Arguing With … Myself

or … Colorado Football – 2015: Drinking the “Kool-Aid”… or drinking the “Cool-Aid”

“I expect us to win this year”, said Colorado head coach Mike MacIntyre at the Pac-12 Media Days. “We’re going to win a lot of those close games this year … We expect to win every game”.

Pretty bold talk for a coach who last season led his team to its first winless season in conference play … since World War I.

Well, what would you expect the Buff head coach to say at a preseason media event: “Well, we were out-scored by an average of three touchdowns (44.2-20.3) in Pac-12 games in my first season, and we brought that down to two touchdowns (43.0-29.2) in Pac-12 games last season … so this year we’re hoping to bring that average deficit down to just one touchdown this year!”?

Of course not.

We expect coach-speak to be overly optimistic, but we see through it.

And yet, this past off-season, despite CU’s 2-10 record in 2014, there appears to be legitimate reason for optimism going forward.

I have endured some serious internal wrangling this off-season. For every argument I can make that the Buffs will be much improved in 2015, I have a counter-argument that off-sets that optimism. And yet, for every conclusion drawn that the Buffs are doomed to another season of despair, I can find a ray of hope.

So, as Fall Camp opens, let’s do a bit of point/counter-point, listing reasons to drink the CU Kool-Aid this August, along with some reasons to drink the “Cool”-Aid.

We’ll start with the “Reasons for Optimism”, with the “Reasons for Pessimism” being posted this weekend.

Reasons to Drink the Colorado “Kool-Aid” …

1. This is the third year at CU for Coach MacIntyre, and his third season at San Jose State worked out well

Buff fans are very familiar with the narrative … In 2010, Mike MacIntyre took over a moribund program at San Jose State, one which had gone 2-10 in 2009 and was contemplating dropping football. In his first season, MacIntyre’s Spartans struggled to a 1-12 record, rebounding with a 5-7 record in 2011 before posting a 10-2 record in 2012.

Easy as 1,2,3.

Coach MacIntyre sees the growth in Boulder as his third season approaches at CU. “I expect us to win this year. I really do,” said MacIntyre. “I think we’re right there, and definitely could have won a few last year and didn’t do it. I feel like our team has matured to that spot. Being a junior sophomore team, they’ve been there. The next year they’ll probably have the biggest junior-senior class they’ve had, and one of the biggest in the history of the school.

“That’s how you develop a program. You have to build it and develop it. We’ll be able to red-shirt more kids the next year, and we just keep the cycle going to develop. So I see us being able to win a lot of the close games this year, and do better the next year”.

Counter-point … This ain’t the WAC/Mountain West

The 2012 San Jose State Spartans, after falling to Utah State to drop to 4-2 on the year, ran off six straight wins to close out the season. The murderer’s row of opponents which Mike MacIntyre’s team took down: Texas-San Antonio; Texas State: Idaho; New Mexico State; BYU; Louisiana Tech and Bowling Green (in the Military Bowl, without Mac on the sidelines).

True enough, Mike MacIntyre didn’t have the personnel nor the resources at San Jose State that he has at Colorado, but the discrepancy in opponents cannot be discounted.

The mountain the Buffs must climb is much steeper than the one the Spartans had to overcome.

2. Jim Leavitt will make a huge difference for the Colorado defense

Another back-story familiar to Buff fans.

Leavitt was on the staff of Bill Snyder’s Kansas State Wildcats in the early 1990’s, raising up the (numbers bear this out) worst program in Division 1 football. Leavitt then took his defensive prowess to South Florida, starting up a team from scratch, taking a program from concept to the FCS to the FBS in four years.

The Colorado players have given Leavitt nothing but high marks, and are enthusiastically endorsing their new defensive coordinator. Leavitt has an affability and enthusiasm which is hard to deny (if you are not following him on Twitter – @CoachJimLeavitt – you should be. His most recent tweet: “We have so much to be thankful for! When adversity comes we Must deliver. You can’t appreciate the ups unless you have the downs. Go Buffs!”).

Leavitt has taken on greater challenges than Colorado, and has been successful at those stops. As a result, Buff fans argue, there is no reason we shouldn’t expect similar results from the Buff defense going forward.

Counter-point … Change doesn’t come overnight

No question Leavitt has the bona fides, and his track record speaks directly to CU’s most pressing need – overcoming a decade of adversity, and getting players to buy in to believing that they can win.

But odds are that it will take several years, not several months, to turn this ship around.

3. The 2015 non-conference schedule is tailor-made for success

By Athlon’s reckoning, Colorado will be taking on the No. 114 team in the nation in the 2015 opener (Hawai’i), before facing the No. 92 team (Massachusetts) and the No. 71 team (Colorado State). Colorado will then finish off the non-conference slate against an FCS team (Nicholls) which went 0-12 last year.

As Lindy’s sees it, the Buffs will be facing the No. 120 team, the No. 115 team, and the No. 75 team … before taking on the mighty Nicholls Colonels.

There are many other preseason prognosticators which have posted similar forecasts, but you get the idea.

Translation: This fall represents a golden opportunity for Colorado to go undefeated in non-conference play for the first time since 2004.

Colorado opens with the two teams it defeated last season, Hawai’i and UMass, before getting to play Colorado State on a date other than the season opener (CU has lost only once to the Rams since the series resumed in 1983 in a game which was not the season opener, and that was in 2006, the debacle first season of the Dan Hawkins era). There are no travel issues with the Hawai’i game, as the season starts on a Thursday night, giving the team time to return to Boulder with plenty of time to prepare for its home opener.

A 4-0 start to the season will give the program much needed momentum heading into the Pac-12 campaign.

Counter-point … You’ve watched this team play before, haven’t you?

Let your mind drift back to the 2011 season opener.

Colorado was traveling to Hawai’i in Jon Embree’s debut as the Buffs’ head coach. There was nothing but enthusiasm for the 2011 season, and the Hawai’i game was to be the first “brick” game of the Embree era.

The result? An ugly 34-17 loss to the Warriors.

If you don’t want to go back that far, just go back to last season. Hawai’i finished the 2014 season with a defense ranked 82nd in the nation. Yet that defense shut out the Colorado offense in the second half – in a game played in Boulder – during last season’s 21-12 CU victory.

And UMass? The Minutemen who can’t even keep their membership in the Mid-American Conference? While it’s easy to recall that Colorado won, 41-38, in a shootout, it may have slipped the minds of some Buff fans that Colorado actually trailed in that game – by 11 points – in the third quarter.

And don’t get me started on the Rams. Everyone knows that each season the Colorado game represents the Super Bowl for Colorado State, and that, regardless of records, the Rams will sell out to try and defeat – and embarrass – Big Brother in Denver. Last season was no different, with the Rams posting 266 yards rushing in humbling the Buffs, 31-17.

On paper, Colorado has the ability to handle all four of its non-conference opponents.

But, as they say, the game isn’t played on paper.


Coming SaturdayArguing with Myself (Part Two) … We’ll take some arguments against CU having a successful season, and see if the counterpoint arguments will make you feel better about CU’s chances at success in the 2015 season.

11 Replies to “Arguing With … Myself”

  1. The stars are aligned for this year:
    1) Players have bought in to Mac’s system and understand it,
    2) Sefo is in his 3rd year and many of the bonehead interceptions and mistakes of last year should be behind him,
    3) Seasoned talent and a Defensive Coordinator that gets it and is a huge motivator
    4) Last year they played much better but didn’t get the wins – This year they break the door down as a team.
    5) Repeated patterns – Whether the late 80’s or the current team, the pattern of wins and momentum is the same.
    Too many trends, talent and coaching point to a positive improvement – finally!

  2. My concern is losing Coach Mac. Everyone with any sense is calling the PAC-12 South the toughest division in college football. Wins are going to be extremely hard to come by but that doesn’t mean we are not getting better. I am excited about the season and cannot wait to cheer on our Buffs. I want a Bowl game this year. Anyone familiar with “The Secret”, I am putting out Bowl Game to the universe and we will see what the universe says back. If we go 4 and 0 in non-conference, 3 wins in the remaining 9 will show that we have turned the corner. Have to be mentally tough on the road since those are our best chance at those wins.

  3. For HWSRN last 3 seasons there was no cool aid at all. As long as he was the coach there wasn’t enough sugar in Cuba. When Embry arrived I knew it was a little early to be opening the little paper packet. Now that Mac2 has arrived I see the little things, the “culture” (hate that word but dont have a better one) is way improved. Having played several sports myself, including football, I have seen attitude, hustle and intelligence overcome superior physical talent many times…..and that is exactly what I see being instilled by Leavitt on the defense. So I am chugging by the gallon. I am fully expecting a bowl game this year

  4. The scores maybe be closer but the wins may not happen. On the other hand, we are due for some upsets, and every year football teams pull upsets so why not us?
    Our players are bigger, faster, and stronger than they were. Being undersized for years matters more in football than basketball. we may now have a better team than we know. Just have to wait and see.

  5. For the record, I did not drink the the Kool Aid. I remember the disturbance in the force when Hawkins was introduced and I remember getting drunk on Kool Aid during Embry ‘ s first camp but I knew deep down inside how bad the Buffs were. For the past ten years or at least until the end of 2012 I couldn’t help but notice how slow these players were and how small.
    I saw the improvement begin in 2013. I was at every close game last year and not only did I see a team turning the corner but was almost tossed out by security twice for screaming at the ref who was blatantly paid off. CU would never have gone to overtime against UCLA if two very controversial calls had not sent that game to OT. Same with the OSU game. How about the review of Terrell Smiths interception that was overturned by the official at the end of the Utah game? Something dirty is going on with PAC 12 officiating that obviously they are pretending to fix.
    No, this year is going to be the year the Buffs turn the corner. Next year will be the rise to the middle of the PAC but this year barring the Buffs don’t put themselves in the position of having to beat the ref will be exactly as Neil put it. They will vastly improve but anybody outside the bandwagon probably won’t see it.

    Go Buffs!

  6. Stuart, as another veteran of the early 80’s, we are stuck with memories of that miserable time, recognize the unfortunate similarities, and hope that this will ultimately turn out exactly the same way. The similarities with the pathetic results of those teams (and yes I too was in the stands for 82-42 and noticed the designated chaser), give us hope that Mac II will bring the perennial winning seasons and bowl teams back.

    Drink the Kool-Aid until it doesn’t taste good anymore, it’s what we do.

    BTW, isn’t it time we designate a moniker for those of us who had season tickets for the 1980-1985 seasons? Any ideas?

    1. It’s good to see a salted buff warrior like yourself here. I was there during the Fairbanks years and will never forget 84-42. The only reason I stayed until the bitter end was because I sold cokes for spending money in Jr High School.
      Better times are coming friend. The PAC 12 South is bigger, better and more competetive than the Big 8 during the 80’s and we are starting to show up.

  7. I agree Skyler. I’ll keep on cheering and go to all the home games, but we’ve had the hype over and over again year after year. 10 losses seems about right.

  8. Even if they start 4 and 0 it’s going to be tough to win more than 1 or 2 games in the PAC 12. But I’m sure they’ll be better, GO BUFFS!

  9. Skyler, I couldn’t disagree more!

    This team was about five plays and 12 points from winning seven games last year. So competitiveness/talent is not an issue. They were out of only two games early: UO and U$C. Even then they never quit in either game; HCMM’s teams have never shown any “quit”.

    And, they’ve now shored up their biggest weakness: that tentative, dull DC, who played “bend not break, read, then react” defensive football and was not in any sense a high energy guy, like the new guy, Leavitt. It will not take years for Leavitt’s attitude, spirit and work ethic to embed on this team, both defensively and offensively. (A few times after a hard working “D” kicks the “O” around, then there will be serious attitudes developed on both sides of the ball.

  10. I’d love to see them get it together and win 5, 6, or 7 games this year, but I just can’t shake the feeling that they will lose 10+ games again. But I will always be cheering. It can’t last forever, but after 10 years of mostly losing it’s really frustrating having Kool-aid hopes dashed every year. Go Buffs.

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