Colorado under Dan Hawkins is starting to flirt with one of the worst stretches in CU football history. One that would probably only rival the stretch in the early 80's, when CU went 6 consecutive seasons without a winning record. As Hawkins enters his 5th season as the head coach at CU, fans are becoming impatient and hungry for success again. The buffs are 13-33 in 4 seasons under Hawkins in Boulder. In that stretch they have embarrassing losses to the likes of Montana State, Baylor, CSU and Toledo. Missouri used to be an almost guarantee win every year from the mid 80's through the mid 00's. Hawkins is 0-4 against the Tigers with a combined score of 40-167. There is no doubt Hawkins is on the hot seat and another losing season will likely be the end of his tenure at Colorado as the buffs prepare to join the Pac-10 conference likely in 2011. Here are 7 keys that the 2010 CU season will hinge on. 1. Quarterback. It appears Tyler Hansen has the edge to be the starter in the opener against CSU. Hansen is a bigger and more mobile QB than Cody Hawkins. Hansen does have a tendency to be impatient with a play developing and will take off running too soon at times. If the staff gives Hansen a fair chance to be a starter from day one, it could be a huge boost to the offense. 2. O-line. This is the area where Colorado has the most talent and experience. For several years this unit has endured injuries and position coaching changes without much of a chance to gel as a unit. All the starters from the line last year are back with Nate Solder, who some say could be a first round NFL draft pick leads the group. 3. Running game. This is an area that must improve if the buffs want to have a winning season. It all starts with the line. Rodney Stewart figures to be the feature back with Brian Lockridge sharing time. Two bigger bodied newcomers in Justin Torres and Cordary Allen could help in short yardage situations. 4.Experience and leadership. No more excuses with the youth. It appears the majority of the starters on both the offense and defense should be upperclassmen with experience. There are also a lot of vocal leaders on this team that should provide fire and attitude to the rest of the team. This team needs to have a chip on their shoulder that they are tired of losing. An us against the world mentality. 5. Newcomers. For years CU has lacked the big time playmakers they used to have in their glory days in the 90's. With recent additions of Michigan transfer Toney Clemons, USC transfer Travon Patterson (4.3 speed), and former UCLA recruit Paul Richardson. It appears CU has its most talented group of receivers in a long time. Receivers with size and speed. Guys that can spread the field and keep defenses honest and open up the run game. This should be a fun group of guys to watch. 6.Special teams. This is an area like the running game that must improve dramatically for the buffs to have any success. The special teams in 2009 were atrocious. There needs to be better kicking game and return game. Maybe one of these new "speedsters" can take a return man role. Fundamentals in the special teams need a big time improvement. 7.Schedule. The buffs have 7 games in the state of Colorado. 6 in Folsom and one at Invesco. The Georgia game looks to be the toughest, but there is no excuse to not win 5 or 6 in Colorado with this schedule. The bad news is the road schedule is brutal, but any road game under Hawkins has the potential for disaster. Colorado has a chance to become bowl eligible just by winning most of their games at home. I do think the buffs get one big road win this season however and win two road games total which would be a first for Hawkins. Schedule and predictionsCSU: The Rams don't have a single starter back on the O-line from last year. That alone should be why on paper Colorado's defense should be all over them. Add in that CSU is breaking in a new QB. Rams are riding a 9 game losing streak, but buffs should have payback on their minds from last years embarrassing loss to the rams. Buffs 35 Rams 17 1-0 @ Cal: The buffs will stay in the game for the most part, but once again fall on the road. Bears 24 Buffs 21 1-1 Hawaii: This should be one of the buffs "easier" games this season. Buffs win rather comfortably. Buffs 42 Warriors 20 2-1 Georgia: The team will be pumped up for this one as they will be celebrating the 20th anniversary of the 1990 national championship season. In 2006 the buffs had a 13-0 lead late in the 4th against Georgia in Athens, before allowing the bulldogs two late TD's for the win. This will be another close, hard fought game, but the Bulldogs talent wins out in the end. Bulldogs 24 Buffs 21 2-2 @ Missouri: The Tigers have been the biggest thorn in the buffs' side as of late. I don't like our chances because the Tigers still run a spread offense and the buffs have struggled defending it. I don't think it will be another blowout win for the Tigers, but it will be awefuly hard for the buffs to win in Columbia. Tigers 38 Buffs 31 2-3 Baylor: The bears have one of the most dangerous QB's in the nation in dual threat star Robert Griffen. He could and very well likely give the buffs defense fits. This will be a must win for the buffs. Win and a winning season is still very possible. Lose, and it looks to be just the same as the last 4 years. Buffs pull through in a slugfest. Buffs 34 Bears 28 3-3 Texas Tech: The Red Raiders are the only Big 12 team that Dan Hawkins has not lost to. The Raiders are breaking in a new offense with new coach Tommy Tuberville. The buffs once again beat the Red Raiders. Buffs 35 Raiders 24 4-3 @ Oklahoma: When the buffs beat the Sooners in Boulder in 2007, it looked as if it might have been the turning point in the Dan Hawkins era. That didn't turn out to be the case. The Sooners are once again loaded and pull off a pretty comfortable win over the buffs. Sooners 41 Buffs 17 4-4 @Kansas: The Jayhawks are breaking in a new coach. They also lost star players Todd Reesing, Kerry Meier and Dezmond Brscoe. Kansas could be the worst team in the north this season. The buffs get their first road win since 2007, and become one win away from becoming bowl eligible. Buffs 26 Jayhawks 21 5-4 Iowa St: Here's an interesting stat. The home team has won this game the past 6 straight years. Look for the buffs to become bowl eligible as they make the home team winners for the 7th straight year in this series. Buffs 31 Cyclones 21 6-4 Kansas St: Kansas state surprised a lot of people last year by winning six games after legendary coach Bill Snyder returned. Once again, the wildcats will be a solid team and pose a big challenge, but the home field is the difference in the end. Buffs 38 Wildcats 31 7-4 @ Nebraska: Nebraska is back. Not like they were in the mid 90's, but they are close. However throw out the records in this one. Last time in Lincoln, CU should have won. This could possibly be the last time CU EVER plays Nebraska. The buffs go into Lincoln and pull the shocker to end the regular season on a four game winning streak. Buffs 24 Huskers 21 8-4 Alamo Bowl vs. Penn St: The buffs receive an invitation to the Alamo and play in what could be Joe Paterno's final game as the Penn St Coach. Buffs fall late, but the 8 win season is a good way to march into the Pac-10 in 2011.