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Scouting the Opposition – A Game-by-Game look at CU’s 2018 Schedule

Game One – v. Colorado State – Friday, August 31st – Denver (7:30 p.m., MT, CBS Sports Network)

… Scary as it is to say, this is about the most confident Buff fans should feel about a Rocky Mountain Showdown in some time.

Even last year, with the Buffs coming off of a ten-win season, there was some reason for trepidation. After all, the Buffs were playing their first game after losing a huge senior class, whereas Colorado State was coming off of a 58-27 domination of Oregon State (a team CU would later need a last minute touchdown to beat, 36-33).

Prior to last season … well, you know CU’s record over the past decade, where no game was a guaranteed victory.

This fall, however, Colorado State has more question marks than does Colorado. The Rams were prolific on offense last season, but lose their quarterback, top wide receiver and running back, and three-fifths of their offensive line. The defense – which was terrible – only has about half of its lineup from last season returning.

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Game Two – at Nebraska – September 8th (1:30 p.m., MT, ABC) 

Take the following resume of an FBS team heading into the 2018 season:

— A 4-8 record the previous season, with the head coach being fired;

— A team which, but for a game-winning touchdown in the last 14 seconds against a mediocre opponent (Purdue) on October 28th, would be entering the fall on a seven-game losing streak;

— A defense which ranked 100th or worse in numerous statistical categories, including total defense and scoring defense. A defense which gave up 54, 56, and 56 points in its final three games of 2017;

— An offense which will be featuring a quarterback entering the season with no collegiate starts.

Given those bare facts, most Colorado fans would be salivating at the opportunity to take on just such an opponent.

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Game Three – New Hampshire – September 15th (3:00 p.m., MT, Pac-12 Networks)

… New Hampshire doesn’t have a long list of recent FBS opponents. The Wildcats traveled to play San Diego State for the 2016 opener, falling 31-0. New Hampshire also made the cross-country trip to California in 2015, losing 43-13 to San Jose State. In 2015, New Hampshire took on Toledo, falling 54-20 (faring about the same as did the Buffs when CU played in the Glass Bowl, a 54-38 embarrassment in 2009).

By any measure, Colorado has the advantage over New Hampshire. The Buffs are bigger, stronger, and faster.

That being said, it would be a mistake for the Buffs (and their fans) to overlook the Wildcats. Last season, CU took care of business against Northern Colorado, pulling away for a 41-21 victory. The Bears from Greeley, though, were a middling Big Sky Conference team. The Wildcats of New Hampshire are an FCS power, with a nation’s best streak of 14 consecutive playoff appearances, a star QB/WR tandem, and 18 returning starters.

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Game Four – UCLA – Friday, September 28th (7:00 p.m., MT, FS1) 

… Take Chip Kelly out of the equation, and you would have to like CU’s chances against UCLA this fall.

The Buffs beat the Bruins, 20-10 in 2016, the last time the teams played in Boulder, and wouda/coulda/shoulda beaten the Bruins in the Rose Bowl last season. Unlike a few other opponents in the conference, the Buffs have held their own against UCLA in recent Pac-12 play.

If Jim Mora were still the coach of the Bruins, and was bringing to Boulder a UCLA team with only ten returning starters … a team which was dead last in the nation in rushing defense in 2017 … a team which finished 6-7 last year with Josh Rosen at quarterback … for a late September game before a rowdy Friday night Folsom Field crowd …

You would have to feel pretty good about taking the Buffs.

The addition of Chip Kelly, however, alters the equation. While Kelly can’t suit up and play, he brings an aura with him which makes people believe that the Bruins will instantly respond.

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Game Five – Arizona State – October 6th

… Where will the Buffs be come Week Five? If Colorado has a 4-1 record (loss to either Nebraska or UCLA), or, heaven help us, a 5-0 record, the game against the Sun Devils may have a 2016 feel to it. That fall, the Buffs were 4-2 when the Sun Devils came to town. The result? A 40-16 romp for the Buffs which propelled Colorado towards a Pac-12 South title.

On the other hand, if Colorado limps into the Family Weekend with a 2-3 record, or, heaven forbid, a 1-4 record, the Arizona State game could be the Buffs’ last chance to right the ship (with road games against USC and Washington to follow).

Colorado will have an extra day to prepare for Arizona State, taking on UCLA on a Friday night the weekend before. The Buffs will be able to sit at home and watch the Sun Devils as they take on the Oregon State Beavers.

Right now, the Arizona State game – what with the Sun Devils’ lack of depth on the roster, the porous defense, the tough September schedule, and the Herm Edwards factor – looks like a Colorado victory.

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Game Six – at USC – October 13th

… Let’s not belabor the point.

In its history, Colorado has had 12 opportunities to defeat a USC team, and has come away empty handed 12 times.

Seven of those losses have come since Colorado joined the Pac-12, and the first four were routs (42-17, 50-6, 47-29, and 56-28). The three most recent games were agonizingly close (27-24, 21-17, and last season’s 38-24, above).

Will the 2018 game be another close game?

Or will it be a return to the routs of the not-too-distant past?

The pundits, who have USC vying for national playoff attention … and CU vying for four wins … would have us believe that a rout by the home team is in the forecast.

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Game Seven – at Washington – October 20th 

… As Washington is facing Oregon in Eugene, Colorado will be taking on USC in Los Angeles.

Back-to-back games against the top two teams in the Pac-12 is tough enough.

Back-to-back games against the top two teams in the Pac-12 – with both on the road – is next to impossible.

Colorado has not been within two touchdowns of Washington since joining the Pac-12. The last two games (41-10 in the Pac-12 championship game; 37-10 in Boulder last season) were not particularly pretty to watch.

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Game Eight – Oregon State – October 27th (Homecoming)

… This looks like a team which is likely to win only 2-4 games.  After the Ohio State thrashing, winnable there are winnable non-conference games against Southern Utah and Nevada. In Pac-12 play, the best hopes for victory are home games against Washington State and Cal … in the two weeks leading up to the Beavers’ trip to Boulder on October 27th.

Oregon State went 0-9 in Pac-12 play in 2017.

Prognosticators are seeing the Beavers with one, or perhaps two, Pac-12 wins at the most in 2018.

The Buffs need to do everything possible to make sure that they are not one of Oregon State’s upset victims.

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Game Nine – at Arizona – Friday, November 2nd 

… When looking at Arizona, there are a number of reasons to be concerned.

There are also reasons for optimism.

The Wildcats were able to post a winning season in 2017 by out-scoring the opposition (witness the 45-42 win in Boulder). In the final five games of 2017, Arizona gave up an average of 41 points per game, going 1-4 (defeating only Oregon State).

Arizona’s offense can be good, if the quarterback and offensive line stay healthy (the same could be said for Colorado).

Arizona’s defense can be good, if some unproven talent along the defensive line lives up to its potential (the same could be said for Colorado).

Had Brandon Dawkins not been hurt against the Buffs, allowing Kahlil Tate to introduce himself to the college football world, the Buffs (who had their chances to defeat the Wildcats, even with Tate running wild) could have been a 6-6 team heading to a bowl last December, and Arizona might have been the team which ended up at 5-7.

The two teams are not all that far apart.

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Game Ten – Washington State – November 10th

… Since 2015, only USC and Stanford have compiled more Pac-12 wins than Washington State, and the Cougs have the same record in conference games as rival Washington, 19-8.

At the same time, Washington State hasn’t signed a class in the top half of the Pac-12 during Leach’s tenure. In fact, the last Cougars signing class to rank in the top half of the conference was in 2004.

Doing more with less … the Washington State way under Mike Leach.

New defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys said Washington State’s success of late isn’t just important for the players, it also was a draw to Pullman for him because it wasn’t a rebuilding effort.

“All the places that we’ve been and with Coach (Jerry) Kill and taking over jobs, they’ve all been trying to rebuild them from the ground up,” new defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys told The Athletic. “So, I was excited to get the opportunity here where a lot of the ground-level work was laid. They’ve competed. They’ve won a lot of conference games the last three years. … That part of it was exciting to me.”

Washington State is replacing five coaches, and faces a future without all-time leading passer Luke Falk.

The 2018 season will be a test of whether the Cougars can maintain excellence, or will be returning to their historic roots of mediocrity.

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Game Eleven – Utah – November 17th

… It’s hard not to think about Utah without thinking about last year’s game in Salt Lake City. The Buffs were a 5-4 team in early November last year, with an opportunity to return to a bowl and maintain the momentum gained from the 2016 season.

Instead, the Buffs blew a ten-point fourth quarter lead against Arizona State, and then were out-classed in the home finale against USC.

This left the Buffs with a 5-6 record, taking on the Utes, who also had a 5-6 record. One team would go on to a bowl game; the other would stay home for the holidays.

While the records of the two teams were identical, the motivations were not. Utah raced out to a 28-0 halftime lead, and coasted to a 34-13 victory. It was one of the most difficult games for CU fans to watch in years (and we have had to endure some pretty difficult games).

And … at least until August 31st in Denver … that game against Utah last November 25th stands as the last impression the Buffs have left on the field.

Much has been said and written about the Buffs’ improvement this off-season. The attitude appears to be good; the swagger has returned just a bit. There have been few negative off-season stories (in stark contrast to last off-season), which can’t help but raise expectations heading into the 2018 campaign.

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Game Twelve – at Cal – November 24th

… If Colorado were facing Cal in the 2018 season opener, it would be a tough call as to how the game would turn out. Both teams finished 5-7, 2-7 last season. Fans for both teams have reason for optimism; fans for both teams have reason for concern.

By the time Thanksgiving weekend rolls around, however, much more will be known about both teams.

Colorado or Cal  or both – could be a surprise team in 2018, making a move in the Pac-12 standings.

Colorado or Cal – or both – could be a disappointment in 2018.

The odds-makers favor Cal to be more likely to head into the season finale with a chance at a bowl, with the over/under for season victories for the Bears at 5.5 … while Colorado is only 4.0.

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4 Replies to “Game-By-Game Previews”

  1. CU vs CSU: W – 43-21
    CU at NU: W- 45-28
    NH at CU: W- 35 – 42
    UCLA at CU: W – 35 – 38
    ASU at CU: W – 28-31
    CU at USC: W- 28-21
    CU at UW: L – 28-42
    OSU at CU: W- 28-45
    CU at AZ: L 31-35
    WSU at CU: W 21 – 41
    UT at CU: L 38-28
    CU at Cal: W- 33-21

    Did I just say they’ll go 9 and 3? Sure did. And, they’ll be in the hunt for Pac 12 South champs again, but lose to UT, who’ll finally get theirs. It’s going to play out exactly like that, too. Or, I cannot see the future.

    Go Buffs.

    1. Very interesting. Very Interesting. Looking at these projections requires some data checking. So Lets go: (Conference games only)

      Defense

      points allowed…2013…2014…2015…2016…2017..2018?
      ………………………44………43……..32…….21……35……….30

      Good chance the defense actually accomplishes this. They will be better. Talent, coaching experience, new coach, better d-line

      And the offense

      points scored …2013…2014…2015…2016…2017..2018?
      ………………………20……..29…….20…….30……25……..34

      Clearly the addition by subtraction axiom is in play here.

      In your projection the D will kinda be what it always is, But the chev offense will be the best since Mac has been here.

      Up your Buffalo Bud

      1. I have faith in Montez, and think the defense will improve throughout the season. They gotta figure out how to stop the run, just a little at least, huh?

        Go Big Javi (and Chris, Mustafa, Izzy, et al).

        Go Buffs.

  2. Certainly the Mighty Buffs will win at least 2 non-con games
    Certainly the Mighty Buffs will win at least 3 home conference games
    Certainly the Mighty Buffs will win at least 1 away conference game

    Bowl Game

    Up the Buffalo

    Note: Any additional win is gravy

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