Random Thoughts

Some random thoughts on the status of the CU football program as the Buffs can – finally – rejoin the ranks of teams gearing up to play some football in the next week.

We’re No. 29! Or perhaps the top 25!

There are 123 teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision of the NCAA, or Division 1-A. Out of those 123 teams, only 29 remain undefeated through the first four weeks of the season.

Included on that list is the University of Colorado.

For better or worse, the Buffs are one of less than 30 schools nationwide who have yet to lose a game … who would have thought we’d be saying that after the scheduled bye week?

Included on the list of undefeated teams are, of course, the national heavyweights. There are undefeated teams amongst the 29 which are competing for the national championship, like Alabama, Oregon, and Ohio State. Yet there are others, like Navy (2-0), Northern Illinois (3-0), Houston (3-0) and Central Florida (3-0), who harbor more modest dreams.

So, at least for now, the University of Colorado is amongst an elite group which has yet to leave the field of battle with a loss.

Unfortunately, however, of all of the conferences in the FBS, no conference has more teams without a loss than the Pac-12, which has six undefeated teams left.

Half the league.

Enjoy the undefeated status while you can, Buff fans!

Non-conference selections

Which brings us to how the Pac-12 has gotten to the point of having so many undefeated teams. As noted, half the league is undefeated, but if you take away conference losses, nine of the 12 teams in the Pac-12 conference are undefeated in non-conference play. Utah, Arizona State and USC all have losses, but they are to conference opponents.

Overall, the Pac-12 is 29-4 against the rest of the nation so far this fall, with the only losses coming at the hands of Auburn (Washington State), Eastern Washington (Oregon State) and Ohio State and Northwestern (Cal).

Translation: It doesn’t hurt to have a good athletic director shaping your non-conference schedule …

On Saturday, with Colorado, Cal, Oregon and Arizona idle, and with Arizona State and Stanford playing each other, there were six games between the Pac-12 and non-conference schools.

The combined record of those six non-conference opponents? An exciting 5-16 … with wins coming over such powers as Dixie State (no, I’m not kidding), Western State, and Weber State.

Now, I’m not advocating that Colorado shy away from big time non-conference opponents (the Buffs still have a home-and-home with Michigan coming up in a few years), but it doesn’t hurt for the CU administration to take note of what it takes to become bowl eligible in a league where many of the teams competing for bowl slots start their seasons with a 3-0 record in non-conference play.

Speaking of non-conference play …

On Saturday morning, with the Buffs enjoying their scheduled bye week, I was able to work the midget football games at Christie Fields here in Bozeman. The program, for 5th and 6th graders, has been run by our Gallatin Empire Lions Club for almost 40 years now (no, I’m not that old. I’ve only been a member since 1990). After all the helmets and pads have been fitted, the main job for our club members is to work the chain gangs at the three fields on Saturday mornings.

A little after 10:00 a.m., I checked in on my phone with the ESPN app, to see what early college football games were just kicking off. With a relatively light schedule on tap, I fixated on the Vanderbilt at Massachusetts game as my primary focus.



Because CU plays at UMass next fall. The Buffs will take on the Minutemen in the New England Patriots home stadium next September 6th … and it’s never too early to start scouting for next season.

For the record, UMass lost at home, 24-7, to the Commodores, with their record falling to 0-4. The game was played before 16,419 in Foxboro (the capacity, in case you were wondering, for Gillette Stadium is 68,756), so there should be plenty of good seats available for those traveling to Boston next September.

The Buffs other non-conference games for 2014 are Colorado State (1-3) in Denver at Hawai’i (0-3) in Boulder.

So, that’s a combined record to date of 1-10 for next fall’s non-conference opponents, with the only victory being CSU’s 34-17 victory at home against Cal Poly from the Big Sky Conference.

Just sayin’ …

As for this year’s non-conference schedule … ?

Time is running short for Colorado to fill its October 19th bye date with a non-conference opponent.

Fresno State remains a possibility, but unless that game is scheduled for December 7th (unlikely, with the Bulldogs’ very realistic belief that they will be playing in the Mountain West Conference championship game that day), the game against the Bulldoges isn’t likely to happen. The Buffs’ bye date of October 19th is now only four weeks away, and if Fresno State is to be that team, it will require the rearrangement of the schedules of several other teams … which becomes a much more remote possibility with each passing day.

Which leaves several options:

1) Go with an 11-game schedule, and re-schedule Fresno State for 2015 (the Buffs next open home date). This would cost the University and Boulder community, by some estimates, $4.5 million in lost revenue. While this might well happen, it is not an appetizing option.

2) Go with San Diego State or Hawai’i from the Mountain West Conference. Both teams have bye dates on October 19th, so no extra shuffling of schedules would be required. San Diego State has a road game against Hawai’i on its schedule, which, by NCAA rules, allows them a 13th game. The Aztecs play Air Force on Thursday, October 10th, and then have 16 days off before facing Fresno State on October 26th. A game against the Buffs would not only generate extra revenue for the school, but the Aztecs would have an extra two days preparation for the Buffs. Hawai’i, meanwhile, has a road game against UNLV on October 12th, and could stay on the mainland for the week leading up to the game against Colorado. Getting one of these schools to Boulder, reportedly, is just a matter of settling on the payout to the school.

3) Go with an FCS team which has an open date on October 19th. This would give Colorado two games against FCS teams this year, which would require the Buffs, by NCAA rules, to go 7-5 (assuming the Buffs would win that second game) to qualify for a bowl, as only one of the wins over the FCS teams would count toward bowl eligibility.

Of the three options, the second one appears to have the most benefit and, at least right now, the most traction.

The first option should be a non-starter, unless all other alternatives have been exhausted. While numbers between $600,000 and $1 million have been thrown out as payouts for the visiting team, that pales in comparison to the cost of not playing a game at all. The third option, meanwhile, would include negotiating with the NCAA for a potential waiver of the bowl eligibility rule, should CU wind up with a 6-6 record which includes two wins over FCS schools.

Which leaves us with the second option. A Mountain West school would attract a better gate than an FCS school, and would also give the Buffs a chance at a third non-conference victory. From a fan standpoint, playing Hawai’i or San Diego State – both currently 0-3 – sounds more palatable than playing a 3-0 and ranked Fresno State team.

One way or the other, though, there should be a resolution in the next few days.

There simply won’t be enough time otherwise to gear up for an October 19th home date.

Finally, a shout out to the Colorado State Rams …

Hard as it is to say, the Rams did themselves proud against No. 1 Alabama. The Rams fell, 31-6, but trailed only 17-6 at the start of the fourth quarter.

You could say that the Crimson Tide was not emotionally prepared, with the CSU game coming between contests against two ranked teams, Texas A&M and Ole Miss.

You could say that Nick Saban wanted to take it easy on his former coordinator, Jim McElwain.

But you can’t say that the Rams didn’t play with heart, and that their defense didn’t do everything it could to keep the Rams in the game. They played well, and deserve a hand for their performance.

Now, for those of you scoring at home, in case CSU fans crow about how Alabama fell from favor in the eyes of three pollsters (Alabama’s lead in the AP poll for first place votes went from 59-1 to 56-4, with Oregon picking up three more first place votes), you might want to keep this nugget in your pocket …

… Colorado has twice lost to a No. 1 team – and still managed to knock them out of the No. 1 ranking.

In 1957, No. 1 Oklahoma beat Colorado, 14-13, in Norman. That loss was close enough that it knocked the Sooners down to No. 2 in the rankings.

In 1975, No. 19 Colorado again lost to No. 1 Oklahoma in Norman, this time by the score of 21-20. Despite the loss, the Buffs moved up from No. 19 to No. 13 in the rankings, while Oklahoma fell to No. 2.

Just thought you would want to know …

One Reply to “Random Thoughts”

  1. Stuart,

    Don’t forget that San Jose State also has an open date on October 19th as well as playing an away game at Hawaii this year, meaning they could add a 13th game without problems from the NCAA.

    Three solid options is better than two. Let’s hope AD Rick George gets something scheduled sooner rather than later.

    As a gesture of good will for someone to come to Boulder, I think those of us here in Boulder should even help purchase the tickets of the visiting team. Under normal circumstances, visiting teams are usually required to sell a certain number of tickets as part of the contract. Lest this be a sticking point, Buff fans should offer to buy tickets in the visitors section to help fill the stadium and help out both schools.

    Just a thought…

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