Comparing Apples to Oranges

Memo to Colorado athletic director Rick George:

First, thanks for sticking around, and taking your name out of the running for the vacant AD job at Illinois. We know that you are an Illinois alumnus, and that you once described the head position at Illinois as your “dream job”. We understand how strong the temptation would be to return to where your first loyalties were forged.

And yet you are sticking around Boulder to see what you have started seen through to a successful conclusion.

Thanks for that.

Second, can you see what you can do about moving the Colorado game at Washington State in 2017 to a new site?

I think I’ve got this figured out.

Colorado was 3-0 against the Cougars in games played in the state of Washington before Saturday night’s 27-3 defeat. The thing is … the wins came in different venues: Spokane, 1982; Seattle, 2004; and Pullman, 2012.

Apparently, the Buffs can’t play the Cougars in the same venue twice. Otherwise, the outcome wouldn’t have been the frustrating result Buff fans have endured over the past two seasons.

… Then again … Perhaps it was pre-ordained that the Cougars would find a way to win, and the Buffs find a way to lose.

Missed field goals, bungled snaps, dropped passes … all too familiar to the Buff Nation.

Familiar as well to the Cougar Nation – at least until this year.

The following numbers will be oft-discussed and much debated this off-season:

– Mike Leach’s record at Washington State over his first three seasons … 12-25;

– Mike MacIntyre’s record at Colorado over his first three seasons … 10-26 (with one game to play).

This year, in Year Four of the Mike Leach experiment in Pullman, Leach has gone from a coach on the hot seat to one who is toast of the town.

Last season, Washington State finished 3-9, 2-7 in Pac-12 play, with frustrating losses to Rutgers (41-38), Oregon (38-31), and Cal (60-59).

This season, Washington State is 8-3, 6-2 in Pac-12 play, with last minute victories over Rutgers (37-34), Oregon (45-38, 2OT), and UCLA (31-27).

Asked this week if he saw Colorado as a team one year behind the Cougars in their rebuilding process, Leach said, “They’re kinda in the same spot we are now, from the standpoint that they’ve played everybody we have, a lot of these games have been won by an eyelash on both sides, and we’ve come up on top in some of them. But they’ve been close with the same people we’ve been close with.”

“I definitely think they are reminiscent of our team last year”, agreed Cougar linebacker Peyton Pelluer. “We had lots of close games and just couldn’t finish them”.

Colorado players also see it. “We got a Pac-12 win this year. We didn’t have one last year. We’ve just been more competitive. In every game we’re in it till the end. In past years we were getting blown out. We’re on the brink right now,” said Colorado senior receiver Nelson Spruce.

The Buffs still have one last chance at redemption in 2015, with Utah up next on the schedule. A top ten team three weeks ago, the Utes have lost three straight, and are without their star running back, Devontae Booker. The offensively challenged Utah offense, like that of Colorado, was held out of the end zone Saturday, falling 17-9 to UCLA (betting hint: take the “under” for next weekend’s game).

Even though the Utes are down, and are no longer a factor in a Pac-12 South race they once controlled, it will be Senior Day in Salt Lake City, and it’s hard to see the Buffs generating enough offense to pull off an upset.

Which would leave Mike MacIntyre and his staff with a 10-27 record over three years, two games worse that Mike Leach’s three year record in Pullman.

Do Buff fans have the right to expect a turnaround similar to the one experienced in Pullman come the 2016 season?

Well, first, let’s look at the schedule for next fall.

The Buffs will open the 2016 season with the Rocky Mountain Showdown in Denver. Colorado State (6-5) is going bowling for the third straight year, having managed six wins in the ridiculously diluted Mountain West Conference. The Buffs were able to pull out a victory over the Rams this year, even though Colorado was coming off of a ten loss season and CSU was coming off a ten win season. Still, the game won’t be the third of the season, as it was this fall, but the season opener.

And Buff fans are all too familiar with how well Colorado fares in season openers …

After a home date against Idaho State from the Big Sky Conference (the Bengals were 2-9 this year), the Buffs travel to the Big House to face Michigan. The Wolverines were in disarray a year ago, but Jim Harbaugh has Michigan on the brink of the top ten in just one season in Ann Arbor. Hard to see Colorado winning that game …

The Pac-12 Conference schedule will be the mirror of this season’s games. The Buffs will have five home games: Arizona State; Oregon State; UCLA; Washington State and Utah, with road trips to pay Oregon, Arizona, Stanford and USC.

Assuming losses on the road to Michigan, Oregon, Stanford and USC, the Buffs would have to go 6-2 against the rest of the schedule to earn its first bowl bid since 2007.

Not impossible, if the Buffs continue to improve.

Some will argue that the Buffs took a step back in the 27-3 loss to Washington State. After all, it was a 24-point loss. Consider, however … the Buffs lost 48-23 to Arizona State earlier this season – a 25-point loss – but was never really in that game. Against the Cougars, the Buffs were still harboring hopes of a comeback until midway through the fourth quarter when Cade Apsay fell on a bungled snap on fourth-and-goal at the WSU three yard line, ending CU’s last scoring threat.

“It’s frustrating because we’ve worked so hard in getting over the hump,” said running back Phillip Lindsay, who led the Buffs in rushing with 78 yards. “You’ve got to have some dog in you, and we didn’t go out there with that mentality. People need to make their minds up that they’re going to have that fight in them.”

“We had our opportunities to win this game and we didn’t,” head coach Mike MacIntyre said. “Somehow, we’ve got to fix it. We’ve got to do a better job coaching and getting them ready.”

Will Mike MacIntyre be given that opportunity?

Almost certainly. Rick George has stated in no uncertain terms that MacIntyre will be CU’s head coach in 2016.

Beyond that?

Much will depend on how Mike MacIntyre fares in Year Four in Boulder.

Colorado needs to start winning the close games. Colorado needs to start demonstrating it can win in the Pac-12 on a consistent basis.

Just as Mike Leach and the Cougars have done this fall.

Finally, as long as we are comparing apples to oranges, recall these two records:

7-26 … and 7-25-1.

The first record, 7-26, was the three-year record of one of the most reviled coaches in Colorado history.

The second record, 7-25-1, was the three-year record of one of the most beloved coaches in Colorado history.

The first record was posted by Chuck Fairbanks (1979-81), who made a run for the USFL after three seasons in Boulder … and no one was sad to see him go.

The second record was posted by Bill McCartney (1982-84), who went on from that ignominious start to become CU’s all-time winningest coach.

So, will Mike MacIntyre follow in Bill McCartney’s footsteps, and become the “Mike Leach” of the Pac-12 in 2016?

Or will Mike MacIntyre follow in Chuck Fairbanks’ footsteps, and find himself being shown the door at the end of the 2016 campaign?

Time will tell …



12 Replies to “Apples … and Oranges”

  1. I think OC,OL and special teams coaches need to go . Special teams are horrible,Offense went backwards and line is weak .Never seen a team get inside the 5 yard line as many times as they do and fail to score.

  2. I don’t subscribe to the Rivals website and am not necessarily a believer in the “star” system for recruit ratings, but here is a very simple analysis.

    There are 65 so called “power five” teams (Pac12 and comparable). The expected recruiting ranking of an average P5 team, in an average year, would be 33rd position. Here are the Rivals rankings of the current plus the last three Buff recruiting classes:

    2016: 72nd (so far)
    2015: 71st
    2014: 63rd
    2013: 68th

    Obviously, this does not tell the whole story, but it does correlate with the record.

  3. I feel that next year’s win loss record may actually be worse given the tougher schedule. The question for me is if anything will be changed for the future. If we have new OC, OL and special teams coaches and develop a new QB during 2016, then I view that as an investment for brighter days ahead, particularly if we can finish and win against 1-2 quality Pac 12 opponents. If those changes are not put in place, and we have Lindgren and Liufau for 2016, we are looking at 3 wins at the most and a lost season with a bleak outlook. The time is now (starting the first week of December) to start making changes.

    1. Liuafu is a great kid but I’m already dreading the spring and fall camp battle for starting QB when it seems pretty clear Apsay is the future.

  4. Colorado 20-Hawaii 28

    San Jose State 42-Hawaii 23

    That about says it all for me. A so-so San Jose State clobbers the same Hawaii team CU struggled against.

    After CU’s game against CSU the CSU student section chanted “You’re just a Mountain West team”. At the time I figured sour grapes. But it’s kinda true. CU is a mid-pack Mountain West team.

    Some of it I blame on McIntyre’s inability to recruit PAC-12 level recruits. To me, only Awuzie, Lindsay and Gillam are good PAC-12 guys. Spruce came in under Embree.

    I sense that next year will be a repeat of this year.

    1. On the recruits side I see a lot of upside just no depth.

      Montez is supposed to be stud as well but we will have to see him in a game.
      Sefo would be a perfectly fine quarterback in a different system.

      McCartney (We didn’t get his brother so this was not guaranteed)
      Olugbode (He was a different player after the leg injury I hope he returns better)
      I also like the transfers Carrell and Laguda

      I don’t think recruiting is our real problem. Play calling on the defensive side is making huge improvements. next year we will be known as a defensive team I am sure of it. We need Lindgren to adapt much better than he has or be replaced.

  5. Bill McCartney bravely changed his offense to fit the talent he had. Will MacIntyre have the same courage? Colorado cannot expect to out spread the best spread offenses in the Pac12. When recruiting a spread player vs someone else in the pax 12 why. Would they come to Boulder. But a pro style player? Build a power running game by recruiting big kids that want to run block. Hard nosed running backs, great possession recieviers. Run an offense gat the pac12 doesn’t see every week. We have these players. The question is will the coaches have the courage to make the change.

  6. I’m so tired of the constant comparison to the original coach Mac starting slow and then turning around the program as a justification for how the team could be on the verge of a turnaround. The clear difference is in recruiting. Coach Mac turned this program around by recruiting Sal, Alfred, Hagen, Bienemy, Flannigan, etc. the list can go on and on. No coaching staff in Colorado since Barnett has shown an ability to recruit at a level that will turn the program around – current staff included.

      1. Sal Aunese was recruited in 1985 for the 1986 season (because of qualification issues, he didn’t play until 1987). He was the first big recruit by the Coach Mac regime and that was coming off a 1-10 record in ’84. Despite being heavily recruited by Nebraska, Coach Mac and Les Miles said thats our guy and made it a point to bring him to Boulder. As a Southern California guy, Aunese’s recruitment opened up the flood gates to everyone else who came in after him from SoCal. Still most of them came in for the ’87 season, 2 years before they played for their first national championship.

        We’ve heard it repeatedly, but what about just starting in-state. We didn’t even get on the radar of a single McCaffrey. Max is playing great as a wide out at Duke; We all know what Christian is doing at Stanford; And Dylan has all of the makings of a standout QB who is leaving town as well. At the moment, Shane Callahan may be our best offensive lineman (I realize that’s not saying much) and he left town for Nebraska before deciding being in Colorado was best for him. Looking at the current recruits in the state of Colorado, Carlo Kemp is a standout DE who recently announced he was LEAVING BOULDER (he goes to Fairview HS) to play at Michigan. The next five highest rated players in the state have committed to UCLA, Nebraska, Nebraska, Virginia, and CSU.

        There has to be a commitment to recruiting culture changing players like Mac did 30 years ago.

        1. Now David,

          The McCaffery’? Parents went to Stanford.. They will all be going there.

          Callahan? He went to Auburn not Nebraska. Dang get your facts right.

          And the 2016 classs.

          After Kemp (Yup he was a catch but he always wanted to go out of state. Like Callahan)
          they are committed to (According to Rivals)
          UCLA..He is a QB. Did not even get a sniff from CU let alone an offer
          Nebraska This lb is a player and the Buffs wanted him. But his family has N ties
          Montana Oline. No offer. He can get into Montana
          Nebraska TE. Good player too bad but he has his reasons about nebraska. Private.
          Wyoming. No offer perfect fit.

          Pretty weak in overall talent in CO.

          Go Buffs

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