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“T.I.P.S.” for Buffs v. Wildcats

It’s been an emotional two weeks for the University of Colorado football team … and for its fans.

First, the Buffs looked like world-beaters in taking it to rival Colorado State in the Rocky Mountain Showdown. Next, the Buffs traveled to Lincoln, posting a memorable come-from-behind win over rival Nebraska.

And now … New Hampshire.

It’s tough to find reasons to get excited about a team from the Colonial Athletic Association. The ski team considers New Hampshire to be a rival, but not the football team.

The Buffs are listed as a 35.5-point favorite over the Wildcats. It shouldn’t be much of a game.

So, what is there to care about?

Well, it’s the home opener, and the weather report is favorable – high in the 80’s, no chance of rain.

Oh yeah … and there will be beer in the stands for the first time in a generation.

All that, and the chance for the Buffs to post their third straight win to open the 2018 season …

 

This week’s “T.I.P.S.” for CU v. New Hampshire … Saturday, 3:00 p.m. MT, Pac-12 Mountain

 

T – Talent 

New Hampshire entered the 2018 season fresh from its 14th-consecutive trip to the FCS playoffs, the longest active streak in the nation. The Wildcats posted a 9-5 record last fall, which included a run into the FCS quarterfinals.

In preseason magazines, New Hampshire was picked as one of the top FCS teams in the nation, with Lindy’s picking the Wildcats as the No. 6 team in the country. In the STATS preseason FCS poll, New Hampshire was ranked seventh.

And with good reason.

Quarterback Trevor Knight (3,433 passing yards, 26 touchdowns, 10 interceptions in 2017) was back, bearing the title of the CAA’s top returning quarterback. Wide receiver Neil O’Conner (97 catches, 1396 yards) was a consensus preseason All-American candidate.

Unfortunately for the Wildcat Nation, that was all so three weeks ago.

New Hampshire has opened the 2018 campaign with an 0-2 record, falling to Maine, 35-7, in the season opener, and then losing 10-3 to Colgate in its first home game.

One of the main problems for the Wildcats is the loss of star quarterback Trevor Knight, who went down in the second quarter of the opener. Knight did not play against Colgate, and his status for the CU game is unclear. UNH head coach Sean McDonnell said Sunday that Knight’s status was, at least as of Sunday, “unchanged”, which likely means he is out for the game in Boulder.

Knight’s backup is sophomore Christian Lupoli, who went 14-of-24 for 133 yards in his first career start, the 10-3 home loss to Colgate. Star wide receiver Neil O’Conner had ten catches for 111 yards in that game (so yes, math majors, that means that Lupoli completed a grand total of four passes for 22 yards to players not named Neil O’Conner).

Suffice it to say that Neil O’Conner (No. 82 in your program) will get the full attention of the Colorado defense … with the Buffs daring the Wildcat offense to try and beat them with any other player.

“What you’re seeing is that people are putting eight or nine guys within eight yards of the line of scrimmage right now,” McDonnell said after the Colgate game. “And they are blitzing, they are attacking us. They are press covering our outside guys.”

While the New Hampshire offense has been a major disappointment (ten points in two games), the defense has done its best to hold up its end.

The defense allowed only 214 yards of offense to Colgate in the 10-3 loss last Saturday, with the one touchdown allowed coming after a fumble left Colgate with the ball on the UNH 19-yard line.

“I thought defensively we swarmed and tackled better than we did against Maine,” coach McDonnell said. “I thought we played with a better pad level than we did in the first game. I thought there was some improvement. Now we’ve got to continue to build off this one and find a way to go.”

New Hampshire, though, has a looooong way to go.

The Wildcats are 0-2, with their 14-year streak of making the FCS playoffs in jeopardy. In all likelihood, a CAA title will be the only way for New Hampshire to make it back to the playoffs.

Which may mean that the Buffs and Wildcats may have one goal in common this Saturday … come away with no new injuries.

 

I – Intangibles

All those who had Arizona State at 2-0 and Arizona at 0-2, take a step forward.

All those who had Colorado State – fresh off of embarrassing losses to Hawai’i and Colorado – coming back from a 27-9 deficit to defeat Arkansas, 34-27, take a step forward.

If you have taken two steps forward … Well, you’re lying.

The above does serve to demonstrate that you never know for certain what will happen in a college football game. Penn State was a 24-point favorite over Appalachian State, and should have lost. Hell, UCLA was a 16-point pick over Cincinnati, and Arizona was a 14-point favorite over BYU … and we know how those games turned out.

Not that I am seeing a possible upset here from New Hampshire. If anything, I’m looking for the Wildcats, when on offense, to try and run the play clock down to one or two seconds on every down, just to try and shorten the game. The Wildcats need to win CAA games, not lose any more players to injury in a game where ESPN’s Football Power Index gives CU a 97.7% chance of winning.

That being said, college football is a game of emotion.

New Hampshire has nothing to lose Saturday. Trick plays and strange formations? An onside kick to open the game?

Why not?

The Buffs, meanwhile, would be forgiven for not taking the game too seriously.

After the emotional run of the past two weeks, it would only be human for there to be a letdown.

It will be a job for the coaches this week, what with a bye week coming after the New Hampshire game, to keep the team focused and on task.

Here’s guessing that they will.

 

P – Preparation/Schedule 

Mike MacIntyre said that he likes having a bye week before the start of the Pac-12 conference schedule.

It makes sense. Get through the non-conference slate undefeated, then recharge for the Friday night ESPN battle against UCLA the following weekend.

If truth be told, my guess is that MacIntyre would rather have his bye week in between the road tests at USC and Washington … or at least after the Washington game, to allow his team to recover from the two toughest games on the schedule before taking on the November slate of Pac-12 games.

It is what it is.

So, after facing New Hampshire, the Buffs have a week off.

To some, that might appear as if the Buffs actually have two weeks off, with New Hampshire not much more than a glorified scrimmage.

Here’s hoping that the CU coaching staff is motivating the team by getting the backups excited about the chance for some quality playing time.

It would be great for the program’s future to see Sam Noyer and Tyler Lytle receive some quality snaps (and maybe even get a throw or two in on a third-and-three). How’s about Beau Bisharat getting 15 carries? Offensive lineman Jake Moretti getting some live action reps (he’s been on the field for only nine snaps in two games)? Jonathan Van Diest and Chase Newman getting some work at inside linebacker? Aaron Maddox and Darrion Rakestraw auditioning to take over at the safety positions next fall?

That – coupled with a comfortable win and no injuries – would make for a great Saturday afternoon.

 

S – Statistics

It’s good to be the king … or at least, it’s good to be 2-0 on the young season.

Several Buffs are ranked highly nationally in a number of significant categories:

— Laviska Shenault is No. 1 in the nation in receptions (10.5/game) and No. 1 in the nation in receiving yards (194.0/game). For his efforts against Nebraska (10 receptions for 177 yards, one touchdown; two rushes for five yards, one touchdown), Shenault was named the Pac-12 Offensive Player-of-the-Week;

— Steven Montez is No. 8 in the nation in passing yards (689), 10th in the nation in total offense (358.0 yards/game), and 12th in the nation in completion percentage (73.3%). Against Nebraska, Montez was 33-of-50 for 351 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions, earning him the Maxwell Award Player-of-the-Week;

— Nate Landman is second in the nation in total tackles (29 by NCAA’s reckoning; 28 according to CU’s team statistics). For his 14-tackle, one interception effort against the Cornhuskers, Landman was named the FWAA/Bronko Nagurski National Defensive Player-of-the-Week and the NFF/Colorado Chapter state’s Player-of-the-Week.

On the bad news side of things … With the offensive explosion by Nebraska (595 total yards, 329 yards rushing). the Colorado defense slipped to 109th in the nation in rushing defense (216.0 yards/game) and 97th in total defense (424.5 yards/game).

Look for the Buff defense to make significant strides on those numbers this weekend.

 

Prediction …

New Hampshire will be the eighth FCS program CU has played in school history, with the Buffs posting a 5-2 record to date.

I was in the stands at Folsom Field for the Buffs’ 2006 season opener against Montana State, when the ill-fated Dan Hawkins era opened with a 19-10 loss (“Quite simply, it was one of the worst losses in CU history” – Boulder Daily Camera).

I was in the stands at Folsom Field for the Buffs’ 2012 home opener against Sacramento State, when the Buffs fell, 30-28, to the Hornets (the infamous “Shirt of Shame” game).

Anything can happen. Colorado hadn’t played an FCS (formerly 1-AA) school in its history before 2006, then promptly lost two of its first three games against the lower division (with the lone victory coming against Eastern Washington in 2008, when the Buffs needed to out-score the Eagles, 17-3, in the fourth quarter to pull out a 31-24 win).

Enough of the horror stories.

Three weeks ago, before either CU or New Hampshire had played a game, I was worried about this matchup.

What if the Buffs stumbled against the Rams? What if the young Buffs couldn’t handle the 90,000 fanatics of Memorial Stadium in Lincoln?

Oh, and by the way, New Hampshire was not just any FCS school … but a top ten FCS team.

A tough game against the Wildcats, or, heaven forbid, an 0-3 start to the season … and the game against the Wildcats would have officially started the clock on the countdown to the end of the Mike MacIntyre era in Boulder.

Instead …

Colorado is riding high, edging close to the top 25 nationally (31st in the latest Associated Press poll), with national and conference awards being bestowed upon its players.

New Hampshire, meanwhile, is in a death spiral, having lost two games it thought it would win.

The Wildcats have scored ten points in two games … against Maine and Colgate.

The Wildcats may well get to ten points against Colorado, but not much more than that.

The Buffs may make some mistakes early, with 18-to-22 year olds not being completely focused on the task at hand.

But the doldrums won’t … can’t … last an entire 60 minutes. This is not a Dan Hawkins or Jon Embree team.

Darrin Chiaverini still has a great deal to prove as an offensive coordinator, and needs to work out the kinks before conference play opens. The Buff defense has a poor (statistical) performance to make up for.

These Buffs have their sights set higher than just getting by an FCS opponent.

… Colorado 48, New Hampshire 10 … 

Previous predictions … 

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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8 Replies to “CU v. New Hampshire – “T.I.P.S.” for Buffs’ Home Opener”

  1. I long for the day when we are not worried about the Buffs overlooking a team like this. When was the last time you heard anyone say such a thing about Alabama, Ohio State, USC, etc.? Really good teams don’t worry about such things. They just go out and take care of business and no one ever doubts the outcome. UNH is a proud team that is a proven winning program and they have something to prove.

    That being said, I do expect the team to win and they seem to have an eerily similar attitude to the 2016 squad. Just come to work ready to put in the required effort and take it one week at a time. Like the 2016 team they also have a real chip in their shoulder about the previous year. I was impressed with the effort and adjustment against Nebraska. We could pick on the OL and DL but that was one of the most physical teams we will see all year in their house. One analyst even. It’s that when you look at the DL of Nebraska you may think you are looking at an NFL line.

    GO BUFFS!
    Put your hard hats on and go to work on Saturday!

  2. 99 to 0!

    This is just what the doctor ordered, before a bye, and then into conference play.

    There is a better than even shot – I’d say way better – that we roll into the Coliseum with a 5 and 0 record, and maybe in the top 25, depending on how the games against UCLA and ASU go (and how their games between now and then go, as well).

    Go Buffs.

  3. That 2006 loss was inexcusable. We had talent on that team, we almost won in Georgia for heavens sake. But that Sacramento state loss was painful. I was a student at the time working for Plati in the sports information dept, those were the most depressing press conferences ever. It’s nice to actually have talent again.

  4. Agree completely Stuart. This team feels like it can actually accomplish something. I look at the schedule and the wide-open PAC12 South and think “we’re not that far from this being The Rise 2.0”. UCLA and Arizona look awful. Arizona State and Utah feel like paper tigers. USC looks more vulnerable than normal. CU has a kind home schedule, dodges two of the three best teams (Oregon and Stanford) and catches the worst team at home (Oregon State). Even rating systems like S&P+ have CU expected to make 7ish wins, despite preseason predictions of CU being the 80th team in the country.

    Those Embree teams? Those always were like “oh shit I hope we can get a few conference wins and maybe sneak into a bowl game vs the fourth-best team in the Mountain West”. Well, that was the best case, anyways. Typical case was “oh shit I hope we actually look like we know how to play football*”.

    *My favorite “does this team even know how to play football?” moment was when Beinemy called a QB sneak on third-and-one…Except that the refs had actually marked it first-and-ten. The subsequent three or four-yard QB sneak would be one of the more successful running plays of the day.

    **I really hope I’m not attributing this to the wrong coach

    1. Thanks for the reminder of the horror/humor of that QB sneak on 1st and 10. I remember it well. Dark times between Barnett and Year 4 of Mac II.

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