Three things to watch
1. Showdown at the last second. In a scenario that could only happen in 2020, the second meeting in the history of these two programs was organized two days before kickoff after their planned opponents of the conference (USC and Fresno State) were sidelined by COVID-19. The Buffs won the first meeting 34-14 on September 7, 2002, thanks to a big game from Chris Brown (29 carries, 185 yards).
2. Rusty Buffs? CU got an improvised bye when last week’s game against Arizona State was lost to the virus. How long it takes for the Buffs to shake off the rust of the Aztecs, who lost 26-21 to undefeated Nevada in Reno last Saturday, could well determine who gets out of the game on Saturday with the “W . “
3. MW mainstay. Thanks to the Rocky Mountain Showdown, the Buffs have dealt with a Mountain West opponent every year since the conference started in 1999. They also fared quite well in those meetings, with a total of 17-10. However, that record has been filled with wins against CSU (14-7). Against the rest of the MW, CU is an unimpressive 3-3.
Who has the lead?
When SDSU is running
The Aztecs greatest strength in violation is undoubtedly their ground game. SDSU averages 280.3 rushing yards per game (fourth best in FBS), with senior Greg Bell de, ahem, bellcow at 565 yards and six touchdowns on 94 firing. While the Buffs only dropped 245 rush yards in a pair of wins, they are giving up 5.33 yards per carry. It will not work against SDSU.
When SDSU passes
We are a long way from the days of Dan McGwire, Don Coryell and acclaimed passing games of SDSU past. The usually ground-based attack of the Aztecs is capable of making big plays through the air, but usually only after the run is established. Example: SDSU has only rolled one TD pass (4) more than interceptions (3). A still young and inexperienced UC secondary must stand his ground.
When the Buffs run
After filing back-to-back 100-yard games against UCLA and Stanford in his first two collegiate starts, so much is certain about CU that Jarek Broussard is running back: the Texas native is the real deal. Now the sophomore faces a tough test against an Aztec defense that allows just 90.5 rushing yards per game. Nary a running back has surpassed the milestone of the century against SDSU this fall. Could Broussard be the first?
When the Buffs are over
Buffs quarterback Sam Noyer and receiver Dimitri Stanley have shown a special connection through two games, with the Cherry Creek product bringing in six passes in both games for 192 yards. Noyer was generally efficient, completing 63.6% of his passes for 512 yards and three touchdowns. The Aztecs secondary isn’t a pushover though, with its 152.3 allowable yards per game third best in FBS.
Aztec kicker Matt Araiza has been solid, albeit unspectacular, this season, hitting 6-of-8 field goals by no more than 36 yards. Evan Price has been similarly effective since replacing James Stefanou. SDSU punt Tanner Kuljian (48.44 meters per point) is a great field position weapon.
Sean Keeler, columnist: CU 34, SDSU 30
During a season where we literally make everything up as we go along (including the schedule), it feels like the only certain things in the world are: Sam Noyer kicking a karate defender, the Buffs hanging 30 on someone, and the CU defense that lingers for dear life.
Matt Schubert, deputy sports editor: CU 24, SDSU 20
The Buffs must invite a Mountain West team to Boulder to finally get a decent defense. Expect a challenge for Sam Noyer and Co., but the Buffs have just enough to outdo a one-dimensional Aztec attack.
Kyle Fredrickson, Beat Writer: CU 38, SDSU 35
A field goal in the fourth quarter gives the Buffs a 3-0 start behind another impressive game from quarterback Sam Noyer. CU’s bend-but-don’t-break defense does just enough for the win.