Colorado will begin another tough two-week stretch of Pac-12 play when the Buffaloes travel to No. 23 UCLA on Saturday night at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.
Colorado (4-3, 1-3) will follow its game against the Bruins by hosting No. 11 Oregon State on Nov. 4 in another nighttime matchup.
The most recent time the Buffaloes faced back-to-back ranked opponents, they were exposed in several ways, losing last month to then-No. 10 Oregon and then-No. 8 Southern California. Colorado fell out of the Top 25 after the loss to the Ducks.
After a narrow win at Arizona State on Oct. 7, Colorado blew a 29-0 lead against visiting Stanford on Oct. 13 and lost 46-43 in double overtime, further eroding a 3-0 start that included a season-opening win against then-No. 17 TCU.
Colorado had a week off to shake the shocking loss to the Cardinal and begin preparing for the Bruins, who are coming off a 42-7 win against Stanford last weekend.
First-year Buffaloes coach Deion Sanders is challenging his players to be better against UCLA while not placing any blame on the recent losses.
“I’m not going to point fingers. That’s not what I’m here for,” Sanders said. “I let the coaches; that’s what they’re here for. They’re here to guide us, so I can’t really say that and throw no teammate under the bus, because that’s not the type of player I am.”
UCLA (5-2, 2-2) faced three straight ranked opponents before playing the Cardinal, and the Bruins went 1-2 vs. those ranked teams.
An injury to UCLA freshman quarterback Dante Moore early last week limited his repetitions in practice, so coach Chip Kelly started redshirt junior Ethan Garbers against Stanford. He performed well, completing 20 of 28 passes for 240 yards and two touchdowns.
Garbers also had 51 rushing yards on eight carries.
Moore came in for one series late against the Cardinal, demonstrating he was healthy enough to play, and Kelly said Monday he had not settled on a starting quarterback for the Colorado game.
“We make our decision at the end of the week, so I couldn’t tell you who’s going to be up or down by (then),” Kelly said. “When we get to the end of the week, we sit down as a staff and we’ll go through it.”
In addition to Moore and Garbers, junior Collin Schlee could be an option under center against the Buffaloes. Schlee was injured earlier this month as well, which took him out of the running to start against Stanford.
“We’re one of the fortunate teams in the country; we have depth at quarterback,” Kelly said. “I believe Ethan’s a starter at the Power 5 level, Dante’s a starter at the Power 5 level, and Collin Schlee’s a starter at the Power 5 level, so that’s a luxury that not a lot of people have.”
Whoever starts at quarterback, he’ll have one of the top wide receivers in the Pac-12 in J. Michael Sturdivant, a transfer from Cal who leads UCLA with 407 receiving yards. He also has three TD catches.
There’s also no mystery which running back will get a majority of carries for the Bruins: Carson Steele, who is averaging 109 rushing yards over the past three weeks, with four touchdowns.