By virtue of working for the Pac-12 Network, Erik Coleman, one might assume, would be biased for the Pac-12.
Well, he isn’t. Coleman, a former NFL safety who starred at Washington State, believes that No. 5 Michigan (10-2) is a better team than No. 4 Washington (11-1).
“Michigan, they do it all,” Coleman said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “They have a great defense, they have playmakers, and they’re really going to be a tough out if they get into the playoff. I know that Michigan, Penn State, Wisconsin – they’re all going to have their eyes on this game.”
By “this game,” Coleman is, of course, referring to the Pac-12 Championship between No. 4 Washington and No. 8 Colorado (10-2), which kicks off Friday at 9 p.m. ET.
Washington is favored by 8.5 points, but Coleman believes Colorado can win.
“There actually is a chance,” Coleman said. “I go way back with Mike MacIntyre. He was my position coach when I played for the Jets for a year in 2007. He’s a very intelligent coach, comes from a football family, and he’s a very strong preacher. He preaches to these kids and they’ve really bought into what he’s saying. You can see in his eyes these players are bought in, they’re excited about football, they’re playing a great brand of football – especially on the defensive side of things – and they really do have a chance to beat the University of Washington if they can slow down their passing game. That’s a big if, but with defensive backs like Chidobe Awuzie – he’s one of the best corners in the league and does a great job. That should be a key matchup with him and the wide receivers. If they can slow them down a little bit, then Colorado has a chance.”
Colorado has just two losses this year: at Michigan (45-28 in September) and at USC (21-17 in October). Michigan is ranked fifth in this week’s poll, while USC (9-3) is ranked 11th.
The Buffs have won six straight.
“This team has a lot of veteran leadership,” Coleman said. “You start with their quarterback, Sefo Liufau. He’s a redshirt senior who’s done great things. He’s a very calm and composed player, and his leadership kind of spreads throughout this team. These are some players that have played a lot of downs for Colorado who have helped bring them from the bottom all the way to the top. They’ve been waiting for this moment their whole college career. I don’t think the moment’s going to get too big. They were right in the (Michigan) game until Sefo goes out. He’s a dual threat. He can run the ball, he can throw the ball down the field – he’s a weapon that’s going to be tough to account for for the University of Washington defense. If he can have success, then Colorado can have success.”
In other Pac-12 news, Coleman also weighed in on Christian McCaffrey’s NFL prospects. McCaffrey hasn’t gotten as much national attention as he did last season, but he still has 1,913 total yards and 16 touchdowns (13 rushing, three receiving) for No. 18 Stanford (9-3).
Coleman believes McCaffrey will make an impact at the next level.
“Absolutely,” he said. “People will compare him to a Danny Woodhead, but I think he can do a lot more than what Danny Woodhead does. He’s a lot faster, he’s more physical than Danny, does great things returning the ball, he can run in between the tackles, he can create mismatches against linebackers in the passing game – he definitely has a bright future. The thing that you worry about with him playing for Stanford, he’s their only player. He’s their main guy on offense. Everyone knows he’s getting the ball. The question is will he wear down throughout his career? He seems to take care of his body well. Really good player. I think he’s going to transition well to the NFL.”