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CU@Game CU At The Game: August Optimism

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    August Optimism




    The Associated Press preseason top 25 will be released Sunday.

    In case you were wondering … Colorado won’t be listed.

    It used to be a high point of dog days of August, as Buff fans were anxious to see where Colorado would land in the minds of the Associated Press writers. From 1989 to 2002, there were only two polls (1998 and 2001) in which the Buffs were not considered – at least in August – to be one of the best 25 teams in the nation.

    It’s been awhile.

    The last time Colorado was ranked in the preseason polls came back in 2002, when the Buffs, coming off of a Big 12 championship, were ranked 7th in the Associated Press poll; 6th in the coaches’ poll.

    Since then, Colorado has been outside of the preseason national debate … but speculation concerning the Buffs has never waned.

    Every August, hope is renewed.

    Every August, every team is undefeated.

    Every August, we strain to make arguments how this season will be different.

    Most seasons in the past decade, I have dreaded the season opener, as I have feared that the hopes built up since the previous Thanksgiving weekend will be dashed before the Labor Day weekend comes to a close.

    This August, though, I have been more confident than usual about the season opener against Colorado State. After all, the Buffs defeated the Rams last year, when CSU was coming off of a ten-win season, and CU was coming off of a ten-loss season. This year, the Rams are replacing eight starters on defense and have no clear-cut starter at quarterback. Meanwhile, the Buffs are as deep and as talented as they have been in years.

    Uh-oh.

    So to temper my enthusiasm, I thought I should take a lesson from my previous self, and see how my August prognostications during the first three years of the Mike MacIntyre regime played out once the games began …





    2013

    The set up … Colorado was coming off of a 1-11 season, which included non-conference losses to Colorado State, to Sacramento State from the Big Sky Conference and to Fresno State (but the humbling score of 69-14). Had Colorado not mustered a come-from-behind 35-34 win against Washington State, the Buffs would have not only endured their first 11-loss season ever, but its first 12-loss season.

    Enter savior Mike MacIntyre, who turned around a moribund San Jose State team in just three seasons. Could he do the same at Colorado?

    My essay“How to Pick the Buffs’ Won/Loss Record in 2013”

    It’s been seven long seasons since Colorado posted a winning record, the longest drought in school history.

    As a result, optimism, even cautious optimism, is hard to come by in the Buff Nation.

    Still, there are those who are gulping the Mike MacIntyre Kool-Aid. The talent has always been there, the argument goes, with poor coaching and even worse game management to blame for the Buffs’ historically awful 2012 campaign. Proper conditioning, proper game planning, a better offensive scheme and better utilization of personnel will give Colorado not only the ability to be competitive this fall, but even find a way to six wins and a bowl game.

    Then there are those who have been beaten down for too long, and have no expectations for the immediate future. An average score a year ago of 46-17, they argue, isn’t turned around overnight. The Buffs will have to move out of the 100’s in the major statistical categories before victories can be part of the equation. Improvement will be keeping the score close until the second half, but expecting more than a victory or two against CU’s schedule is simply asking too much.

    The truth is probably somewhere in between. It’s not realistic to expect an offense, which scored 17 points or fewer in six of nine Pac-12 conference games last fall, to suddenly catch fire, and start lighting up opposing defenses. It’s not realistic to expect a defense, which gave up 34 points or more to every Pac-12 offense it faced in 2012, to immediately start to impose its will upon the explosive offenses it lines up against …



    … The result? … 4-8, with two wins over FCS schools, Central Arkansas and Charleston Southern, together with a season-opening win over CSU and a Pac-12 win over California.





    2014

    My essay … “Buffs Still a Year Away

    The phrase “Hope springs eternal” comes from a poem written by Alexander Pope, and was penned some 150 years before the first college football game was played. Still, it might best be used to describe the way college football fans treat every spring, as with the birth of a new year comes the resurrection of new hopes and dreams.

    “Every team is undefeated in Fall Camp” is another phrase which can easily be applied to most college football fans – especially by the fans who are realistically looking at another losing season.

    Colorado fans are now almost nine full months removed from the 2013 season. Nine months is a long time to allow wounds to heal, a long time to allow our memories to fade and become just a tad distorted.

    I’m as guilty as the next guy in allowing my optimism meter to rise along with the temperature since the calendar turned to 2014.

    After all, Colorado went from one win in 2012 to four wins in 2013. Colorado improved in 29 – 29! – statistical categories in just one season under Mike MacIntyre.

    “Attitude and confidence in what you are doing is everything,” said Mike MacIntyre, whose three year metamorphosis from rancid to ranked while head coach at San Jose State is tattooed into the memory banks of every Buff fan. “The culture had to change to where when our guys stepped on the field that they had to believe that they could beat anybody. By the end of the season, that change took place”.

    Is that how you remember the end of the 2013 season, with a feeling that the Buffs were playing better, and beginning to believe that they could beat anybody?

    Me, too.

    That was, I should say, until I re-watched the Colorado/Cal game …



    … The result? … A 2-10 season. The Buffs fell flat in the opener against Colorado State, falling 31-17. A come-from-behind win over UMass prevented additional embarrassment, and the Buffs finished their non-conference campaign with a 2-1 record with a 21-12 win over Hawai’i. Colorado failed to win a single Pac-12 game, however, failing to win a conference game for the first time in 99 seasons. There were close calls, including a pair of double-overtime losses (to Cal and UCLA), and single score losses to Oregon State and Utah … but an 0-9 Pac-12 record.





    2015

    My essay: “How Will You React?

    So, the question I pose to you, Buff fan, is how will you react when (okay, “if”) the Buffs fail to live up to expectations?

    After all, this is a team which has disappointed us many times in recent years.

    We have been painting an ever brighter picture on the 2015 season as the 2014 season recedes ever further into our memories.

    Yes, the Buffs have a new defensive coordinator, one with a track record of turning around poorly producing defenses.

    Yes, the Buffs are a year more experienced, and have many quality returning starters.

    Yes, the schedule does set up well for a potentially momentum-building 4-0 non-conference start.

    But, this is also …

    – A team which went winless in conference play last season, a low mark not matched in 99 seasons;

    – The team enters the season on an eight-game losing streak, and was held scoreless – at home – in the second half against the team in faces on the road in the opener, Hawai’i; and

    – A team with a defense which gave up 39 points a game last year, and one which hasn’t posted an interception in almost a full calendar year.

    We’ve done the point/counter-point for the past nine months. Late next Thursday night/Friday morning, we will start to get some answers.

    Perhaps the Buffs will come out strong against Hawai’i, and post a strong victory which propels them to a season Colorado fans have longed for for the past decade. Perhaps the Buffs will be an undefeated team heading into its matchup with Oregon, coming in with a 4-0 record, with the Ducks still stinging from a loss to Michigan State.

    Or, perhaps, the Buffs will lay an egg on the islands, as they did against the Rainbow Warriors in the 2010 season opener. Perhaps the Buffs will stink it up against UMass … or Colorado State.

    History suggests the latter scenarios are more likely than the former …





    The result? … A 4-9 season. Colorado opened in the middle of the night with a 28-20 loss to Hawai’i that was definitely not suitable for prime-time. A three-game win streak followed, including a redemptive 27-24 overtime win over Colorado State. Could a 3-1 non-conference record translate into a six- or seven-win season and a bowl bid?

    Nope. A 1-8 Pac-12 campaign ensued. The Buffs defeated Oregon State to end a 14-game Pac-12 losing streak, and there were other close games (four losses by less than a touchdown), but still no bowl game.



    So here we are.

    Another long off-season about to come to an end.

    Another nine months to forget about the bad, and remember the good.

    Another August full of optimism.

    In two weeks time, we’ll begin to find out if this year’s optimism is well founded.

    —–

    Stuart
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