Lingering Doubts about the 2016 Buffs

It’s been a good off-season for the University of Colorado football program.

The Buffs hit the ground running in January with the hiring of a Texas Tech assistant coach (and former Buff) Darrin Chiaverini, and that hire has been paying dividends ever since. Chiaverini brought in some quality late additions to the CU Recruiting Class of 2016, and has been a huge reason the Recruiting Class of 2017 is in the top 30 in the nation.

With Darrin Chiaverini on offense and Jim Leavitt on defense leading the charge in both recruiting and cheerleading, the Buff Nation has started to see the world through black-and-gold colored glasses once again.

And it’s not only the Buff faithful who see something more from out of the 2016 Buffs.

Many preseason prognoticators have CU finishing with a 5-7 record this fall, with some giving the Buffs a shot at a .500 record and a bowl game. That may not seem like much, but when you break down the schedule, it really is.

For Colorado to get to a 5-7 overall record (assuming a 2-1 non-conference record), the Buffs need to finish 3-6 in Pac-12 play.

Not that tough a chore? Well, it is when you consider CU that in five seasons in the Pac-12, the Buffs have a grand total of five Pac-12 victories. Colorado is 5-40 in Pac-12 play (let that note sink in for a moment … CU would need to go undefeated in Pac-12 games – for four straight years – just to get above .500 in their stint as a Pac-12 conference member).

Only once have the Buffs managed even two Pac-12 conference wins in a season … and that was five years ago.

So yes, a 3-6 record in Pac-12 play would actually be a pretty big deal.

Still, the fever is catching. I was watching an ESPN preview this week, and the commentators were discussing which Power-Five conference teams were candidates to make the College Football Playoffs.

When they got to the Pac-12 and Colorado … no, they didn’t pick the Buffs to be a candidate for the playoffs, but the comments were positive. Host Matt Schick (a CU alumnus) called CU “a team on the rise”. Tom Luginbill, ESPN’s “national recruiting director”, said CU would be a “top 20 team in two or three years”. Even Mike Bellotti, the former Oregon coach, conceded that CU was “one of the most experienced teams in the nation”.

Heady stuff for a program which has been nothing short of woeful for a decade.

Throw in the fact that Colorado State, 7-6 last season, is slated for a mediocre year in a less than auspicious Mountain West Conference … and there is every reason to believe that the Buffs, an eight-point favorite over the Rams, will open the season with a convincing victory.

And yet, I remain very nervous.

Let me count the ways …

Six consecutive RMS games between 1998-2003 with the ranked team losing to the unranked team

Want a reason to be nervous about Colorado being an eight-point favorite over Colorado State on Friday night?

Because being the favorite can mean very little when it comes to rivalry games.

Look no further than the six games CU and CSU played between 1998 and 2003. In each of those games, one of the teams came into the contest ranked in the Associated Press top 25 – three times CU played CSU as a ranked team with the Rams being unranked; three times it was the Rams who came into the contest ranked, facing an unranked Buff team.

The Buffs won three of those six games; the Rams won three of those six games. In each contest, it was the unranked team which won the game.

See for yourself:

1998 – CSU came into the game ranked No. 15 … Result: Colorado 42, CSU 14

1999 – CU came into the game ranked No. 14 … Result: CSU 41, Colorado 14

2000 – CU came into the game ranked No. 23 … Result: CSU 28, Colorado 24

2001 – CSU came into the game ranked No. 24 … Result: Colorado 41, CSU 14

2002 – CU came into the game ranked No. 7 … Result: CSU 19, Colorado 14

2003 – CSU came into the game ranked No. 23 … Result: Colorado 42, CSU 35

The results of these games brings to mind the Bill McCartney quote: “Morale is to the physical as four is to one. Your attitude is four times as important as your actual physical ability”.

Translation for this weekend: Even though Colorado has a distinct advantage in terms of personnel, if the Rams want it more (and there have certainly been games in the recent past when this was a deciding factor) … it could be another frustrating evening for the Buff Nation.


Record against CSU when the Rams are the opener

Overall, the Buffs have a healthy 20-8 record against the Rams in games played since the series resumed in 1983 (that’s a .714 winning percentage, not far off from the .735 winning percentage the Buffs hold in all games in the series … 63-22-2).

In the post-1983 era, however, when the game has been the first game of the season for both teams, CU’s advantage is only 11-7 (.611). Contrast that record to games which were not the first game of the season. In those games, including last season’s 27-24 overtime victory, CU is 9-1 (.900) against Colorado State.

How is it that the Rams have been able to beat the Buffs seven times in the season opener, but only once when it is not?

This is not rocket science, folks.

Give Colorado an entire month of practices to prepare for USC … and I’m here to tell you that the Buffs will give the Trojans a more competitive game.

Colorado State gears its off-season towards winning this one game. The Rams have been game-planning for this game for weeks, and will pull out all the stops (witness the refusal by head coach Mike Bobo to name a starting quarterback) to try and gain an advantage.

Add to that the excitement of a neutral site game (one week out from the game, CU had sold 28,000 tickets; CSU 25,000) … and anything can happen.

The history of the series backs this up.


Colorado v. Hawai’i (2015) … California v. Hawai’i (2016)

I know we are comparing apples and oranges here, but until the Buffs start coming out of the gate each and every season playing like their hair is on fire, the stench from the 2015 opener against Hawai’i will linger.

Not to linger on the bad memory for too long, but recall that just twelve short months ago, there was such hope for the 2015 campaign … which lasted four plays into the season.

The Buffs went three-and-out in their first series on the islands, and then the Warriors put an all-out rush on a true freshman punter and blocked the punt (the all-out rush shouldn’t have been a surprise due to it being Alex Kinney’s first game … mental note to CU coaches: You do know that you have a red-shirt freshman long snapper playing his first game this Friday? Just sayin’).

The blocked punt led to a quick touchdown for Hawai’i, and … well, you know the rest.

Compare the opener played Friday night in Australia. Cal scored 1:04 into the game against Hawai’i, took a 34-14 lead into halftime, and never looked back in coasting to a 51-31 victory.

Adding insult to injury, of course, was the fact that Davis Webb, a CU commit from February to May last spring, threw for four touchdowns in leading the Bears to an easy victory.

Is Hawai’i an awful team? Yes. The Rainbow Warriors finished last season with a 3-10 record, including an 0-8 record in the weak Mountain West Conference.

But one of those three wins came against Colorado. The other two Hawai’i victories in 2015? Against UC-Davis and Louisiana-Monroe.

Yuck. Yuck. And Yuck.


It’s easy to be a “glass half full” fan during the off-season.

After all, the Buffs haven’t lost a game since last November. Recruiting is on the upswing. The Champions Center has opened to rave reviews. It is no longer considered outlandish to pick CU to defeat conference foes like Oregon State, Utah, and the Arizona schools.

But September 2nd is when the rubber meets the road. This opener against CSU will show the Buff Nation – and the rest of the Pac-12 – whether Colorado is on its way back, or whether the Buffs and their fans are in for another season of near-misses and almosts.

The depth chart for the Colorado State game lists 11 seniors and ten juniors as starters or co-starters. Only two sophomores (linebacker Rick Gamboa and cornerback Isaiah Oliver) and one red-shirt freshman (right guard Tim Lynott Jr.) will be on the field to open the 2016 Rocky Mountain Showdown.

The experience is there. The talent is there.

It’s time for the Buffs to remove any lingering doubts about whether they are on their way back.



23 Replies to “Lingering Doubts”

  1. well lets see they gave Hawk way to many years and he never showed any changes like Mac has ,just look at the class of recruits who are coming next year . He really needs more time at least 3 years just because of the teams the Buffs have this year. I like what he is doing and I would give him more then 1 year.

  2. Coach MM’s task in reviving a Div.I FBS team was more of a daunting task than many think or give him credit for. To expect them to get to a bowl game in four years is not to understand the complexity of pulling a team out of the abyss.

    Out of 128 FBS teams, the Buffs were ranked below the top 100 in almost every category one can imagine. He inherited a program that suffered from years of dismal recruiting and had extremely poor talent. The task he faced would be similar to trying to prepare a “Demolition Car” for the Daytona 500.

    To throw MM under the bus if the Buffs don’t get 6 W’s – and be bowl eligible – would be a faux pas of ginormous magnitude.

    Albeit the Buffs have not had a winning season, anyone with 20/20 intelligence and more than 4 brain cells should have been able to observe the continued improvement in the program the past 3 years. As long as there continues to be improvement – also in W’s – I think RG will continue to give MM the opportunity to resurrect our Buffs.

    We need to remember, that MM is not trying to get a top 40 program into the top 10. He has been given the task of resuscitating a program out of ashes….. LITERALLY.

    Go Buffs.

    1. Ashes? Hogwash!

      Continued Improvement? Yup!

      Wins? Not so much.

      So how many years does he get?

      This year get to the bowl or be gone.

      He has everything he asked for and said he didn’t have the last 3 years.

      New facilities
      Lots of juniors and seniors
      Lots of experience
      Much better talent
      Bigger stronger players
      Improved coaching staff

      Sorry but this is the year. Gotta make it happen.

      Just how it is.

      Go Buffs.

      1. Yup…. ashes VK and I think we both know it, however your definition of a program in the ashes may differ from mine. The talent he inherited was talent other colleges didn’t want – with a few exceptions – and the program was in the bottom of the FBS below 110 out of 128. In my book, that’s in the ashes.

        Having said that, MM needs to improve the W’s also. With at least five W’s, I say he stays if he doesn’t lose any games the Buffs are expected to win, hands down. With four maybe not…

        1. Really?

          You mean like
          Irwin (both of em)
          Chidera Uzo-Diribe

          And when you look at the 2013 class half where the previous coaches recruits and they are still here. And playing.

          Most forget the details and go with the general “Mis-rememberances”

          It wasn’t the kids. It was and still is the coaches.

          Just how it is

  3. the doubts the nerves the expectations all add up to “if you can’t get up for this game there isn’t a game that we are playing this year that we will get up for”. we have been reading and hearing all spring and summer the team is more experienced. The team is tired of losing. The team wants to end the year with a Bowl game. Well you know what? get out there Friday night and be fired up. Take the game to The Rams and don’t let off the throttle until the last second ticks off the scoreboard.


  4. HCMM will not be fired IF he only wins 5 games. It has been a slow progress but – look at where he started from – one of the worst programs in D1 football – he made the tough coaching changes and will continue to improve himself.

    1. Hopefully. But not guaranteed. He gets five wins or even stays if five wins.

      This is year 4 He has it all. He needs to get it done.

    2. Disagree. If HCMM wins the following games, he’ll save his job:


      3 Pac-12 wins will show he’s on the right track.

      1. Maybe. It would be one more than his total pac 12 wins for the last 3 years.

        But he has said he has all the things he has missing for the last 3 years so maybe he could?

        But, my prediction is that the Mighty Buffs go 7 and 5. Why? Because they have what the need to get there. Win 5 games? Bad deal

        Go Buffs

  5. Hello all: Stuart, your stats on slow starts are very solid and makes a good argument for “lingering doubt”. There should however be a note regrading last years game, in addition to Robs comment on Hawaii’s home field advantage and their games against UW and USC, didn’t CU arrived late to the islands? If I’m remembering correctly CU was delayed in getting there and was jet lagged when the game started; Cal had a week down under to get ready for the game.

    1. Yes, there was a hurricane (or tropical storm – I don’t know if it got to hurricane status) that went through during the week.

  6. Hey All – Sorry to ask this here but does anyone know how to watch the games this year from outside the USA (Europe)? Any help you can provide would be much appreciated.

    Thank you!

    1. Yo Zac,

      Getting to watch the games from outside of the country can be an adventure. If you’re lucky, you can watch the game online or have satellite TV with American channels available.

      Another great way, if you have a good internet connection, is to Skype with someone back home. I lived in the Netherlands for several years and I would use Skype with my son back home in Boulder. He would angle his laptop to focus completely on the TV, and I would watch from there in Holland. In some ways, it’s kind of fun because you can hear the game AND the folks watching the game and share in their excitement when good things happen, or commiserate when a loss was obvious. My last season there was 2012, so losses happened a lot, but at least I could watch the games and visit with my son at the same time.

      Hope it works out for you. Go Buffs!


  7. Comparing the CU loss at Hawaii last year to a neutral site game in Australia is not a fair comparison at all. If Cal took their same game to the big island you can rest assured the score would have not been a 20 point margin.
    Cal seems good to go but even with Davis Webb they are not exactly World Beaters. If that game was played in a hostile environment which it was not even close to, Cal escapes with a W.

    1. Rob, I think you missed the point. CU has notoriously started slow. Cal came out and took care of business. Maybe they only win by 14-17 if played in Hawaii. That is what Buffs have to do vs the lambs. Take care of business from the opening kickoff to final gun.

  8. good to see some “truth police” aka objective reporting…….I have always thought every HC since I have lived in Boulder always was a great example for all the young men they mentor.Same with Mac-2.Stand up guy.I hear he works like “his hair is on fire”…but at 2 plus million I’d probably be willing to do something very illegal ………so he has been given the keys to a kingdom.Will he make it his Kingdom??? I’m 60-40 no.Seeing who he has been able to hire in DC and Chev,both of them making tremendous strides in recruiting alone is fabulous.Remembering he took the job site unseen,brought with him the core of his assistants that worked so well in San Jose now can be seen as an incredibly unsophisticated and inexperienced man who took way to long to see the ineffectiveness of his own coaching “crew”.I don’t see myself anywhere near the level to “break down” the effectiveness of any coach on the field.But I can count stars and read lists of the collages that we competed against until this year.The young men that suited up the last 4 years had no chance…almost all belonged at SJS.It will be very interesting to see how Rick George reacts to this season.Clearly if they win 7 or 8 little will be said.5 or less will make the dismissal certain.But in the recesses of my damaged little brain I bet a dollar it will be shown (hopefully within 2 years) that Mac 2 is not where the buffs need to be IF they are truly committed from the top down (The President down!) to compete at the highest level…at least on par with the UCLA’s ASU’s Washington’s and Utahs.The only card they may have to play is to show the next coach (Chev??) he will have the backing of the institution.Then it could get real interesting as we watch experienced and gifted HC actually compete to get the job………bank on it..

  9. Yo Stuart,

    I’m right with you on this. Until the Buffs enter a season opener (and EVERY game for that matter) with a sense of urgency, all bets are off with a team that has been a decade in the dog house. They cannot continue to come out like the champ who takes a few rounds off before unleashing their fury. They need to come out looking for knockouts on both offense and defense.

    I expect great things from the D under Leavitt and Tumpkin. Let’s not forget that those guys did not even join the Buffs until right before spring practices last year. Even so, learning a whole new system, the Buff D improved mightily.

    Let’s hope that having Darrin Chiaverini on the sidelines pumping up the guys will have the desired effect. And let’s equally hope that DC will put an end to the horrible and predictable play-calling of the past. I’m hoping that the two offensive coordinators together can be bring the scoring up a couple touchdowns a game.

    It’s not enough to have a plan. As Mike Tyson used to say, “everybody has a plan until they get hit in the mouth.” The Buffs need to be able to take a hit and come back swinging. And they need to learn to put lesser teams away convincingly.

    It’s game week, and I have my game face on already. Let’s hope the Buffs are ready to go as well. Go Buffs!


  10. Appropriate heading, “Lingering Doubts.”

    Perhaps “Doubting Lingering” may be also… but we are in hopes that the moniker hung on our CO OC are vanquished this season. Wishing he and our Buffs the absolute best Friday night.

    Go Buffs.

  11. All good thoughts, Stuart. Regarding Hawaii loss last year, the odd thing wasn’t that blocked punt (altho it shouldn’t have happened, as you pointed out). The odd thing was that it seemed to take us 3 quarters of football to shake it off and start actually playing solid ball. Also, that final drive of the game (that would have produced a Win) had… so… little… urgency. So strange. I’m still shaking my head about it and am nervous about this CSU game for all the reasons you listed above.

    I will add this: I do believe that Coach MacIntyre’s focus and fire last season was impacted greatly (if unknowingly) by the fact that George MacIntyre’s health was spiraling during the season. In fact, I think Coach MacIntyre should dedicate THIS season to his late father.

    Anyway, here’s to the Buffs going in with the fire and focus that will bring a really good season to fruition. It appears they have the ability if they are able to find the want/belief (“four is to one” as you have above).

    Go Buffs!

  12. I watched the Fox College Sports kickoff show this morning and they did not even mention us in their Pac-12 segment (not even Joel Klatt). At least ESPN had some positive things to say… GO BUFFS!

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