BearTerritory caught up with BuffStampede.com publisher Adam Munsterteiger this week for a brief Q&A on Saturday's opponent.
BearTerritory: How is this year's Colorado team different from the team that went 3-9 last season? What changes had to be made, and what changes were made?
The biggest differences are experience and depth. A year ago, only 40.7 percent of Colorado's first- and second-stringers were upperclassmen. This year, for the first time since Dan Hawkins took over as the Buffaloes' head coach in 2006, at least 60 percent of the players in Colorado's two-deep are upperclassmen.
The increased experience and depth is especially apparent on both lines and at wide receiver. Only one receiver (senior Scotty McKnight) had caught a pass going into last season. This year, the Buffs entered the season with eight receivers that had hauled in a pass at the college level. Nine of the 20 offensive linemen on CU's roster have started multiple games. And there are five upperclassmen in the rotation on the defensive line. Last year, there was only one.
The Buffaloes have the same coordinators that they had last season, and really haven't made any drastic changes schematically.
BT: Quarterback Tyler Hansen is always a threat to pull the ball down and run, but how is he through the air? What can we expect from his targets downfield? What kind of speed to they have?
Hansen has always had a strong arm but he still has a propensity to force some throws. He is a bit of a gambler at times. Hansen has more talented targets to throw to this season. Michigan transfer Toney Clemons ran a 4.27-forty during spring testing and USC transfer Travon Patterson ran a 10.4 in the 100-meter dash during his high school days at Long Beach Poly. Both put their impressive speed on display against Colorado State in the Buffs' opener. McKnight remains Colorado's most dependable pass-catcher. He became the school's all-time leader in receptions last Saturday, breaking the mark that had been set by Michael Westbrook in the mid-90s.
BT: What kind of running game can the Bears expect to see?
Junior Rodney Stewart is the Buffaloes' primary ball carrier. He had 108 all-purpose yards in the opener. Because Stewart stands just 5-foot-6, 175-pounds, and is a shifty runner, people usually assume he is a typical scatback. But Stewart is pound-for-pound one of the strongest players on the team. Last season, Stewart gained 367 of his 804 rushing yards after he was first hit by a defender. True freshman tailback Justin Torres averaged 5.2 yards on five rushing attempts last Saturday. He is a bigger back that is good at gaining tough yards between the tackles.
BT: What's the reasoning behind Colorado's frequent use of the nickel package on defense?
They like the fact that by having a nickel back out there all the time, no matter what set the offense is running, it makes their defense more unpredictable and harder to block. If the Buffs are playing a team that uses a spread set, the nickel back will usually play a traditional role and cover the slot receiver. But if CU is facing more of a pro-style set, the nickel back can be used in pass coverage, as a pass rusher or to help contain the edge on running plays.
Redshirt freshman Parker Orms started the season opener at nickel back but tore his ACL just four plays into the game. His replacement, junior Travis Sandersfield, made an athletic interception and recorded five tackles against Colorado State.
BT: What are the Buffs' biggest question marks or perceived weaknesses one week into the season?
Penalties continue to be an issue. The Buffaloes ranked 116th out of 120 FBS programs in penalties last season, and they were flagged 10 times for 104 yards in their opener.
Punting is another perceived weakness one week into the season. Redshirt freshman Zach Grossnickle struggled with consistency during camp and while his 41.4 yard punt average in the opener was not horrible, he was bailed out a couple times by good punt coverage on back kicks.
BT: Does Colorado have any injuries of note?
I mentioned earlier that nickel back Parker Orms is out for the season with a torn ACL. Bryce Givens, who split time with David Bakhtiari at right tackle last week, is still working his way back to 100 percent. He has been hindered by an ankle injury for the last three weeks or so.
BT: And, finally, call the final score.
I'm sure most in Berkeley are not expecting a close game. But I think it will be. The Buffaloes have more experience, depth, speed and talent than they've had at any other point under Hawkins. And they have a little confidence after beating their in-state rival. But Colorado has lost 12 straight road games and Cal is a very talented football team so I can't predict for them to pull off the upset. I'll say Cal 28, Colorado 24.