Two Buff fans square off in a debate over CU Football, 2012
I would like for you to meet two long-time friends and fellow CU Buff fans.
Kool-Aid Drinker (hereinafter referred to as “KAD”) looks at the CU glass as being half full, and he has been more than willing to gulp down the Kool-Aid of optimism about the 2012 season.
Reality Check Al (“RCA”), meanwhile, has been made cynical by six straight losing seasons, and sees himself as being far more honest about the Buffs’ chances at a bowl game in Jon Embree’s second season. His glass is half empty, and he’s not buying into KAD’s bowl-eligibility scenarios for CU.
The two friends were watching pre-season NFL football at a sports bar the other night. By the middle of the third quarter, both NFL squads on the big screen were playing third-stringers neither KAD nor RCA had ever heard of. The next TV over was showing a Colorado Rockies’ game, with the Rockies well on their way to another loss. With nothing worth watching on television, the Buff fans’ conversation, inevitably, switched to thoughts on the upcoming CU season …
KAD – “I am sooo excited about this season. The Buffs finally have the pieces in place to make a legitimate run for a bowl berth. Anything less than six wins and a bowl game would be a disappointment.”
RCA – “Hold on, there, pal-o-mine. You’re kidding, right? CU lost ten games last season, and lost 28 seniors from that team”, said RCA, grabbing a fist-full of peanuts. “You think a bunch of freshmen are going to make the Pac-12 cringe in fear?”.
KAD – “You haven’t been paying attention to all of the reports from Spring ball and Fall Camp,” said KAD, taking a sip from his strawberry daiquiri. “The team has more speed, has more depth, and has a much more friendly schedule than last year …”.
RCA – “One misguided belief at a time, please. Let’s start with the roster, and you tell me how the Buffs are now world-beaters.”
KAD – “Well, for one thing, CU will have a quarterback with proven experience”.
RCA – “Yeah. I’m real excited”, said RCA, waving his arms in a mock frenzy. “The two other guys competing for the job had over a year with the team, and yet they lost the competition for starter in just eight days of Fall Camp. And they lost out to a guy who, until a month ago, thought The Sink was a place for dirty dishes. And experience? Experience at what? Losing? Jordan Webb was 1-17 against BCS teams while a starter at Kansas.”
KAD – “True, but you have to admit that those were some pretty bad Kansas teams”.
RCA – “This just in, sunshine pumper: Colorado is – according to the rest of the planet – a pretty bad team. Colorado was 92nd in total offense last year, and that was with a three-year starter at quarterback, and a four-year starter at running back. How are we going to replace Rodney Stewart, Mr. Know-it-All? Speedy wound up – on lousy teams – as the second leading rusher in CU history, and now he’s gone”.
KAD – “I’m glad you asked. Tony Jones has been the heir apparent since last November, when he showed flashes against Utah in the 2011 finale. He has done nothing to disappoint since, and there are a number of intriguing options – D.D. Goodson, Malcolm Creer, Donta Abron, Josh Ford, and Terrence Crowder – who all bring something different to the table. Plus, CU now has actual fullbacks – and not converted linebackers and offensive linemen – to block for their running backs. Freshman Christian Powell has been getting rave reviews. And let’s not forget about the stronger and deeper offensive line, and some exciting possibilities with Nick Kasa and Vincent Hobbs at tight end.”
RCA – “Hmmm … The last few seasons, CU has had Nate Solder and Ryan Miller drafted by the NFL. They were blocking for Speedy, and had a veteran quarterback to lead the offense. Net result: Nada. Scoring offense last year: 109th in the nation. Now, before I have the waitress cut you off, try and make a coherent argument for the wide receivers.”
KAD – “You’re very smug, but I happen to think that the wide receivers will surprise this year. Nelson Spruce will remind you of one Scotty McKnight by season’s end. Tyler McCulloch has a year under his belt, and will be much improved. Losing one Thomas at wide receiver was tough, but don’t forget the other Thomas, Gerald. He may be the P-Rich of 2012. And if Paul Richardson does come back for Pac-12 play, look out!”
RCA – “The only thing I will be looking out for is you driving over my foot in the parking lot. I suppose you are going to tell me that the defense is going to be able to handle the Pac-12′s point-a-minute offenses? Let’s see … last year, CU was ranked 89th in rushing defense, 97th in pass defense, 102 in total defense, and 109th in scoring defense. Try and tell me CU is going to have a great distance, and I’ll ask you to walk a straight line and touch your nose with your finger.”
KAD – “Not a problem on either request,” said KAD, touching his finger with his nose, leaning into so close to RCA that RCA could smell the strawberries on KAD’s breath. “The defense is going to be much improved. The defensive line will be a combination of youth and experience. Senior Will Pericak is an honors candidate, while juniors Chidera Uzo-Diribe and and Nate Bonsu have had another year with defensive line coach Mike Tuiasosopo, and will more than hold their own. Plus, there are a number of freshmen defensive linemen who will contribute. Did you hear that Josh Tupou has been so good, that he has already been named a co-starter along with Bonsu?
“As to the linebackers and secondary, I’m very, very excited,” said KAD. “The linebackers are the best unit on the team, with Doug Rippy, Jon Major, and Derrick Webb. You do remember Doug Rippy, don’t you?”, said KAD, poking RCA in the chest with his finger. “He was leading the team in tackles, and was on the way to an All-Pac-12 season, when he was injured. And all Jon Major did was lead the team in tackles in Rippy’s absence. And the secondary? Difference of night and day. Last season, remember how Greg Brown had to train up running backs and wide receivers to play defensive back? And then send them out to face offenses like that of Oregon and USC? Results were ugly, but not unexpected. That won’t happen this year, my friend. Greg Henderson is back, joined by two new potential cornerback stars in Kenneth Crawley and Yuri Wright. And the safeties are Ray Polk and Terrel Smith, with Parker Orms there as the first nickel back. Quality and depth, my friend. Quality and depth.”
RCA – “Put me down in the ‘I’ll believe it when I see it’ category. I agree that Henderson, Crawley and Wright will be good … in 2013 and 2014. What did Matt Barkley have against the Buffs last season? Six touchdown passes? Think he won’t be going for seven in the Coliseum with a Heisman trophy in the offing? And Oregon? In Eugene? A downpour might slow down the Ducks’ offense, but the CU defense won’t.”
KAD – “Nobody’s saying the Buffs are in USC’s or Oregon’s class – at least not yet. But the rest of the Pac-12 is there for the taking. Stanford will still be good, even without Andrew Luck, but I can see Colorado hanging with every other team in the conference.”
RCA – “Whoa, Nellie. Let’s slow down that train just a second. Tell me where you find six wins on this year’s schedule.”
KAD – “Easy. First, the Buffs start out with a 3-0 record in non-confer …”, with KAD’s sentence interrupted by RCA’s spewing of beer across the table. “Next time you say something like that, give me fair warning,” said RCA.
KAD – “What are you talking about? The 2012 non-conference slate is the easiest in over a decade, with no BCS teams on the calendar for the first time since 2001. Colorado State is coming off of three straight 3-9 seasons, has had to learn a whole new offense and defense, has expelled two of its best defensive players …”.
RCA – “… And has had a month to prepare for this game. Remember the Rocky Mountain Showdown is the Rams’ Super Bowl. They always get up for the Buffs, making every game against the Lambs harder than it should be. Why Mike Bohn allows this game to be played as the first game of the season, and not the second or third – when the Rams wouldn’t have all that extra time to put together trick plays and new formations – has never made sense to me. But I digress. I’ll concede that CU should win this game. If they can’t, the Buffs might be looking at a 1-11 season.”
KAD – “I suppose you are saying that the one sure win is over Sacramento State?”.
RCA – “I am, though even that game makes me nervous. CU has played two 1-AA teams in its history – a loss to Montana State in 2006, and a come-from-behind victory over Eastern Washington a few years later. Color me skeptical that Colorado can take any game for granted.”
KAD – “I’m not taking anything for granted, but CSU and Sacramento State are the two easiest games on the schedule, and will give Jordan Webb and the offense time to work out the kinks, and give the freshmen game time under their belt before the road trip to Fresno.”
RCA – “Which you are chalking up as another victory? Two in a row on the road, right? After 23 straight losses? Sounds logical enough,” said RCA with a sneer.
KAD – “It’s more than possible. It’s likely. This is not Pat Hill’s Fresno State team of yesteryear. The Bulldogs went 4-9 last season, and lost five of their last six games … “.
RCA – “With the lone victory coming on the road, over Hawai’i … A trick CU couldn’t pull off”.
KAD – “Don’t interrupt. The bloom is off the rose in Fresno. In a stadium which holds 41,031, the Bulldogs averaged just over 29,000 last season. And they will be coming into the CU game after a beatdown by Oregon in Eugene.”
RCA – “Okay. Fine. Let’s not get into the minutia. Let’s say … for the moment … that CU can pull off three non-conference wins. I doubt it, but let’s say the Buffs manage their first 3-0 start since 2008. Where are you going to find three wins in conference play? If you put Oregon or USC on the list, I’m leaving.”
KAD – “No need. Road games against USC and Oregon are non-starters, I’ll give you that. I would like to think that Stanford would be in play, with the game being in Boulder. But that contest is another game against another likely ranked team, and will be coming on the heels of two big losses in Los Angeles and Eugene, so that might be asking too much.”
RCA – “That leaves us with six games. Two of those are road games, and we know how well CU fares on the road …”.
KAD – “Wait a second. The two remaining road games on the schedule are against Washington State, which the Buffs had by ten with five minutes to play last season, and Arizona, who the Buffs thumped 48-29.”
RCA – “Hmm. If we’re going with the ‘previous season result’ theory, I trust you will recall that UCLA beat the Buffs 45-6, Arizona State thumped CU, 48-14, and Washington embarrassed the Buffs, 52-24. You’re going to tell me there is that much difference from last year to this? CU lost by 39, 34, and 28 points to these teams, the same teams you see CU as having a chance against this year? Did you get a double shot in your last daiquiri?”.
KAD – “Okay, so maybe last year’s scores give me pause. But I still think there is enough Folsom Field magic left that, if CU can beat either Washington State or Arizona on the road, that there are two more victories out there amongst UCLA, Arizona State, Washington and Utah.”
RCA – “So. Every publication known to man has CU picked last in the Pac-12 South. Everyone – and I mean everyone – ranks almost every unit on the team amongst the worst in the Pac-12. Most publications have CU winning three or four games at best. But you know that they are all wrong. You just know that the Buffs can find a way to a winning season for the first time since 2005, playing with a new starting quarterback, a new starting running back, and a wide receiver corps which might be the worst in recent memory?”.
KAD – “Yes!”, said KAD with conviction, attracting the attention of other bar patrons as he slammed his fist down on the table. “The Buffs will find a way, I just know it! Those outsiders don’t know what we know. CU has had a great Fall Camp, and is poised, with its schedule, to post a winning record in 2012!!”.
RCA – “Just one last question, before I head out into the night convinced that you are right, and the rest of the college football world is wrong”.
KAD – “Shoot”.
RCA – “You say that CU has had a great camp. The players are focused, determined, prepared. The coaches impressed, satisfied, confident.”
KAD – “Correct”.
RCA – “And exactly how many practices this fall did you, or for that matter, anyone else not a coach or a player, observe this fall …?”.
KAD – “Whatever … In Embree we Trust! CU will be bowling in 2012!”