long day. The secondary needs to be worlds better in one-on-ones and in the flats, while on the whole, the defense needs to be ready for Adrian Martinez's arsenal of skills."
Lastly, what is your score prediction and breakdown for Saturday’s game in Boulder?
"I have to say, Nebraska's win over South Alabama did instill some confidence in me that hey, maybe these guys are in a similar boat as the Buffs, i.e., still getting things down heading into week 2. A lot of people talk about the preseason hype of the Huskers, coming in ranked at No. 24. I for one felt preliminarily intimidated by Martinez, now solidified as a starter and by Nebraska in general heading into this game. It's no secret that the Huskers lost last year's game more than the Buffs won it. Thus, I've at least from the outside looking in sensed a real grudge that players and Scott Frost are carrying heading into Boulder. The Huskers want to come in here and whip around this Buffaloes team to affirm that last year was a fluke and assert that the coming years of this renewed rivalry are not going to be a new chapter in the book that favors CU. But coming full circle, I think the matchup is more even than I previously anticipated. Colorado can win this game, but to do so, there won't be much wiggle room for mistakes and missed opportunities.
"I'll be the optimist and predict that the above won't plague the Buffs. 28-24 Colorado in another close one!"