On the eve of an ever important Pac-12 South matchup, we spoke with Jack Barsch of SB Nation’s Colorado Buffaloes site, The Ralphie Report, about Colorado’s playmakers and how they have turned it around from 2017’s 5-7 record.
1. ) Colorado is off to its best start in recent years, how did the team turn it around from last year’s 5-7 record?
The main difference between the 2017 Buffs and 2018 Buffs is talent. The talent on the team is much better and it’s being utilized better that last year. There are names like Laviska Shenault and Nate Landman, who were on the team last year but broke out this year. However, the change goes way past that. The offensive line has changed personnel, the defensive line has a new coach and two new starters, and the coaching staff was upgraded in a major way. But past that, the mentality of the team is much better. Mike MacIntyre spent a long time this summer on team-building and chemistry this year. And it shows.
2.) Steven Montez has grown tremendously as a quarterback in the last few seasons. What do you attribute his development to?
The number one person to attribute his development to is Steven Montez. He has worked hard to improve the mental side of his game and it shows. He’s consistent, collected, and calm. However, the addition of Kurt Roper as quarterback coach has made a huge impact. As one of the proven best quarterback developers in the country (he was with both Manning brothers and the criminally underrated Thad Lewis), Roper has brought that trademarked attention to detail and insistence on excellence to Colorado. He has worked wonders with Montez’s pocket presence, footwork, and touch. However, none of that matters without Montez putting in the work necessary to get better.
3.) Laviska Shenault Jr. has completely lit up the field this year and is only a sophomore. Does the super star have any weaknesses or things he needs to work on as he gains more experience?
That is a hard question. This year, he has shown little to exploit. He can catch long balls and also consistently play a possession receiver. He makes people miss and runs people over. He has high volume and high efficiency. I think the main thing for him is to get a little more healthy. He needs to be better at taking the hits he needs to take and avoiding the rest. But this is really nitpicking.
4.) What are some keys to the game for Colorado?
Colorado needs to start fast. They’ve been sleepy in the first half this year, especially on defense (really, only on defense). If CU can score quick and get a fast stop, it can snowball pretty quickly. That is a tall order, and I don’t expect them to fire hot out the gate. Other than that, the Buffs need to control the line of scrimmage on both sides, and most importantly, avoid turnovers.
5.) Give us a score prediction for the game?
USC hasn’t lost at home under Clay Helton and USC has never lost to CU. Those two trends are going to be tough to buck in one evening. I think USC being favored by seven is a little wonky, but pretty close to accurate. I expect this to be a one possession game until the end regardless of who comes out on top. I will take USC in this one, but I’m not confident either way.