LOS ANGELES (AP) — Deion Sanders and Colorado remain a box office attraction, even though they are reeling on the field.
Sanders brings his Buffaloes squad into a sold out Rose Bowl on Saturday for a matchup against 23rd-ranked UCLA. Not only will Colorado (4-3, 1-3 Pac-12) play to a packed house for the eighth straight game, it will be on national television for the fifth time this season with the game on ABC.
Both are program records. Colorado joins Georgia, Iowa, Notre Dame and Tennessee as the only teams to play in front of capacity crowds in every game this season.
However, the Buffaloes have dropped three of their last four. This will also be their first game since they blew a 29-point halftime lead and lost 46-43 in double overtime to Stanford on Oct. 13.
“I don’t think we needed to get away and needed rest. I want to keep on going. I want to keep on moving. I want to keep on progressing," Sanders said about coming back after a bye week. "I know where I feel like we should be, record-wise, and I know what we can accomplish. I just want to put it all together one game and give it to you and display it.”
Colorado needs two more wins to get bowl eligible, but all five of its remaining opponents have winning records and three are ranked.
UCLA (5-2, 2-2) got back on track last Saturday with a 42-7 win at Stanford. The Bruins are allowing only 14.9 points per game, their best scoring defense through seven games since 1988, when they allowed 14.1 points per game.
The Bruins are tied for 10th in the nation with 24 sacks. Linebacker Laiatu Latu is 10th nationally with 6 1/2 sacks.
Colorado's Shedeur Sanders is second nationally in passing yards per game (345.7) despite being one of the country's most-hit quarterbacks. The Buffaloes have allowed 35 sacks, tied for second-most in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
“I don’t think people really appreciate, but I would say the best quarterbacks are probably the toughest quarterbacks. The guys that can stand in there, even though there’s a rush coming, and still deliver the ball where it’s supposed to be and not putting it in harm’s way. And he does that a ton," UCLA coach Chip Kelly said. "He’s the key, so how he goes is how that offense goes. So that’s what our attention is this week is we need to try to disrupt the timing of the routes and then we really need to get pressure on the quarterback.”
WHO STARTS FOR UCLA?
With the exception of the Sept. 2 opener against Coastal Carolina, Kelly has not named a starting quarterback. Ethan Garbers got his second start last week and passed for 240 yards and two touchdowns.
Freshman Dante Moore had started five straight games, but was limited in practice last week. Moore had also thrown a Pick-6 in three straight games and has completed only 51.8% of his passes on the season.
Kelly also has Collin Schlee, who has established himself as a change-of-pace option because of his running ability. Schlee transferred from Kent State, where his coach was Sean Lewis, who is Colorado's offensive coordinator.
“Well, you prepare for the team. You’re not preparing for the individual,” Sanders said. “For us, it’s daunting, because you would prepare for someone like Shedeur and the plethora of receivers that we have. With them, you prepare more for their coach. I’m a Chip Kelly fan. I really am. I love what he’s brought to college football. I love what he’s brought to football period.”
Travis Hunter missed three games after he lacerated his liver but played a Colorado-record 149 snaps from scrimmage and 160 overall against Stanford.
The two-way star had a career high in receptions (13) and yards (140) against the Cardinal as well as two receiving touchdowns and five tackles. In four games this season he is second on the Buffaloes in receiving yards per game (88.3) and has an interception.
ON THE RUN
UCLA is second in the Pac-12 and ninth nationally in rushing offense, averaging 215 yards per game. It is averaging 42.7 rushing attempts per game but have been over 50 in three straight games.
Carson Steele has run for at least 75 yards in the past four games, and tied a career high with three rushing TDs last week.
CLEAN IT UP
Colorado is tied with New Mexico in penalties, averaging 9.9 per game. Sanders said the coaching staff did a deep dive on penalties during the bye week, especially after having 17 for 127 yards against Stanford.
“We have addressed all of that and adjusted individuals that are consistently being penalized. We’ve addressed it tremendously, and you should see a tremendous improvement,” Sanders said.
AP Sports Writer Pat Graham, and freelance writers Monica Costello and Dan Greenspan contributed to this report.
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