Time to Get a Little Greedy

 

The fan base was getting irritated:

— “Sacko Lefo is having his ups and downs. Sacks killing us – AZ D-Line getting past our O-Line”;

— “They are bashing us with a wide receiver playing running back”;

— “They are gonna bring the house on Sefo. If the coaches can’t figure out this out then I give up.
Teams have kind of figured this out”;

— “Defense sucks so far. WTF”

… and that was as Colorado was building a 28-10 halftime lead on Arizona.

Such is the life of a division-leading team.

Colorado won its eighth game of the season in defeating Arizona on the road, 49-24. The eight wins are the most since 2004, the same year the Buffs last won two straight conference games on the road.

And yet the Colorado fan base is – in some respects justifiably – concerned about the state of the Buffs.

The Buffs haven’t played as well the last month as they did earlier in the season, and yet have strung together four consecutive wins for the first time since 2002.

It hasn’t always been pretty, but the Buffs are 8-2, 6-1, and, with two games remaining, stand alone atop the Pac-12 South standings …

… And I’m trying to soak up every minute of it.

My greatest fear in August was that #TheRise wouldn’t materialize this year. The off-season momentum … from the hiring of Darrin Chiaverini, to the multiple last minute quality additions to the 2016 Recruiting Class, to the formal opening of the Champions Center, to the positive of spring practices (the Davis Webb saga notwithstanding), to the remarkable number of quality recruits committing early for the Recruiting Class of 2017 … would all be lost if the Buffs played mediocre football come September.

If the Buffs had posted a lackluster record this fall … leading to the firing of the coaching staff … leading in turn to defections from the Recruiting Class … would keep the Buffs and their fans playing the role of the Pac-12’s Sisyphus. The Buff Nation would once again be left to fester in the squalor of the Pac-12 basement, while fans of other schools openly questioned/mocked CU’s worthiness as a member of the Pac-12.

A 6-6 campaign, with a bowl bid and positive momentum for the 2017 Recruiting Class, was all that I asked from the 2016 Buffs.

Instead, we have a team with an 8-2 record, and a legitimate shot at a Pac-12 championship.

Before we forget, let’s revel for a moment in the decade-long wait to post these accomplishments:

— Bowl-eligible for the first time since 2007;

— First winning season since 2005;

— First time ranked in the national polls since 2005 … and first-ever appearance in the College Football Playoff rankings.

How the Buffs have gotten to their present state is equally remarkable. The win over Colorado State was expected, but the 44-7 rout was a delicious surprise. The 2-1 non-conference record – a win over Idaho State; a loss to No. 4 Michigan – was also anticipated, though the Buffs did play better than expected in the Big House.

Then, Pac-12 play hit, and the Buffs, with a 5-40 all-time record in Pac-12 play, have gone on a stretch which no one outside the CU locker room anticipated:

— First win over Oregon in Pac-12 play (and first win over the Ducks since 1998);

— A 47-6 rout of Oregon State, giving CU their first back-to-back conference victories as a member of the Pac-12, and its first back-to-back wins over the same opponent; 

— First win over Arizona State in Pac-12 play (and first win over the Sun Devils … ever);

— First win over Stanford in Pac-12 play (and first win over the Cardinal since 1990);

— First win over UCLA in Pac-12 play (and first win over the Bruins since 2002)

All those who predicted that the Buffs – which had an 0-18 cumulative record in Pac-12 play against Oregon, Arizona State, Stanford and UCLA – would go 4-0 against those teams this fall, please stand up and be counted.

Yeah, me neither.

Still, while the Buffs control their own destiny in the Pac-12 South, there is cause for concern.

The next big hurdle?

A win over a ranked team.

Colorado is 0-12 under Mike MacIntyre in games against ranked opponents, and, if you include his stint at San Jose State, MacIntyre is 0-19 all-time against ranked foes.

This just in … the next two Buff opponents will be ranked.

First up will be Washington State, the lone remaining undefeated team in Pac-12 play. With Washington’s loss to USC Saturday night, the Cougars are alone atop the Pac-12 North standings, with a 8-2, 7-0 record. Ranked at No. 23 coming into the weekend, Washington State will move up the rankings after demolishing Cal, 56-21.

If the Buffs can find their way past the Cougars, a matchup against No. 13 Utah looms. The Utes dispatched Arizona State, 49-26, and may find themselves in the top ten when the new rankings are released.

Plenty of cause for consternation.

But there is also plenty of reason to believe that the Buffs are on the verge of posting the long-sought “signature win” under Mike MacIntyre.

Colorado is 8-2, and has a good chance of cracking the top ten in the next College Football Playoff rankings. The truth is, however, is that the Buffs haven’t posted a win over a team with a pulse. Of the eight teams the Buffs have beaten, only Stanford, now at 7-3, has a winning record.

The Buffs’ two losses – to Michigan and USC, both on the road – qualify as “quality losses”, but until Colorado defeats a team in the upper echelon of the 2016 college football hierarchy, there will be talk of CU’s success coming in a “down year” for the Pac-12.

The Washington State game presents just such an opportunity. While the Cougars are hot right now – eight straight wins – they also come to Boulder with less on the line.

A season-opening loss to Eastern Washington from the Big Sky conference ended Washington State’s playoff aspirations before Labor Day. And yet, with only Washington to contend with for the Pac-12 North title, the Cougars can afford to lose to the Buffs and still claim the Pac-12 North title with a win over the Huskies at home over Thanksgiving weekend.

Colorado, meanwhile, could actually be eliminated from the Pac-12 South race with a loss to the Cougars.

The Buffs lead the Pac-12 South division, but the lead is precarious. The lead is just a half game – 6-1 to 6-2 – over USC. The Trojans have only one Pac-12 conference game remaining, next weekend in Pasadena against UCLA (USC finishes the season at home against Notre Dame). If USC wins that game, and Colorado loses to Washington State …

… the Buffs can’t win the Pac-12 South.

A win over UCLA would give USC a 7-2 Pac-12 record; a loss to Washington State would give Colorado a 6-2 conference record. Even with a win over Utah, the Buffs would finish 7-2, and lose the tie-breaker due to the 21-17 loss to the Trojans on October 8th (There would be no possibility of a three-way tie, as Utah would have, with the loss to Colorado, at least three conference losses).

By the same token, Colorado could wrap up the Pac-12 South next Saturday against the Cougars. If the Buffs win, and USC (to UCLA) and Utah (to Oregon) both lose, the 7-1 Buffs would clinch a trip to the Pac-12 championship game.

It seems to be asking too much, doesn’t it?

After all, if we jumped into our Delorean time machine and went back to mid-August, and asked our then selves if we would take an 8-4, 6-3 record, what are the chances we would have said, “no, thanks”?

Two chances … fat and slim.

The 2016 Buffs have broken down so many “not since” records this season, it’s hard to keep track.

Still, there are a few more “glass ceilings” left for the Buffs to break through:

— First win over a ranked team since 2009; 

— First appearance in a conference championship game since 2005;

— First conference championship since 2001.

The Buff offense was frustrated by its play in the 10-5 win over Stanford and the 20-10 win over UCLA.

The Buff defense was frustrated by its play in giving up over 400 yards of total offense and 24 points to Arizona.

Good.

They need to be frustrated. They need to want more.

An eight-win season is already a great season for a program emerging from what it has endured over the past decade.

A six-win conference season – for a team with five total conference wins in the previous five seasons – is in and of itself a great accomplishment.

But the Buffs – and their fans – want even more.

It’s time to get a little bit greedy …

—–

 

9 Replies to “Time to Get a Little Greedy”

  1. I believe some of the frustration voiced by our fan base is due to the fact that unfortunately we haven’t improved noticeably (maybe w/the exception of our punt return game) throughout the year. Our new, fast paced offense has evolved into a spread, power run game and Sefo (along w/our whole passing game) seems to have digressed from the beginning of the year.

    Folks are greedy, hence the angst I’m guessing. Great year and team, but I see a L this week with a bounce back win vs. Utah.

  2. Stuart,

    Go find the prediction I made.

    Buffs win Buffs win

    Get past WSU and The Buffs are gonna pound those Utes.

    The revenge tour 2016 continues.

    That frigging USC game is the last one dang nab it.

    No matter.

    Next prediction

    Buffs beat WSU……………..46 to 42
    Buffs Beat Utah…………….38 to 17
    Buffs beat Washington……….36 to 30(Huskies beat cougars to get beat by CU)

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U4WiyxXpyZc

  3. The year has been a great one and is an unqualified success. I can’t say that I wouldn’t be surprised if the Buffs lost one or both of the final games. I also won’t be surprised if they win one or both. They need to play scared to lose to make sure they are focused. They can’t go in thinking that they will simply walk past either team. I hope I see two slugfests with the Buffs on top of each game. I’m dreaming of watching them on January 2nd in the Rose Bowl but if they don’t make it there, I’ll be happy with wherever they end up going.

  4. Glad you mentioned Davis Web, Stuart.
    I doubt if he is upset much over Cal’s lack of success. He was always in it for himself. His final decision to attend Cal was because of the system.
    What may trouble him more is the reality in my view that he is the 5th best QB in the conference if you look at his value to the team.
    I see Falk, Browning, Sam Darnold and Sefo as more important to their teams. Falk and Browning are his equal as passers and Darnold and Sefo are more complete players when you consider their running ability, leadership and toughness.
    Webb may get drafted and Sefo may not but ironically right now in the world of college football Webb is the prisoner of his system which defines the entire Cal team.

    1. I think that Webb’s turning down CU has really worked out just fine for the Buffs. His not being here has also allowed maybe a little earlier game time development for Montez as he is going to be the man next year. Hopefully this fine bunch of receivers all stay and the Oline continues to mature and become more consistent.

      The offense next year may have to carry the team for a while early until the defense gets settled in with some of the younger guys. You certainly nailed it about Webb always being in this last year for himself. That’s OK, and it doesn’t make any sense to look in the rear view mirror. With the possibility of a 10-2 year, a major bowl, realistically this year couldn’t have been any better.

  5. It was a 21-17 loss to the Trojans, Stuart. The Buffs scored 17. I think you got typing a little too fast. But your point is made.

    Happy for the win last night in Tucson! But, based on the concerns we saw in the game (particularly the 3 and outs on Offense!) I will admit I am unsure about this Washington State game. Cougars are playing great ball right now and are showing something they generally didn’t have under Leach: Offensive balance with the pass and RUN. And their Defense is certainly playing well.

    We looked sluggish in most aspects in the Arizona win, and I’m guessing some of that was travel, the late night start, and a practice schedule that was still out of sync due to the previous game being played on a Thursday night.

    If we get the Buffs at their best on Saturday, we will get the win. But if we get the Buffs on medium like they were last night in AZ, then it could go the wrong way.

    Here’s to a great week of practice for the team.

    Go Buffs!

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