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CU@Game CU At The Game: Lingering Doubts

Discussion in 'CU Buffs Newsroom' started by RSSBot, Aug 28, 2016.

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    Lingering Doubts about the 2016 Buffs




    It’s been a good off-season for the University of Colorado football program.

    The Buffs hit the ground running in January with the hiring of a Texas Tech assistant coach (and former Buff) Darrin Chiaverini, and that hire has been paying dividends ever since. Chiaverini brought in some quality late additions to the CU Recruiting Class of 2016, and has been a huge reason the Recruiting Class of 2017 is in the top 30 in the nation.

    With Darrin Chiaverini on offense and Jim Leavitt on defense leading the charge in both recruiting and cheerleading, the Buff Nation has started to see the world through black-and-gold colored glasses once again.

    And it’s not only the Buff faithful who see something more from out of the 2016 Buffs.

    Many preseason prognoticators have CU finishing with a 5-7 record this fall, with some giving the Buffs a shot at a .500 record and a bowl game. That may not seem like much, but when you break down the schedule, it really is.

    For Colorado to get to a 5-7 overall record (assuming a 2-1 non-conference record), the Buffs need to finish 3-6 in Pac-12 play.

    Not that tough a chore? Well, it is when you consider CU that in five seasons in the Pac-12, the Buffs have a grand total of five Pac-12 victories. Colorado is 5-40 in Pac-12 play (let that note sink in for a moment … CU would need to go undefeated in Pac-12 games – for four straight years – just to get above .500 in their stint as a Pac-12 conference member).

    Only once have the Buffs managed even two Pac-12 conference wins in a season … and that was five years ago.

    So yes, a 3-6 record in Pac-12 play would actually be a pretty big deal.

    Still, the fever is catching. I was watching an ESPN preview this week, and the commentators were discussing which Power-Five conference teams were candidates to make the College Football Playoffs.

    When they got to the Pac-12 and Colorado … no, they didn’t pick the Buffs to be a candidate for the playoffs, but the comments were positive. Host Matt Schick (a CU alumnus) called CU “a team on the rise”. Tom Luginbill, ESPN’s “national recruiting director”, said CU would be a “top 20 team in two or three years”. Even Mike Bellotti, the former Oregon coach, conceded that CU was “one of the most experienced teams in the nation”.

    Heady stuff for a program which has been nothing short of woeful for a decade.

    Throw in the fact that Colorado State, 7-6 last season, is slated for a mediocre year in a less than auspicious Mountain West Conference … and there is every reason to believe that the Buffs, an eight-point favorite over the Rams, will open the season with a convincing victory.

    And yet, I remain very nervous.

    Let me count the ways …



    Six consecutive RMS games between 1998-2003 with the ranked team losing to the unranked team

    Want a reason to be nervous about Colorado being an eight-point favorite over Colorado State on Friday night?

    Because being the favorite can mean very little when it comes to rivalry games.

    Look no further than the six games CU and CSU played between 1998 and 2003. In each of those games, one of the teams came into the contest ranked in the Associated Press top 25 – three times CU played CSU as a ranked team with the Rams being unranked; three times it was the Rams who came into the contest ranked, facing an unranked Buff team.

    The Buffs won three of those six games; the Rams won three of those six games. In each contest, it was the unranked team which won the game.

    See for yourself:

    1998 – CSU came into the game ranked No. 15 … Result: Colorado 42, CSU 14

    1999 – CU came into the game ranked No. 14 … Result: CSU 41, Colorado 14

    2000 – CU came into the game ranked No. 23 … Result: CSU 28, Colorado 24

    2001 – CSU came into the game ranked No. 24 … Result: Colorado 41, CSU 14

    2002 – CU came into the game ranked No. 7 … Result: CSU 19, Colorado 14

    2003 – CSU came into the game ranked No. 23 … Result: Colorado 42, CSU 35

    The results of these games brings to mind the Bill McCartney quote: “Morale is to the physical as four is to one. Your attitude is four times as important as your actual physical ability”.

    Translation for this weekend: Even though Colorado has a distinct advantage in terms of personnel, if the Rams want it more (and there have certainly been games in the recent past when this was a deciding factor) … it could be another frustrating evening for the Buff Nation.





    Record against CSU when the Rams are the opener

    Overall, the Buffs have a healthy 20-8 record against the Rams in games played since the series resumed in 1983 (that’s a .714 winning percentage, not far off from the .735 winning percentage the Buffs hold in all games in the series … 63-22-2).

    In the post-1983 era, however, when the game has been the first game of the season for both teams, CU’s advantage is only 11-7 (.611). Contrast that record to games which were not the first game of the season. In those games, including last season’s 27-24 overtime victory, CU is 9-1 (.900) against Colorado State.

    How is it that the Rams have been able to beat the Buffs seven times in the season opener, but only once when it is not?

    This is not rocket science, folks.

    Give Colorado an entire month of practices to prepare for USC … and I’m here to tell you that the Buffs will give the Trojans a more competitive game.

    Colorado State gears its off-season towards winning this one game. The Rams have been game-planning for this game for weeks, and will pull out all the stops (witness the refusal by head coach Mike Bobo to name a starting quarterback) to try and gain an advantage.

    Add to that the excitement of a neutral site game (one week out from the game, CU had sold 28,000 tickets; CSU 25,000) … and anything can happen.

    The history of the series backs this up.





    Colorado v. Hawai’i (2015) … California v. Hawai’i (2016)

    I know we are comparing apples and oranges here, but until the Buffs start coming out of the gate each and every season playing like their hair is on fire, the stench from the 2015 opener against Hawai’i will linger.

    Not to linger on the bad memory for too long, but recall that just twelve short months ago, there was such hope for the 2015 campaign … which lasted four plays into the season.

    The Buffs went three-and-out in their first series on the islands, and then the Warriors put an all-out rush on a true freshman punter and blocked the punt (the all-out rush shouldn’t have been a surprise due to it being Alex Kinney’s first game … mental note to CU coaches: You do know that you have a red-shirt freshman long snapper playing his first game this Friday? Just sayin’).

    The blocked punt led to a quick touchdown for Hawai’i, and … well, you know the rest.

    Compare the opener played Friday night in Australia. Cal scored 1:04 into the game against Hawai’i, took a 34-14 lead into halftime, and never looked back in coasting to a 51-31 victory.

    Adding insult to injury, of course, was the fact that Davis Webb, a CU commit from February to May last spring, threw for four touchdowns in leading the Bears to an easy victory.

    Is Hawai’i an awful team? Yes. The Rainbow Warriors finished last season with a 3-10 record, including an 0-8 record in the weak Mountain West Conference.

    But one of those three wins came against Colorado. The other two Hawai’i victories in 2015? Against UC-Davis and Louisiana-Monroe.

    Yuck. Yuck. And Yuck.





    It’s easy to be a “glass half full” fan during the off-season.

    After all, the Buffs haven’t lost a game since last November. Recruiting is on the upswing. The Champions Center has opened to rave reviews. It is no longer considered outlandish to pick CU to defeat conference foes like Oregon State, Utah, and the Arizona schools.

    But September 2nd is when the rubber meets the road. This opener against CSU will show the Buff Nation – and the rest of the Pac-12 – whether Colorado is on its way back, or whether the Buffs and their fans are in for another season of near-misses and almosts.

    The depth chart for the Colorado State game lists 11 seniors and ten juniors as starters or co-starters. Only two sophomores (linebacker Rick Gamboa and cornerback Isaiah Oliver) and one red-shirt freshman (right guard Tim Lynott Jr.) will be on the field to open the 2016 Rocky Mountain Showdown.

    The experience is there. The talent is there.

    It’s time for the Buffs to remove any lingering doubts about whether they are on their way back.



    —–

    Stuart
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