Easy to Say in May – Schedule

The month of May is as close to an “off-season” as there is in college football. Spring practices are concluded, and the summer camps are still a month away. Other than sweating out spring grades for a handful of players, there is little for a football fan to do other than wait for the rush of preseason magazines.

There will be plenty of time for pessimism and concern as the September 1st opener against Colorado State approaches. For now, we’ll take a look at the Buffs through a pair of black-and-gold colored glasses …

… Previously posted … Easy to Say in May: OffenseEasy to Say in May: Defense

September 1st – v. Colorado State (Denver)

If you take just the first CSU game of last season (a 44-7 loss to Colorado) and the last CSU game of last season (a 61-50 loss to Idaho in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl), it would be easy to see another Buff rout in the making this Labor Day weekend. In between those two losses last fall, however, the Rams went 7-4, and the CSU fans believe that they can stay with the hated Buffs in third-to-last edition of the Rocky Mountain Showdown in Denver.

The CSU fans are delusional.

In order to have their new home stadium make its debut against a team not named Abilene Christian, the Rams gave up their one true advantage in playing Colorado … its opportunity to play the Buffs the first game of the season. Colorado State moved up its home game against Oregon State to August 26th, which means that all of fall camp – for a change – will not be a run up to the Rocky Mountain Showdown. The Rams will fall to the Beavers, and then fall to 0-2 after the Buffs get done with them at Mile High.

Colorado 40, Colorado State 17

CU … 1-0

September 9th – Texas State

The last time Colorado played a team nicknamed the Bobcats, it was the 2006 home opener against Montana State. Dan Hawkins made an inauspicious debut that afternoon, with the Buffs falling to the MSU Bobcats, 19-10.

The Texas State Bobcats will not be able to pull off a similar shocker.

Texas State went 2-10 in 2016 under first-year head coach Everett Withers. The Bobcats managed victories only over the other Bobcats in FBS, Ohio, and the Cardinals of Incarnate Word. That’s not a great resume.

Texas State will come into Boulder with a 1-0 record, having disposed of Houston Baptist (not to be confused with Waco Baptist, a/k/a Baylor), but will leave with a 1-1 record and a nice paycheck.

Colorado 55, Texas State 10

CU … 2-0

September 16th – Northern Colorado

Northern Colorado went 6-5 in 2016, including a 4-4 record in Big Sky Conference play. The boys from Greeley took their best shot at Colorado State last fall, and came away with a 47-21 loss.

The only real question about the Bears as they come into Boulder in mid-September will be … can UNC field a team of healthy players?

After taking on the College of Idaho in the 2017 opener, the Bears travel to Gainesville, Florida, to take on the 13th-ranked Gators. After succumbing to that rout, there will be little interest in taking on the Buffs.

The third consecutive rout gives Colorado its first ranking of the season. After lingering in the “others receiving votes” for most of September, the Buffs enter the polls at No. 23. Speculation is that the Associated Press writers put CU into the poll so as to have a matchup of nationally ranked teams, what with Washington coming to town the following weekend.

Colorado 45, Northern Colorado 7

CU … 3-0 … ranked 23rd

September 23rd – No. 5 Washington

Colorado lost three defensive backs to the NFL draft, and was dropped from the national rankings.

Washington lost three defensive backs to the NFL draft, and moved up in the polls.

The main differences? Washington kept its record-setting quarterback and defensive coordinator, while Colorado lost its record-setting quarterback and defensive coordinator.

The other main difference, of course, is that Washington has been on a consistent trajectory of success under Chris Petersen, while Colorado still has something to prove after one good season in the past decade.

The Washington game in 2017 proves to be a perfect opportunity for the Buffs. The new defense will have had three games to iron out the kinks with its new starters and new coordinator, while the offense, having toyed with mediocre-to-poor defenses in the first three games of the season, will have its chance to show that the 41-10 embarrassment in the Pac-12 title game was not a proper representation of how good the Buffs have become.

Washington will come into Boulder with a 3-0 record and shiny statistics. Routs of Rutgers (2-10 in 2016), Montana (6-5), and Fresno State (1-11) will court over-confidence.

The Buffs will be ready … and make a statement that 2016’s ten-win season was no fluke.

With the 31-21 victory, the Buffs make a significant jump in the polls.

CU … 4-0 (1-0) … ranked 14th

September 30th – at UCLA

The last time Colorado defeated a ranked team on the road, it came against UCLA. The Buffs defeated the 20th-ranked Bruins in 99-degree heat, 31-17 … back in 2002.

The Buffs won’t have to defeat a ranked UCLA team in 2017, however, as the annually over-rated Bruins will have already shown that 2017 will not be their year, either. UCLA will have already played games v. Texas A&M, Hawai’i, at Memphis and at Stanford before taking on Colorado. The Bruins will likely be 2-2 to open the season … assuming they can get past a decent Memphis team (8-5 in 2016) on the road.

The fear will be that the sky-high Buffs will not properly prepare for their first road trip of the season. Most of these Buffs, though, will remember the could-have-been should-have-been game against UCLA the last time the Buffs played in the Rose Bowl (a 35-31 loss) …

… and they will certainly remember the 20-10 win over the Bruins last fall in Boulder.

Colorado makes it two in a row over UCLA, 28-17.

CU … 5-0 (2-0) … ranked 12th

October 7th – Arizona 

In 2014, Arizona won the Pac-12 South.

Well, 2017 is not 2014.

Since going 10-4 in 2014, the Wildcats have gone 10-15, including a 3-9 meltdown last fall. Arizona ranked in the bottom four of the conference in every major defensive category, and it’s difficult to project much improvement this season. Colorado ran over Arizona in Tucson last fall, 49-24, loss No. 7 of an eight-game losing streak for the Wildcats.

This fall, Arizona will have taken on Northern Arizona, Houston and Utah – all at home – with a road trip to UTEP. The games against Northern Arizona and UTEP are likely victories, but the games against Houston and Utah are likely defeats.

Rich Rodriguez made it through only three years at Michigan. This is his sixth year at Arizona … and perhaps his last.

Colorado routs Arizona at home, 42-17, but does not make a move in the polls because, well, other teams rout the Wildcats, too.

CU … 6-0 (3-0) … ranked 12th

October 14th – at Oregon State

Oregon State in 2017 wants to be what Colorado was in 2016 – a team which rises from the ashes to compete for a title.

Oregon State didn’t finish last in the Pac-12 North last season (that distinction went to Oregon), but still little is expected of the Beavers in a division top-loaded with Stanford and the two Washington schools. The Beaver nation would love to shock the college football world with a ten-win season this fall.

While Gary Andersen has the Beavers pointed in the right direction, too many obstacles remain in their way.

After taking care of the CSU Rams in Ft. Collins, and then defeating Portland State in their home opener, the Beavers start the season 2-0, and feeling pretty good about themselves. The next four games, however – Minnesota, at Washington State, Washington, at USC – however, bring about at least three losses, perhaps four.

CU’s win over Oregon State on the road two years ago was huge for the Buff program, raising the Buffs from the worst team in the Pac-12 … to the second-worst.

It will be a tough game in Corvallis, but the Buffs will rise to the challenge, 30-17.

CU … 7-0 (4-0) … ranked 11th

October 21st – at No. 17 Washington State

Washington State has won 17 games in the past two seasons. With record-setting quarterback Luke Falk returning for his senior season, the Cougars are primed for another eight- or nine-win season.

When Colorado hits Palouse Valley in late October, the Cougars will be working on another run at the Pac-12 North title. Their schedule is back loaded, with only two games against teams with winning records – Boise State and USC – before CU comes to town.

Washington State will lose to the Trojans, and perhaps the Broncos, but will still be no worse than 5-2 when they play the Buffs (the Cougars will fall from grace with a Stanford, at Utah, at Washington finish, but we won’t know that yet on October 21st).

Colorado hasn’t played Washington State on the road since 2012, but that game was memorable a 35-34 win (the Buffs’ only win of the season, and Jon Embree’s last win).

Different circumstances; same result: No. 11 Colorado 35, No. 17 Washington State 34.

CU … 8-0 (5-0) … ranked 8th

October 28th – California 

After two weeks on the road, the Buffs return home for some home-cooking … and as close to a bye week the Buffs will get in the first 12 weeks of the 2017 season.

“We’re not here thinking we’re rebuilding,” said new Bear head coach Justin Wilcox. “We’re going out to win”.

That theory will have gone out the window by late October, when Cal should be no better than 2-6 (wins over Weber State and perhaps Arizona. The other games: at North Carolina; Ole Miss; USC; at Oregon; at Washington; Washington State).

The Buffs play before their second sell-out of the season (the first having come against Washington). It’s good to be back in the top ten … No. 8 Colorado 51, California 17.

CU … 9-0 (6-0) … ranked 7th

November 4th – at Arizona State

Before 2016, Colorado had never defeated Arizona State (0-7).

Before 2017, Colorado never got to play the Sun Devils in November.

Without ASU’s best home-field weapon – intolerable heat – the Sun Devils are no match for the Buffs. Head coach Todd Graham, 39-26 in his five years at Arizona State (but 11-14 the past two seasons) is another southwest Pac-12 coach fearful of losing his job.

After opening with New Mexico State, San Diego State (a possible loss) and a road game against Texas Tech (another possible loss), Arizona State opens Pac-12 play v. Oregon, at Stanford, Washington, at Utah, USC … before playing Colorado.

Not seeing many wins in that schedule.

By the time CU gets to town, the #DumpGraham crowd will be in full voice.

No. 7 Colorado 40, Arizona State 14.

CU … 10-0 (7-0) … ranked 5th

November 11th – No. 2 USC

Like Colorado, USC will have played ten straight weekends before the showdown to decide the Pac-12 South division race.

Unlike Colorado, USC will not be ready for the cold temperatures and a game played at altitude.

ESPN GameDay makes its long-awaited return to Boulder, with the matchup of top five teams moved to a 7:00 p.m., MT, kickoff. It’s a beautiful 50-degree day in Boulder this Veteran’s Day, but only 34-degrees by the time the teams take the field.

The sell-out crowd keeps itself warm by cheering early and often for the home team. It’s a tough game, with defenses using the weather as a 12th-man to keep the scoring down.

Phillip Lindsay scores the game-winner with just over four minutes to play, with the victory being sealed by way of an Isaiah Oliver interception in CU territory in the final minute.

No. 5 Colorado 17, No. 2 USC 13

CU … 11-0 (8-0) … ranked No. 2

November 25th – at Utah

The Utes, as is their habit, spend much of the 2017 season bouncing in and out of the national rankings. Opening the season ranked No. 25, the Utes rise to No. 19 before consecutive losses to Stanford and USC drop them back out. A four-game winning streak brings Utah back into the polls with an 8-2 record, but a loss on the road to Washington drops them back out again.

And it’s the Washington game which makes all the difference for the Buffs.

After playing 12 straight weeks, the second-ranked Buffs get a bye week. While Utah is playing the Huskies in Seattle, the Buffs are resting at home, watching the game on TV.

Colorado doesn’t need a win over Utah to play in the Pac-12 title game – having wrapped up the bid with the win over USC – but beating Utah is a great way to end the regular season … No. 2 Colorado 27, Utah 17.

CU … 12-0 (9-0) … ranked No. 2

December 1st – v. No. 7 Washington … Pac-12 championship game – Santa Clara, California

The Colorado/Washington game is a re-match.

Colorado fans see it as a re-match of the 2016 Pac-12 title game.

Washington fans see it as a re-match of game they lost in Boulder way back in September.

After falling, 31-21, to the Buffs on September 23rd, the Huskies rattled off eight straight wins, including impressive victories over Stanford, Utah, and Washington State to close out the season.

Instead of pulling out the tape of the 2016 Pac-12 title game – or even the tape of the Buffs’ big win over the Huskies in September – CU head coach Mike MacIntyre instead pulls out the tape of CU’s win over Texas in the Big 12 championship game in 2001. Gary Barnett and Daniel Graham come as guest speakers, motivating the Buffs to claim their first conference title in 16 years.

In 2001, it was: No. 9 Colorado 39, No. 3 Texas 37.

In 2017, it will be: No. 2 Colorado 39, No. 7 Washington 37.

CU … 13-0 … ranked No. 2

January 1st – Rose Bowl – No. 2 Colorado v. No. 3 Ohio State – College Football Playoff semi-final

Colorado makes its first-ever trip to play in the Rose Bowl, and it’s fitting that the opponent is a Big Ten team.

Much is made of the Buffs’ 1-4 all-time record against the Buckeyes, with the only victory coming back in 1971.

Much is made of the Buffs’ million-dollar play-for-pay game against Ohio State in 2011, a 37-17 defeat.

Much is made of the Buffs’ lack of experience on the national playoff stage.

But the Buffs do have experience playing in Pasadena, and the southern California Buff alumni help to make the game a de facto home game for Colorado.

The Buffs, who defeated the UCLA Bruins in the same stadium in September, 28-17, are suckers for symmetry.

No. 2 Colorado 28, No. 3 Ohio State 17

CU … 14-0 … ranked No. 2

January 8th – No. 2 Colorado v. No. 1 Alabama – national championship game

It’s “One for the Thumb” time in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, as the Crimson Tide are going for head coach Nick Saban’s fifth national title.

In the way?

The little Buff team which could.

No one expected the Buffs to be a part of the national championship playoff picture, while Alabama fans look upon the game as their birthright.

No Colorado team has won more than 11 games, much less 14, so a 15th victory is out of the question.

But everything has broken right for the Buffs in 2017. Running back Phillip Lindsay was a Heisman trophy finalist, with quarterback Steven Montez one of the early favorites for the 2018 Heisman. The defense – suspect in August – jelled behind the play of Thorpe Award winner Isaiah Oliver, with Javier Edwards becoming a media favorite behind his run stopping talent on the field, and his ready quips off the field.

The last time Colorado played Alabama was in the 2007 Independence Bowl. Both teams came into that middling bowl game with 6-6 records. Second year CU head coach Dan Hawkins appeared to have gotten the ship righted in Boulder, while first-year Alabama head coach Nick Saban was getting the Crimson Tide in shape in Tuscaloosa.

Alabama won that game, 30-24, and Buff fans know well what happened after that.

Alabama took off from that victory and never looked back.

Colorado limped home from that loss, and spent a decade getting back to the national stage.

In a year of redemption and symmetry, the Buffs go out with one last bit of revenge.

No. 2 Colorado 30, No. 1 Alabama 24.

Easy to Say in May … the Buffs are undefeated this spring, and will remain undefeated until proven otherwise. Vegas has put the over-under for CU victories at 7.5, and, if we’re being honest, that’s probably about right. I can see a 7-5 Buff team winning its bowl game, or an 8-4 Buff team falling in a bowl. If I had to predict a final record for CU right now, I place it at 8-5.

But, in May, it’s easy to say … 15-0 and national champions!!

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4 Replies to “Easy to Say in May”

  1. Most excellent Stu. Your optimism outshines mine. Love it. Definitely easy to say in May.

    Something else easy to say in May? Why not?!

    I’m sure our Buffs’ opponents will have something to say, as the season marches on, but… it’s how our Buffs respond that will drive that bus.

    Go Buffs!

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