Third-ranked Oregon figures to light up the scoreboard in its typical style when it hosts struggling Colorado on Saturday. The Ducks, who are seeking their sixth straight win, are No. 2 in the College Football Playoff rankings as they face a team that is winless in Pac-12 play this season. Oregon has already clinched a spot in the Pac-12 title game so this contest is more about sending a statement that the Ducks are one of the nation’s top four teams.
The possibility looms that the contest will be the final home game for Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, who could later decide to bypass his senior season and enter the NFL draft. The Ducks average 46 points per game with the Heisman Trophy candidate running the show, and the Buffaloes would like to spoil the party. “They’re an excellent football team and they’re playing at a high caliber right now,” Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre said at a press conference. “They’ve got a lot at stake, but of course we would definitely love to win that game, there’s no doubt about it.”
TV: 4:30 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network. LINE: None
ABOUT COLORADO (2-8, 0-7 Pac-12): Starting quarterback Sefo Liufau is recovering from a concussion, and backup Jordan Gehrke will get the start if Liufau (26 touchdowns) isn’t cleared to play. “I’m feeling good,” Liufau told reporters. “I passed all the concussion testing and am ready to play this week.” Standout receiver Nelson Spruce (99 receptions, 1,091 yards, 11 touchdowns) is having a big season, but the Buffaloes’ secondary is in disarray with Chidobe Awuzie (kidney) sidelined and fellow safeties Tedric Thompson (team-best three interceptions) and Evan White both doubtful due to concussions.
ABOUT OREGON (9-1, 6-1): Mariota has thrown 29 touchdown passes against just two interceptions and has tacked on eight rushing scores while drawing praise as being among the leading Heisman hopefuls. “People always kind of talk about it but for the most part, I just kind of focus on what I have to do and find ways to get better for this team and try not to worry about what other people think,” Mariota told reporters. Free safety Erick Dargan is having a strong season, leading the Ducks in both interceptions (five) and tackles (70), while outside linebacker Christian French has a team-best 5.5 sacks.
1. Oregon has won the last three meetings by a combined 172-32.
2. Gehrke, a sophomore, is 11-for-26 for 106 yards this season.
3. Ducks RB Royce Freeman needs 55 rushing yards to become the second freshman in school history to reach 1,000 yards, joining LaMichael James (1,546 in 2009).
PREDICTION: Oregon 65, Colorado 20