October 8th

Friday’s Fearless Forecasts

As the Buffs get on a plane and head for Columbia, it’s time to unveil this week’s Fearless Forecasts. Last week, the Buffs came through with a win, and the FFF went three-for-three, raising this season’s mark to 10-for-12.

What you can count on this weekend …

– Colorado will be more successful on the ground this year against Missouri

It will be hard not to. Last season, in a 36-17 defeat which wasn’t as close as the score might indicate, the Buffs rushed 24 times for a minus-14 yards. Tyler Hansen lost three fumbles, suffered an interception and a safety, and was sacked eight times for 73 yards in losses. Missouri rolled to a 33-3 halftime lead, then laughed its way through an insignificant second half.

This year, Colorado seems to have found a ground game, rushing for over 200 yards in each of the past two games. It is no small coincidence that the Buffs have utilized the same starters on the line for both contests. Across the line the Buffs now run out senior Nate Solder at left tackle, junior Ethan Adkins at left guard, junior Mike Iltis at center, junior Ryan Miller at right guard, and red-shirt freshman David Bakhtiari at right tackle. “It’s good to know who’s going to play next to you,” said Ryan Miller. “In practice you get that feeling of ‘this is how ‘Bach plays, or this is how Mike plays. You kind of play off each other’s strengths; you build cohesion with the guys next to you.”

Colorado did not start the season well. The Buffs managed 115 yards rushing against Colorado State, but that was against a defense which currently ranks 104th in the nation in rush defense, giving up over 200 yards rushing per game. It’s worthy of note that, against the Rams, the Buffs played eight offensive linemen. Then against Cal, the Buffs managed all of 75 yards rushing, including six sacks of quarterback Tyler Hansen. “We didn’t play well against Cal,” said Miller. “An offensive line, that’s five guys – almost half of the offense. When the offensive line doesn’t play well, you’re probably not going to have a very good game.”

The Buffs are now coming off back-to-back 200 yard rushing games (252 v. Hawai’i; 235 v. Georgia). While it is true that Missouri is ranked 58th in the nation against the run, giving up 146 yards rushing per game, there is this heartening note … in the two games in which the Tiger opponents have been competitive, Illinois and San Diego State, the opposition has been able to run the ball. The Illini, in racing out to a 13-3 halftime lead, had 200 yards rushing, while the Aztecs, who held the lead against Missouri until the final minute of play, had 250.

If Colorado is going to be successful against Missouri, look no further than the Buffs’ offensive line, and the Colorado rushing yardage total.

– Colorado will score more points than the Tigers’ opponents have averaged

This may actually be going out on quite a limb, even though Missouri is only giving up 14 points per game to the opposition. Can the Buffs post more than 14 points? Last season, Colorado did score 17, but that was part of the 36-17 beatdown in which the Tigers led 33-3 at half.  Couple that with the 58-0 humiliation in Columbia two years ago, and you have a score of 91-3 in the last six quarters of competitive play between the two schools.

Want more? In the last three games against Missouri overall, the Buffs have been out-scored 149-27, or a crisp average score of 49-9. In the two games Dan Hawkins has coached against Gary Pinkel in Columbia, the the combined score is 86-13.

You get the idea.

So, asking Colorado to score over 14 points against Missouri is actually asking a great deal.

And it says here that the Buffs will be up to it.

Colorado’ s three new receivers will have improved statistics

There was much hope in the Buff Nation that the inclusion on this year’s wide receiver depth chart of junior transfer Toney Clemons (Michigan), senior transfer Travon Patterson (USC), and freshman convert Paul Richardson (UCLA) would finally put the Colorado passing game on the map. In game one against Colorado State, the trio had five catches, including Patterson’s 18 yard touchdown catch. There were five more catches against Cal.

Against Hawai’i, Clemons, in addition to giving his teammates a tongue-lashing at halftime, had a 73-yard touchdown catch. Overall, the trio had seven catches for 98 yards against the Warriors.

Last weekend, though, the trio disappeared. Against Georgia, the offense generated big plays. Six plays went for over 20 yards against the Bulldogs, with two of those going for over 40. Going into the contest, the Colorado offense had generated six plays of over 20 yards total in the three games of the season (with only one play going for over 40 yards). Despite the offensive explosion against Georgia, the new trio of receivers were shutout. Toney Clemons, after catching three balls in each of the first three games, had only one catch for ten yards. Travon Patterson had two catches, but for a minus-one yard total. Paul Richardson, for the second time this season (Cal), did not catch a pass.

For those counting, that is three catches for nine yards from the threesome from Michigan, USC, and UCLA. If Colorado is to stay with the high-powered – and high-scoring – Missouri offense, these three receivers must post improved numbers.

Pac-12 Athletic Directors meeting in San Francisco “narrowed the options”

“I’m very pleased with how the meetings went,” said Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott of the Pac-12 athletic directors’ meetings in San Francisco this week. “I would describe it as signficant progress on the important strategic issues we’ve been debating, and I feel good about where we are. In my view, we’ve narrowed the options and kind of flushed out the pros and cons of different scenarios in a way we hoped we would.”

At stake are multiple issues … and millions of dollars. While the football championship game appears to be a fait accompli, where that game will be played – at the home of the higher ranked team or at a neutral site – remains to be determined. The other main issues: 1) revenue sharing (Will USC and UCLA willingly give up the appearance based model in favor of an equal split?); and 2) the division alignment (Is the “zipper” dead? Will the North/South or East/West divisions include pods for scheduling purposes?), will also be left for the Presidents and chancellors to decide in meetings starting October 21st.

The parties involved stated going in that no final decisions were to be made at these meetings, but all involved seemed to believe that the meetings were productive. “There isn’t anything final yet,” said Washington athletic director Scott Woodward. “But I think we will find a consensus on that as well.”  Added Arizona athletic director Greg Byrne, “It was a very productive meeting, and I think we all got a chance to hear everybody’s concerns and feelings,” going on to state, “Obviously, whenever you have issues, there are going to be differing opinions. But I feel real good about the direction we are going.”

For Buff fans, as well as fans across the Pac-12, the October 21st meetings are of paramount importance. At the board meeting involving the presidents and chancellors in San Francisco that week, the Pac-10 will officially morph into the Pac-12. “I feel they (the presidents and chancellors) will feel very comfortable finalizing these issues, and making clear decisions,” said Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott.

Stay tuned …

 October 7th

BYU and Utah agree to extend rivalry … in September

BYU is going independent; Utah is going to the Pac-12 … but the two rivals are going to maintain their rivalry.

What is interesting about the announcement of the continuation of the rivalry is the timing of the games. The first two games of the new era will be played on September 17, 2011, in Provo, and September 12, 2012, in Salt Lake City. This would seemingly clear the way for Colorado and Utah to schedule each other as year-end rivals, should the Pac-12 agree to keep rivalry games at the end of each season (depending on how the divisions are ultimately divided).

In order to make room for BYU on its 2011 schedule, Utah canceled a three-game series with Boise State, which had been scheduled for 2011, 2012, and 2013. For 2011, Utah picked up Montana State (man, those Bobcats are everywhere!). Both teams are currently ranked in the top ten – Boise State in the FBS; Montana State in the FCS.

Here’s guessing that fans of Utah, which will upgrade from the Mountain West to the Pac-12 next season, are not complaining about dropping Boise State from the 2011 schedule.

Injury Update

For once, there is good news on the nickel back front.

After losing the starter at nickel back in three straight games, Colorado managed to get through the Georgia game with its nickel backs in tact. Junior Patrick Mahnke, a converted linebacker, got the start, and is healthy for the Missouri game. Still, Mahnke might not get the start, as junior cornerback Jonathan Hawkins, who say much of the action at nickel back against Hawaii after Paul Vigo was injured, is also in the mix. “We are just rolling guys through. We are going to see who is better,” said defensive backs coach Ashley Ambrose. “We’ll really just see throughout the week what will be best for us and decide later on.” Which player is on the field the most may depend on how Missouri tries to attack the Buff defense. If Missouri is in pass formation much of the game, Jonathan Hawkins will be on the field; if Missouri tries to run the ball, Mahnke might get more calls.

As for the rest of the team, the Buffs came through the Georgia game with no serious injuries. Junior running back Brian Lockridge sprained his ankle against the Bulldogs, but returned to action in the game, and is expected to be available this weekend against Missouri. The same goes for wide receiver Scotty McKnight, who has played through several nagging injuries.

In fact, the Buffs actually picked up a player this week, as red-shirt freshman offensive lineman Jack Harris is no longer on the injury report. Harris had been suffering from a shoulder injury, but has returned to the lineup, listed as a backup at right guard behind junior Ryan Miller.

To date, Colorado has lost only three players to season-ending injuries: offensive lineman Shawn Daniels; cornerback Vince Ewing; and nickel back Parker Orms. The other two nickel backs who have started and who have been injured are Travis Sandersfeld (who is likely out until November with a fractured ankle) and Paul Vigo (who could return as early as the Texas Tech game after suffering a lower leg fracture against Hawai’i).

October 6th

Justin Torres leaves team

Just when you thought the Buffs were having a good week …

True freshman running back Justin Torres has left the team and returned home to La Mirada, California, according to head coach Dan Hawkins. There were no specific reasons given, though Hawkins did say Torres was dealing with personal issues, including home sickness. Hawkins also did leave open the possibility that Torres might return to the team.

There are a few disconcerting aspects to the story.

First, apparently Torres’ position coach,  Darian Hagan, did not know Torres was leaving. “I had no idea,” said Hagan. “He was in my office Monday joking around.” Whatever the actual reasons for Torres deciding to leave, the fact that he did not inform and/or confide in his position coach is not a sign of a close relationship. (See: Scott, Darrell)

Second, it is unfortunate that it is Torres who left. The Buffs brought in a full complement of freshman running backs, but Torres is the only one of the group to play this fall. Torres had 14 carries for 58 yards on the season. Red-shirt freshman Quentin Hildreth will now move into the No. 3 spot behind Rodney Stewart and Brian Lockridge, with true freshman Cordary Allen making the trip to Columbia as the emergency tailback. If Allen is forced to play, he will have to tear off his red-shirt, and the 2010 season is already one-third complete.

Finally, if Torres does not return, Colorado could take yet another hit on the APR. Unless Torres completes this semester, he will leave academically ineligible, which will hurt his future eligibility, and may cost the Buffs another scholarship next spring.

 

October 5th

Buffs pick up 5th commit

Nothing like a dramatic win before a near sellout crowd to impress a high school recruit.

Vista (Calif.) center Alex Kelley became the fifth known recruit of the Class of 2011, committing to Colorado after his visit this past weekend.

Kelley had said earlier that he wanted to take his time before selecting his college choice, but ended his recruitment without taking any other visits. Kelley had offers from Boise State, Minnesota, San Jose State, and New Mexico State. Kelley is being recruited as a center, and the Buffs might have had an “in” – Alex Kelley’s father is Karry Kelley, played offensive tackle in Boulder from 1976-79, and was the starting right tackle for the Buffs in Chuck Fairbanks’ first season as head coach.

Kelley is considered to be a three-star prospect overall, and is considered as the No. 1 center prospect from California, and the No. 2 center prospect in the West, at least according to Scout.com. “I really liked the campus, and the way the coaches are heading with the program,” Kelley told SuperPrep.com. “I think they are heading to good places with their future.”

“Alex has got great skills, and his footwork is awesome,” Vista head coach Dan Williams told BuffStampede.com. “He is good with his shotgun snap, and he is very athletic … He’s also a very cerebral kid. He understands what we’re doing.” Kelley is being recruited exclusively at center. “Alex is a true center,” said Williams. “In all my years of coaching, they don’t come along very often … He just fits in naturally at center.”

While the verbal from Alex Kelley is certainly welcome news, it is Kelley’s teammate, Stefan McClure, who is the real prize. McClure also plays for Vista High in California, and is considered one of the top five cornerback prospects in the nation this year. McClure was also in Boulder for an official visit during the Georgia game, but is likely to take all of his five official visits before making a decision (McClure is being recruited by almost every other Pac-12 team, as well as Miami, and has already taken an official visit to Washington. McClure has also expressed an interest in visiting Cal and Oregon, and will not likely make his decision until December).

October 4th

Beatty Co-Defensive Player of the Week in the Big 12

What does it take to get conference recognition? Five tackles is all … as long as one of them causes a fumble which saves your team from a loss.

Colorado senior linebacker B.J. Beatty was named Monday as the co-Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week, sharing the honor with Oklahoma State defensive end Ugo Chinasa. Against Georgia, Beatty caused Bulldog running back Caleb King to fumble with 1:59 remaining and Georgia already in position to kick a game-winning field goal. “Obviously, that play was huge,” said Dan Hawkins in his Big 12 conference call. “Not just the penetration (by Beatty), but I also think him being able to kind of see what was going on … He has just got a non-stop motor and he just kind of has the ability to dissect things and make great plays.”

Missouri moves into the Associated Press poll

Perhaps Missouri should take the rest of the year off …

Thanks to losses by teams near the bottom of the poll – including USC and Texas – Missouri moved from the ranks of the unranked to No. 24 this week in the Associated Press poll. The Tigers are 4-0 on the season, but had a bye week last week, so the new ranking is thanks to the largess of those teams above them which were kind enough to lose last weekend. Also entering the AP poll this week are No. 22 Oklahoma State, No. 23 Florida State, and No. 25 Air Force.

Missouri is ranked No. 22 in the coaches’ poll, up one spot from last week.

Several Tigers out for game against Colorado

Defensive end Aldon Smith will not be available for Missouri when the Tigers host the Buffs on Saturday. Smith suffered a crack in his fibula against San Diego State. “The medical staff said this morning that he will not play,” said Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel. “He’s working very hard. We’ll see how it comes out.” Smith, as a freshman, had four tackles for loss against Colorado in Boulder last year, including three sacks. Despite playing in only three of the Tigers’ four games, Smith leads the team in sacks in 2010, with three.

Also out for the Colorado game is Jimmy Burge, Missouri’s top backup at nose tackle. Burge was cited for for drinking alcohol while driving after being stopped by Columbia police on Saturday night. Burge is not listed on the Tigers’ depth chart for this weekend’s game against the Buffs.

Last week, senior free safety Jasper Simmons was suspended indefinitely for violating undisclosed team policies. The junior college transfer was the fourth-leading tackler for the Tigers last season.  

On the Lighter Side …

I don’t know how I missed this …  

Jim Knox, the Fox Sports sideline reporter for the Colorado/Georgia game, decided to see if he could keep pace with Ralphie as she was leading the Buffs out to start the game. Knox was going to race her back to her trailer, but a Ralphie handler had other ideas … http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UeXc-S9fov8 . CU at the Gamer John L. posted it on YouTube, and I’ve heard from several of you today about the video. It’s very funny!

The weird thing is, I have yet to hear from anyone who was at the game who actually saw it as it happened!

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