Poll Watching … From Afar

The 2013 Associated Press preseason poll came out Saturday.

The release of the AP poll is sure sign that college football is once again about to take the national stage, coming out as it does two weeks before the start of the regular season. Alabama, the two-time defending national champion, is the near-unanimous pick for No. 1. The Pac-12 was well represented, with two teams in the top five, and five ranked teams overall.

And, for the 11th year in succession, the University of Colorado was not a part of the preseason poll.

It’s been awhile now … the last time CU was mentioned in a preseason poll was in 2002, starting the year at No. 7 (the Buffs finished the year ranked 20th).

I used to love the AP poll.

From 1989 to 1997, when CU went on a streak of 143 consecutive polls (10th-longest streak in history at the time), I tracked the AP poll with an almost religious zeal. I knew every team ranked above and below the Buffs, as well as who their opponents were to be that weekend. Back in the day, I used to write out the poll on a legal pad each week, tracking how many places each team had moved up from the week before, and how many more or fewer votes the Buffs received than the previous week. I tracked how many consecutive weeks CU had been ranked, and consecutive games scored in (that streak didn’t come to an end until 2008).

Now, that’s all just a memory.

Colorado hasn’t been mentioned in any weekly poll since November of 2005, a drought which isn’t likely to end this season. Even the most loyal of Buff fans are not predicting a return to the top 25 in Year One of the Mike MacIntyre era.

So … what can we expect?

The reports from Fall Camp have been favorable. Those who should know such things are noting that the practices are run professionally, methodically, and up tempo. The players who remain (recall that over a dozen players who were eligible for this fall’s roster are no longer on the team) are “buying in”, committed to making this team better from Day One in September. What’s more, the players are “having fun” doing it.

While the players have appreciated the “clean slate” provided by the new coaching staff, holding onto some of the sour memories has also been beneficial. “We never want to have that feeling ever again,” defensive back Greg Henderson said. “We’re going to do whatever it takes to not have a losing record . . . whatever coach Mac tells us we’re going to do. We’ve got to fly around, we’ve got to create more turnovers (only three interceptions, 12 recovered fumbles) than we did last year.”

After a productive spring, the team took the unprecedented step of naming six captains. Quarterback Connor Wood, wide receiver Paul Richardson, offensive tackle Jack Harris, defensive lineman Chidera Uzo-Diribe, and linebackers Paul Vigo and Derrick Webb were given the duty of taking charge of the team during the summer.

Again, the reports concerning PRP’s (Player Run Practices) and summer conditioning have been promising. Plus, there have been no off-field incidents (save that of quarterback Jordan Webb) which have made headlines.

“Coach MacIntyre has really stressed to (all six team captains) that it’s not just about what happens at Dal Ward and on the field but also what happens on the weekends and at night,” said Wood. “Ultimately, our teammates look up to us because they voted for us. It wasn’t something that was selected on by the coaches, it was voted on by the players so as captains we have the responsibility to take care of our business and stay out of trouble in order to set a good example.”

What has taken root in the Dal Ward Center, though, certainly hasn’t made an impression nationally. Colorado, which never finished alone in last place in conference play as a member of the Big Seven, Big Eight or Big 12, is universally being predicted to finish last in the Pac-12 South for the second consecutive year in 2013.

“I guess the public’s perception, if you read the magazines, is not very good,” said coach MacIntyre. “I tell the kids all the time to block out the noise. All we have  to worry about is ourselves. It’s our guys that are putting their helmets on. We  just have to worry about what we’re doing. We can’t listen to everything else all around. To really be a good team and a good leader sometimes you have to  kind of put the blinders on and just keep going. People don’t think you can do it and then all of a sudden it happens. You see it happen all the time … It’s amazing how that  happens in sports. I think that’s one of the great things about sports. It’s  not a sure thing every Saturday that this is going to happen so I think that’s  exciting. We’re really excited about this season. Our players are working extremely hard and thinking they can go toe to toe with anybody they play. That’s what we want to do.”

Coach-speak? Or a real possibility?

Of course, the Buff Nation would like to see a repeat of what happened in 1985, when the Buffs went from a 1-10 team in 1984 to a bowl team in just one season. Coach Bill McCartney discarded his passing offense for a wishbone attack, and the Buffs improved to 7-5, a nation-leading 6 1/2 game improvement.

Is the pistol offense the 21st century equivalent of the wishbone? Is the pistol offense a great equalizer, which makes it possible for less talented teams to compete by utilizing an offense which requires precision over talent, execution over speed?

Um … no.

I don’t mean to be a wet blanket. Really, I don’t. But I’m a numbers guy, and the numbers just don’t stack up in CU’s favor.

CU was 96th or worse in every major offensive category in 2012, including a ranking of 117th in scoring offense.

CU was 97th or worse in every major defensive category in 2012, including a ranking of 120th in scoring defense.

Colorado has some young talent, and the return of Paul Richardson will certainly help the offense. But turning things around in Boulder – even with good coaching and a fresh attitude – is going to take time.

The average score from last season’s games was 46-17. Asking CU to be anything more than competitive against about half of CU’s schedule is akin to asking a super-tanker to make a 90-degree turn.

It just ain’t happenin’.

At least not this season.

The Buffs’ best two chances at victories come in the first two games of the season. That could prove to be either a blessing or a curse. Win the first two, and the Buffs, already having doubled their win total from the season before, can, as coach Mac stated, start believing that “they can go toe to toe with anybody they play”.

Lose those two games, and the stories will all be about how coach Mac went 1-12 in his first season at San Jose State, and little more should be expected from the 2013 Buffs.

Lose those two games, and the Buff fans will have to start scouring the remainder of the schedule, searching for that one opponent CU might upend to keep from posting its first winless season since the very first season CU fielded a football team, 1890 (0-4).

Meanwhile, as CU attempts to obtain a modicum of respectability in the college football world, the rest of the nation will go forward. Oregon and Stanford will go on pursuing dreams of a national championship berth. Other Pac-12 teams, meanwhile, will vie for winning seasons and post-season invitations.

The Associated Press poll will continue to come out weekly, and, as it has since 2005, will be published without the University of Colorado’s participation.

CU enters the 2013 season ranked 23rd on the all-time wins list (675), and 33rd in all-time winning percentage (.590).

Not too shabby.

Until you note that just ten years ago, Colorado was 15th on the all-time wins list (630), and 22nd in all-time winning percentage (.617).

The mighty Buffaloes have fallen, and it’s proving hard to get back up.

But, we’re not going anywhere, are we? It’s been tough to be a Buff, but that will make the resurgence all the sweeter.

It make take a few more years, but, when the Buffs are ready to rejoin the polls, I’ll be there.

Legal pad in hand.


3 Replies to “Poll Watching … From Afar”

  1. Stuart, Stuart, Stuart! What if the team or the coaches felt the way you seem to feel? Then perhaps I would agree with you. Coachspeak aside if you did not get to the live-fire scrimmage yesterday, I can also understand how you may feel. Recall how the team looked a lot of the times last year. Beaten even before the kick off. I will tell you what, this team will not be beaten before the kick off. The electricity coming from that field yesterday was highly charged power. From both the players and the coaches. You will see it in two weeks. Be prepared. Even if they get behind, they will not be behind. They will not allow it. Combine this with a coaching staff that can game plan, make the play calls, and adjust through out the game. I am a cool-aid guy. I admit it. But this is not hoping to win nor wanting to win. This feel is knowing they can win. Keep the faith Stuart. Keep the faith. Oh by the way, THEY ARE FRIGGING LIGHT YEARS AHEAD OF WHAT WE HAVE SEEN OVER THE LAST 7 YEARS…………….STARTING AT THE MOST IMPORTANT POSITION ON THE FIELD…………THEY QB…………GO BUFFS

  2. Stuart,

    Calm down. Really. There is a reason that football is often compared to military battle. The only way to win consistently is to have a viable battle plan and proper training to carry out that battle plan.

    Embree and his staff failed their troops completely on these levels. Their training was sub-par at best, and their battle planning and implementation was a joke of historic levels.

    War and football are both full of stories in which a change of leadership has made a remarkable difference in a very short time. The 1958 Green Bay Packers come to mind. Also look at Stanford. Seven years ago they were a one win team. In the last 3 years they have won 35 games and go into this season ranked number 4 in the country. Things change quickly when the right guy is brought in to lead a team.

    Remember that San Jose State was the first head coaching gig for Mike MacIntyre. The first season was rough because he was trying to change a culture and also build a cohesive staff to help him do it. As a first time head coach, he also made many rookie mistakes that he will not repeat now at CU. He put together a great staff at SJS and then brought that staff here. These guys already know how to work together to mold players into a team.

    Harping on statistics for last year serves no purpose. Those stats only represent the incompetence of the last coaching staff. Nazi Field Marshall Erwin Rommel’s infantry kicked the crap out of US troops in North Africa during our fist engagement in WWII. Those same men, under the new leadership of General George Patton, became a driving force in winning the war. The difference was leadership and training and planning.

    CU now has coaches who will put them in the best position to compete and win. This is big time college football and it takes great leaders. The reason Alabama is expected to win a third straight BCS title is because of their coaching. Yes, they have great players, but it is the coaching which sets them apart. USC has more 4 and 5 star players than ANYONE, including “Bama, but they barely scraped into the top 25 this year. Last year, before the season, they were the “consensus” choice to run the table and win the national championship. They ended up barely being a .500 team. Why? Coaching!

    Prepare to be shocked by the CU turnaround this year.

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