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This Week’s “T.I.P.S.” for the Buffs’ final 2018 attempt at win No. 6

Welcome to the Kurt Roper led CU football team.

The Roper Buffs are 0-0. These are not the same Buffs who finished the Mike MacIntyre era on a six-game losing streak … or, at least we hope that’s not the case.

All is fresh and new in the CU locker room. “I think our guys are working hard,” said Roper. “I think they are taking the right approach to play a good football team. They have been a lot of fun to work with.”

“We’re happy,” wide receiver K.D. Nixon said. “Our vibe is totally different. I love it.”

There is new enthusiasm as to the future of the program, a future which hopefully begins this week, and not in 2019.

Las Vegas isn’t buying into the Kurt Roper Buffs, however. The line for the California game opened with the Bears an 11.5-point favorites, and that line has moved up to 12.5 points since Sunday.

Senior Travon McMillian said the reality at this point is that “we have to move on and focus on Cal. That’s our main focus right now as a team.”

The real question: How focused can the Buffs really be?

Here are this week’s “T.I.P.S.” for CU’s regular season finale …

Colorado v. California … Saturday, 5:00 p.m. MT, Pac-12 Networks

T – Talent 

In five of its last six games, the Cal offense has scored fewer than 20 points … which gives Buff fans hope.

After utilizing three different quarterbacks to open the season, the Bears have settled upon freshman Chase Garbers as their starter. Garbers has all of 1,100 yards passing this season (Steven Montez has 2,679), with 11 touchdowns and five interceptions (Montez: 17 touchdowns with six interceptions).

The real threat on offense for Cal is running back Patrick Laird. The senior leads the team in rushing (771 yards and five touchdowns), receptions (43), receiving touchdowns (3), and is third on the team in receiving yards (269).

Contain Laird, and you have a chance at containing the California offense.

The real problem for the Buffs … a team which scored seven points against Washington State (297 total yards on offense) and seven points against Utah (196 total yards), is the Cal defense.

The Bears, in their past three games, have held No. 12 Washington to 10 points (a 12-10 win), Washington State to 19 points (a 19-13 loss) and USC to 14 points (a 15-14 win), with the Washington State and USC games on the road.

“Justin (Wilcox) and Tim (DeRuyter) do a really good job of putting in a system,” said CU coach Kurt Roper. “When you watch them play defense, there are 11 guys tied together knowing exactly what the other guy is supposed to be doing. They know where they are supposed to fit on any call.”

The Colorado offense may have more success on the scoreboard against Cal that it did against the Washington State and Utah defenses … but it’s hard to see how.

I – Intangibles

Welcome to “Hell if I Know” territory.

How will the Buff players react to having their coach fired with one game remaining on the schedule?

Who knows …

Senior linebacker Drew Lewis  told the Daily Camera that the past couple of days have been “an emotional roller-coaster,” but that he knows how coach MacIntyre would want them to approach this week.

“What we do know for a fact is that he’d want us to finish the season well, not necessarily for him – ideally we want to do it for him – but just to finish this last game with the win and secure the bowl bid is the most he can ask for us,” Lewis said. “He’s definitely still hoping for the best for us. We know he’s going to be watching us and we’re going to try to do it for him.”

Then there are two questions which are unanswerable, but need to be asked:

— Do the Buff players really want to win this game? Sure, a bowl bid would be a nice reward, but is this team really up for 15 more practices with an interim head coach and lame duck staff? It’s a short week – with travel and Thanksgiving – and it would only be human nature for the Buffs to be distracted. A distracted team will be ill-prepared for a 6-4 Cal team which is looking to build on recent success, and which still has a great deal to play for (rivalry game against Stanford followed by a bowl game); and

— Perhaps an even better question … Does the remaining coaching staff really want to win this game? College football is a business, and there are almost a dozen coaches who just lost their jobs. Mike MacIntyre has a golden parachute, but, for most of the assistants, it’s on to the next opportunity with no guarantees of employment or income. If you were an assistant coach at Colorado, would you be hitting the film room, trying to find a way to beat Cal? Or would you be working the phones, trying to find a new job?

If the Buffs were to defeat Cal, the situation gets even more complicated for the coaching staff. Now there are 15 more practices, and another game to prepare for … all for an employer who has publicly declared it doesn’t want you. Fifteen more practices, during a time when the game of assistant coach musical chairs is in full swing, a time when you don’t want to be caught without a seat when the music stops playing.

I am not suggesting that the CU coaching staff will be anything but professional this week. I am confident they will do their best to help develop a game plan which will give the Buffs their best chance at victory.

I am suggesting, however, that there are many moving pieces here, and that there are good reasons why CU is an almost two-touchdown underdog to a Cal team which lost to UCLA, at home, 37-7 just over a month ago.

P – Preparation/Schedule 

Smoke from fires shouldn’t be a factor Saturday, as northern California will be experience rain showers from Wednesday to Friday. Fortunately for the players and fans, the rain is supposed to subside, with the forecast for 61-degrees and partly cloudy skies in Berkeley on Saturday.

So, the game should be played in normal conditions.

It’s just that the conditions are anything but normal.

While Colorado is playing with an interim coach, and all that brings with it to the table, the Bears are also a bit off-schedule.

Cal’s home game against Stanford, the “Big Game”, was scheduled to be played last weekend, but was postponed to poor air quality in Northern California brought on by wildfires.

Since Cal and Stanford had already been eliminated from contention in the Pac-12 North, they will be able to play Dec. 1, the day after the conference championship game will be played in nearby Santa Clara.

The decision was in the making for several days before the game was officially postponed last Friday, giving Cal a de facto bye week while Colorado was facing Utah.

Any weekend off gives a team a chance to heal up and rest. The weekend off also gave Cal and its coaches a few extra days to prepare for the Buffs.

Both Colorado and Cal had a bye week on September 22nd, a break between the non-conference and conference schedules. Since then, the Buffs have played every weekend, with the Cal game representing the ninth straight weekend of action.

It was supposed to be the same for Cal, but then it wasn’t.

Advantage … California.

S – Statistics

— CU sophomore wide receiver Laviska Shenault would be leading the nation in receptions per game (79, or 9.87/game) and would be fourth in the nation in receiving yards per game (946, or 118.3/game), but he currently does not qualify for the NCAA rankings. If Shenault plays against Cal, he will have played in nine of CU’s 12 games, and will be again qualified for national rankings;

— Running back Travon McMillian is 43rd in the nation in rushing yard per game (86.5 yds/game), and is 36th in the nation in rushing yards (951);

— As pointed out in last week’s Friday Fast Facts, if Shenault goes over 1,000 yards receiving (54 yards to go) and McMillian goes over 1,000 yards rushing (49 to go), it will mark the first time in Colorado history that the Buffs have produced a 1,000-yard rusher and a 1,000 yard receiver in the same season;

— Ronnie Blackmon is 23rd in the nation in punt returns (9.9 yards/return);

— After facing the 39th-ranked defense in the nation in scoring defense (Washington State) and the 16th-ranked defense in the nation in scoring defense (Utah), the Buffs, who scored exactly seven points against both the Cougars and Utes, will now be facing the 28th-ranked defense in the nation in Cal.

Prediction …

If you are looking for positive precedent for the Buffs this weekend, look no further than CU’s 2010 season.

That November, Dan Hawkins was fired with three games remaining on the schedule. Those Buffs, which had lost five games in a row, bounced back to defeat Iowa State (34-14) and Kansas State (44-36) under interim head coach Brian Cabral.

Could the 2018 Colorado team receive a similar bounce, overcoming the distractions associated with their coach being fired, and find a way to defeat California?

Sure.

But I’m not seeing it.

I can see the Colorado defense playing fairly well. The Cal offense is worse than CU’s (Buffs are still, despite recent woes, averaging almost 400 yards per game this season, while Cal is 103rd in total offense, at 363.9 yards per game), and hasn’t broken the 20-point barrier in its past three games.

That being said, Cal, despite scoring 12, 13, and 15 points the past three games, won two of them, defeating Washington, 12-10, and USC, 15-14 (and holding down the dynamic Washington State offense in a 19-13 loss).

The Buffs managed only one touchdown in each of the past two games. Without a defensive or special teams touchdown, the Colorado offense may be hard pressed to even match that production against the Cal defense.

… California 24, Colorado 10 … 

Previous predictions … 

Prediction: Utah 24, Colorado 14 … Actual: Utah 30, Colorado 7

Prediction: Washington State 42, Colorado 28 … Actual: Washington State 31, Colorado 7

Prediction: Arizona 38, Colorado 24 … Actual: Arizona 42, Colorado 34

Prediction: Colorado 42, Oregon State 17 … Actual: Oregon State 41, Colorado 34 OT

Prediction: Washington 31, Colorado 14 … Actual: Washington 27, Colorado 13

Prediction: USC 24, Colorado 20 … Actual: USC 31, Colorado 20

Prediction: Colorado 34, Arizona State 27 … Actual: Colorado 28, Arizona State 21

Prediction: Colorado 30, UCLA 21 … Actual: Colorado 38, UCLA 16

Prediction: Colorado 48, New Hampshire 10 … Actual: Colorado 45, New Hampshire 14

Prediction: Colorado 31, Nebraska 24 … Actual: Colorado 33, Nebraska 28

Prediction: Colorado 41, Colorado State 24 … Actual: Colorado 45, Colorado State 13

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11 Replies to “Colorado at Cal – A Preview”

  1. Just wondering why there are no Mike comments. I mean usually there is some kind of communication through the university saying thanks etc etc. Must be some hard ol feelings sitting right out there eh? As Rooney stated (and I don’t read him often) said. “This firing has been years in the making” and the facts are it has been.

    Buffs need to win this game. Remember when Mike said “No excuses” (I believe HWSRN used that line a lot) and that was all good until it was not. I am still shocked at Mikes pressers the last couple of weeks. Damn that last one sounded just like his last one, which it was.

    The WacMac crew is in the rear view mirror. In RG is the trust right? Already made some good hires. This one is big. (Tad keep an eye on your 6 if ya don’t meet the 3 year plan ………………….I like it. )
    The Ol Responsibility……Authority…….Accountability axiom.

    Don’t predict but I really really really hope, think pray, wish demand the Buffs win this game. Just have to Buffs.

    Need the win. I need the win.

    Uh oh Buffalo.

    Note: Recall that in RG’s Strategic plan 1.1.1 is “Win a pac 12 football championship in either 2017, 2018, 2019” This is the number 1 goal. This strategic vision was put in place in the fall of 2017. Mike had his money. RG wanted the results. Sooooooooooooooooooooooooo
    Note 2. Sheesh its Thanksgiving. Heading out to the inlaws. 2 more days. Did you know that if the kornklubs beat Iowa and the Buffs lose they will have the same record. One improved and one did not. Sheesh again.

  2. Yo Stuart

    You know that the first quarter will tell us everything we need to know. Especially on offense. Do the Buffs come out loose and swinging for the fences? Or do they just play close to the vest like the last six games? We’ll see.

    Cal’s Big Game with Stanford is still to come. And Cal hasn’t beaten their bitter rival since 2009. There is a very good chance that Cal is not focused on Colorado. They are already bowl eligible and and the biggest thing on their minds is ending the losing streak to Stanford. The current losing streak is the longest in the 126 year history of the rivalry.

    The Golden Bears would gladly trade a loss to Colorado in order to beat Stanford.

    Does that mean that Cal will roll over? Of course not, but the cards being dealt give CU a chance to take this game and become bowl eligible. It all depends on who shows up. Colorado has the talent to compete with Cal.

    Do the coaches give them a chance? And do the players want to extend their season? The beat goes on…

    Mark / Boulderdevil / Golden Buffs

  3. God it is hard to be optimistic for this game as you point out above. I think your point about coaches worried about their livelihoods and the likely chance that most of them will be looking for jobs very soon really hit home. Again they are professionals and they won’t tank it but it is a huge distraction. I also think that Roper has not instituted any changes means we are not likely to see some offensive output that has been missing. Chev will continue to call the plays and we will likely see the same results versus a very good defense. But maybe we grind out a game against them. Limit mistakes, run some smash mouth football turn the game into a grind where the team fighting for its life and kids that want to play in a bowl have just a little more in them. I am not sure Chev believes in this though or has the wherewithal to call that sort of game. It will be a low scoring affair if this is true.

  4. Head says 17-7 Cal.

    Heart says 17-14 Buffs. Since the heart doesn’t operate on logic, here are my thoughts that could tilt this toward the Buffs: the biggest distraction is behind them and they could bounce back with an emotional lift, Cal might be a bit discombobulated with the fires and schedule changes, the CU players don’t want to be thought of as another failure (if they are wired as true competitors they will leave it all on the field), MacMillan and Shenault both have personal motivation to hit the 1,000 yard mark regardless of other factors, and Cal is already bowl eligible so they may not be as focused and intense. The biggest IF in my mind is whether the CU offense can be creative and play loose (with a what the heck attitude and have a backyard ball, occasional trick play mentality). Will we see creative play calling like the first five games and the first half of the Washington game? Has Mac kept too tight of a rein on Cheve and now we will see the usage of Shenault and KD and Winfree and Macintyre and Brown and Kento and tight ends? I believe all of the receivers just mentioned are healthy and can play? If so, let’s have some 5 wide out formations with guys running all over the place. I have curiosity about this game. I do not expect a win but am interested in seeing whether there is competitive fire and creativity. It would be great to have a win-win outcome this weekend: New coach coming and a Buff win. Go Buffs!!!

  5. Big question to me: “how different will the buffs offense look without MacIntyre’s conservatism and possible favoritism of Adams’ running game”.

    I said it last week: I just want to see the Buffs go full Texas Tech. Throw the ball fifty times. Stop trying to run the same stupid counter-iso ultra-slow-developing tight-end-lead-blocking inside run. It’s the running game equivalent of a seven step drop. Or at least run off-tackle more.

    Counterpoint to the argument that coaches might be distracted: this is also a bit of an “interview” for them. They have a lot to prove, whether it’s to a new coach (my guess is that a few of the guys remain) or to a new school. For Chev, in particular, this feels like it’s a huge game for him to show that he has promise as an offensive coordinator.

    Another intangible: Cal might just overlook CU. They’re at home, it’s thanksgiving, they’re about to play a team on a six-game losing streak, with their huge rival coming up next week.

  6. I can’t see it being any different than the Utah game. CU 7 CAL 31. See if you have heard this story before. The Buffs keep it close in the first half probably something like Cal 7 CU 0. then we pack it in and close up shop for the season.

  7. I disagree on the staff not wanting to get to a bowl and the additional practices. These coaches will need jobs, and like the vast majority of jobs, the best way to get ahead is to blossom where you are. Coming up with an upset is a better look than not. I think the Buffs lose this one close, maybe squeak out a win. I just don’t see anybody sandbagging it.

  8. If there is one thing that may motivate the assistant coaches, it should be the desire to get a bowl qualifying win. I would hate to be in their shoes if this season is the second in a row that the team failed to make a bowl game when it was so close, and trying to find another job with that poor a resume. That is what would motivate a quality coach on my mind.

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