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Scouting report: UCLA vs. Colorado

By Sam Settleman

Sept. 23, 2022 3:55 p.m.

UCLA football (3-0) will head on the road for the first time this season to take on Colorado (0-3) in Boulder on Saturday. The Bruins will have a chance to win their seventh straight game dating back to last season, while the struggling Buffaloes are in search of their first win of the year. Here is this week’s scouting report from Sports Editor Sam Settleman – who is convinced even he could put up 100 rushing yards against Colorado’s defense.

Colorado’s offense
Offensive scheme: Pro-style
Run-pass percentage: 47.5% pass, 52.5% run
Strength: Nothing
Weakness: Everything
X-factor: WR Daniel Arias

Colorado had the worst offense in the Pac-12 a season ago.

The Buffaloes were comfortably dead last in the conference in total offense in 2021 with 257.5 yards per game, and also ranked second worst in scoring, putting up 18.8 points per contest.

Since then, 13 offensive players and 22 players overall have transferred out of the program. That list features wide receiver Brenden Rice – a former four-star recruit, son of NFL legend Jerry Rice and the team’s top wide receiver a season ago – as well as former Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year and running back Jarek Broussard.

In addition to the roster turnover, Colorado hired a new offensive coordinator this offseason in Mike Sanford.

Unfortunately for the Buffaloes, this year’s offense looks just as bad as last year’s thus far.

Colorado has put up three touchdowns in three games this year, and only one came outside of garbage time in the fourth quarter. The Buffaloes rank in the bottom five in the country in both total offense and scoring offense.

One of the primary reasons why Colorado has struggled so mightily on the offensive side of the ball the past few seasons is because it doesn’t have a quarterback. Last year’s starter Brendon Lewis looked to be the primary signal-caller, but Lewis has split time with J. T. Shrout, who seems to be the current frontrunner to start the rest of the season.

In Colorado’s season opener against TCU, it was Lewis who played the first half and looked relatively comfortable in the team’s offense. The Buffaloes entered the halftime locker room down 7-6 in that game in what was probably the last time Colorado looked remotely competitive.

Shrout might be the better passer, but Lewis has seemed to be the better fit to run this offense.

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That being said, Shrout’s arm talent is undeniably ahead of Lewis and is the reason why he’s been the top option at quarterback since the season opener.

While Lewis and Shrout still split time at signal caller, Shrout has proven to be the best option to make a difference with his arm and earn some chunk plays for an offense that badly needs them.

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But whether it’s Lewis or Shrout taking the snaps Saturday, this offense still won’t be very good.

The Buffaloes have no real presence on the ground either, where running back Deion Smith leads the charge. The absence of Broussard – potentially the lone bright spot on offense for this team a season ago – looms even larger in an offense that needs a stable running game to have any shot at consistently moving the ball.

Former UCLA coach Karl Dorrell – an offensive specialist in his time with the Bruins – simply hasn’t been able to get this group to click. Whether that’s because the Buffaloes lack a quarterback or Dorrell isn’t the right fit, Colorado looks doomed for the same fate this year as it faced last year.

UCLA will be kicking itself if it gives up more than one touchdown to this team.

Colorado’s defense
Defensive scheme: Nickel 4-2-5
Strength: Pass defense (technically)
Weakness: Run defense
X-factor: ILB Quinn Perry

Technically, Colorado has one of the best passing defenses in the nation.

The Buffaloes rank fifth in the country in passing yards allowed per game, giving up just 104 yards per contest through the air. But that number tells a completely different story.

None of Colorado’s opponents have been able to get the passing game going simply because they haven’t needed to. The Buffaloes’ defense is on pace to be one of the worst rushing defenses college football has ever seen.

With 348 rushing yards allowed per game thus far, Colorado is by far the worst rushing defense in the country. In last week’s 49-7 loss to Minnesota, the Buffaloes gave up 334 rushing yards as the Golden Gophers ran the ball an astounding 52 times.

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The week prior, Colorado let up 435 yards on the ground to an Air Force team that ran the ball 70 times. While the Falcons are notorious for rarely passing the ball anyway, losing 41-10 in a game in which your opponent completed one pass for eight yards is blasphemous.

Colorado’s 6.9 rushing yards allowed per game is once again worst in the country, and sounds downright impossible. But some of the holes that routinely open up on this defense make that number seem very believable.

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Look for UCLA senior running back Zach Charbonnet to get going early before redshirt junior Keegan Jones and the rest of the running back crew get their fair share of touches too.

After UCLA put up 244 rushing yards in a 24-point victory over Colorado in 2021, expect this year’s matchup to go in a very similar direction – but with both of those numbers likely inflated.

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Sam Settleman | Sports editor
Settleman is currently the Sports editor on the football, men's basketball and gymnastics beats. He was previously an assistant editor on the gymnastics, women's soccer, women's golf, men's water polo and women's water polo beats and a contributor on the gymnastics and women's water polo beats.
Settleman is currently the Sports editor on the football, men's basketball and gymnastics beats. He was previously an assistant editor on the gymnastics, women's soccer, women's golf, men's water polo and women's water polo beats and a contributor on the gymnastics and women's water polo beats.
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