Week 5 Colorado college football primer: CU at UCLA headlines slate of road tests for in-state teams

The Denver Post’s Kyle Fredrickson breaks down Week 5 of the college football season, including three story lines to follow from each in-state matchup.

Colorado (3-1, 0-1 Pac-12) at UCLA (2-2, 0-1 Pac-12)

8:30 p.m. Saturday; Rose Bowl (Pasadena, Calif.)


Radio: KDSP-AM 760, KOA-AM 850 (joined in progress)

Vegas odds: UCLA is favored by 7 points. The over/under is set at 68 1/2 points.

Opponent spotlight: UCLA’s first four weeks have been a roller coaster: Overcoming a 34-point deficit against Texas A&M in a season-opening victory, and then rolling past Hawaii, only to give up a combined 79 points in consecutive losses to Memphis and Stanford.

Three story lines

1. UCLA touts proven firepower on offense. Can the Buffaloes keep pace? CU tallied just 112 total yards in the second half of its blowout home loss to Washington — granted, the Huskies have one of the Pac-12’s most feared defensive units. Meanwhile, the Bruins have been anemic on defense allowing an average of 524 yards and 43.3 points per game. CU must capitalize.

2. CU’s secondary expects to stay plenty busy on Saturday. In three of UCLA’s last four games, quarterback Josh Rosen has attempted 59, 56 and 60 passes. The Buffaloes’ defensive backfield has impressed so far, limiting Washington’s high-powered passing attack to 160 yards last week. CU junior Isaiah Oliver will need yet another strong performance to limit the Bruins’ progress through the air.

3. The Buffaloes have allowed 14 sacks on the season, a mark that’s tied for fourth most nationally. A combination of factors — offensive line play, Steven Montez’s decision-making and miscommunication — have aided in those woes. CU will need to limit quarterback contact Saturday as the Bruins have already sacked the opposing passer nine times this fall.

Colorado State (2-2, 0-0 MW) at Hawaii (2-2, 0-1)

10 p.m. Saturday; Aloha Stadium (Honolulu)

TV: Watch Stadium application (smart phone and tablet)

Radio: KARS-FM 102.9, KDCO 1340, 104.7

Vegas Odds: Colorado State is favored by 7 points. The over/under is set at 70 points.

Opponent spotlight: Hawaii opened the year with wins against UMass and Western Carolina, but was dominated by UCLA, 56-23, and narrowly lost last week at Wyoming in overtime, 28-21. Last season, the Rainbow Warriors went to their first bowl since joining the Mountain West, losing to Middle Tennessee State in the Hawaii Bowl.

Three story lines

1. CSU received a much-needed bye week after its lopsided defeat at Alabama in preparation for Mountain West play. The Rams haven’t been as sharp since their dynamic Zero Week victory against Oregon State, but have shown promise in all phases throughout their nonconference slate. Three Power 5 opponents should have CSU well prepared moving forward.

2. Hawaii hasn’t beaten the Rams since 1992, but in Nick Rolovich’s first season as head coach last fall, the program earned its first bowl berth in six years. Hawaii leads the league in total offense (480.2) and ranks No. 4 nationally in total sacks (14). CSU coach Mike Bobo had high praise in evaluating Hawaii’s progress under Rolovich’s leadership.

3. CSU’s defense is on track to shatter its interceptions mark from last season. Through just four games, the Rams have picked off seven passes. It’s a haul tied for fifth-most nationally, and is just one away from the unit’s total last fall (eight). Hawaii has connected on a dozen receptions of 20 or more yards.

Air Force (1-2, 0-1 MW) at New Mexico (2-2, 0-1)

5 p.m. Saturday; University Stadium (Albuquerque, N.M.).

TV: CBS Sports Network

Radio: KVOR AM 740

Vegas odds: New Mexico is favored by 1 point. The over/under is set at 50 1/2 points.

Opponent spotlight: The Lobos look to build off a nine-win season last fall, but hit stumbling blocks with losses against New Mexico State and at Boise State. However, UNM rebounded with an impressive road win at Tulsa, 16-13.

Three story lines

1. Last week, Air Force led No. 22 San Diego State late in the fourth quarter, 24-21, but the Falcons fell short when SDSU tailback Rashaad Penny rushed 53 yards for the game-winning score. It’s the second straight close defeat for Air Force. How will it respond in another tough road test?

2. New Mexico has hired an outside investigator to look into several allegations of misconduct by head coach Bob Davie, as first reported earlier this month by NMfishbowl.com, following player exit interviews. The investigation’s outcome might have serious implications for the Lobos this season.

3. Junior Air Force receiver Ronald Cleveland has scored a touchdown in four straight games and established himself as the Falcons’ go-to playmaker following the departure of Jalen Robinette. Cleveland will need to stay healthy for Air Force to make a run at the Mountain West championship.