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Pleasantly Surprised

It seemed predestined.

With all that the University of Colorado football program has had to put up with over the past eight months, I had significantly reduced expectations as to how the revised Pac-12 schedule would look.

The 2020 narrative is familiar to Buff fans … CU jilted by head coach Mel Tucker in February … New head coach Karl Dorrell and his staff less than a week away from spring practices when the sporting world shut down in March (with CU one of only three schools in the Pac-12 not to have at least some spring practices) … Fall Camp closed down before it starts … And then, the same day when the Pac-12 announced that teams could resume a regular 20-hour/week schedule, with Fall Camp to be resumed October 8th or 9th, Boulder County health officials shut down the Buffs once again.

(On the off-chance you want to relive the blow-by-blow of Karl Dorrell’s nightmare first six months as CU’s head coach, “You Can’t Spell Cursed Without CUcan be found here).

Also working against the Buffs was the karma of the timing of the Pac-12’s announcement of the revised 2020 schedule.

It was 40 years ago this weekend that Colorado endured one of the most infamous losses in program history.

On October 4, 1980, the Buffs hosted No. 12 Oklahoma.

To refresh your memory … The Buffs, in the second year under head coach Chuck Fairbanks, were 0-3 on the young season. Colorado had opened with UCLA (just like this season under the Pac-12 schedule 3.0), falling behind 56-0 … at halftime. The first home game, two weeks later, was against Lee Corso’s Indiana Hoosiers. The result? A 49-7 defeat. (To add insult to that particular injury, that week Sports Illustrated came out that week with a story on CU’s cutting of Olympic sports … and Chuck Fairbanks’ desk).

The chances of CU upsetting the Sooners were not good that weekend … but we had no idea how bad it would get.

In all, at least 51 NCAA, Big Eight Conference, Colorado team, or Folsom Field records were broken as Oklahoma routed Colorado, 82-42.

A few of the numbers:

  • Oklahoma had an NCAA record 758 yards rushing on the day … Compare: Alex Fontenot, CU’s leading rusher last season, had 874 yards in 12 games;
  • Oklahoma had an NCAA record 875 yards of total offense … Compare: Laviska Shenault had 925 yards of total offense in 12 games last fall;
  • The two teams set an NCAA record for total touchdowns (18), and the most total points in a game (124), a record which stood until Middle Tennessee beat Idaho 70-58 in 2001

You get the idea.

(In case you want to watch the game, or check out the game story, you can do so here).

A coincidence that CU has played four more times in the past 40 years on October 4th since that Oklahoma debacle … and lost all four?

Nah.

So it seemed predestined that CU would be screwed when the Pac-12 schedules were announced.

Now, it should have been hard for the conference to actually make things more difficult for the Buffs. After all, the presumption was that the conference would have every team play every other team in their division, with one additional cross-over game against the other division. That would leave the Buffs with five known games, and only one unknown.

But, with the Pac-12 waiting over a week to announce the schedule, there were conspiracy theories aplenty.

John Canzano, who covers the Oregon Ducks for The Oregonian, wrote about the Pac-12 and the concept of sticking to having five intra-divisional games, “I wonder if it blew an opportunity by not reworking the schedule to focus more on getting the two most promising teams (Oregon and USC) one additional opportunity for a quality win in the crossover game.”

It wasn’t as if there wasn’t precedent. The SEC, which only schedules eight conference games in a normal season, went with a ten-game, conference-only slate this season. In adding two extra cross-over games, the SEC blatantly skewed the schedule in Alabama’s and Georgia’s favor. Did Alabama add a marquee game against Florida? Nope – the Tide got Missouri and Kentucky. Did Georgia add LSU or Texas A&M? Nope – the Bulldogs got Arkansas and Mississippi State.

Would the Pac-12 follow suit?

Would the Pac-12 give the Buffs a road game against Oregon? In revised schedule 2.0, the Buffs, who were supposed to open Pac-12 play at home against the Ducks, were now scheduled to play Oregon on the road.

Now, if logic held, there were only two real choices for the Pac-12 conference for the Buffs, if they were going to hold true to the concept of keeping the 2020 revised schedule as close to the original 2020 schedule as possible (with the stated reason for doing so to keep the 2021 schedule, which is to be the mirror of the 2020 schedule, as consistent as possible.

Originally, CU was scheduled to play five conference home games and four conference road games. The schedule against the Pac-12 South included three home games against the South division – UCLA; Arizona State; and Utah – with two road games – at Arizona and at USC.

If the original schedule was to be maintained, CU’s five intra-divisional games would remain the same. That would leave the Buffs with one game to be played against the North, and it had to be a road game.

On the original schedule, CU had two road games against North division teams … at Stanford on November 14th, and at Washington on November 21st.

If the Pac-12 wanted to help its “contenders” as much as possible, they would have given Washington the Buffs.

Instead, the Buffs got Stanford.

Ironically enough, the Buffs were scheduled to play the Cardinal in Palo Alto on November 14th … as the 10th game of the season.

The Buffs will now play Stanford in Palo Alto on November 14th … as the 2nd game of the season.

Here’s CU’s revised 2020 fall schedule … 

DateOpponentSite
Nov. 7UCLABoulder
Nov. 14at StanfordStanford, Calif.
Nov. 21Arizona StateBoulder
Nov. 28at Southern CaliforniaLos Angeles, Calif.
Dec. 5at ArizonaTucson, Ariz.
Dec. 11 (Fri.)UtahBoulder
Dec. 18Pac-12 Championship GameCampus Site
(OR) Dec. 19North Division OpponentTBD

Not only did the Pac-12 give Colorado the most favorable schedule possible under the circumstances in terms of opponents … the Buffs also got a break in terms of how the schedule plays out.

It would have been understandable, even expected, if the Buffs were forced to open their 2020 season 3.0 on the road. In the original schedule, the Buffs were slated to open on the road against Colorado State. In the revised, ten-game conference-only schedule announced in July, the Buffs were slated to open on the road against Oregon. Plus, there is the very real issue of getting the Buffs “permission” to play in Folsom Field. As of this writing, Colorado is not allowed to practice, much less play a game. It would have been justifiable for the Pac-12 to send the Buffs on the road for the first week of the new schedule … perhaps even for the first two games.

Instead, the Buffs get to open the Karl Dorrell era at home. While playing before no fans will reduce the home field advantage, whatever advantage there is to have in this strange season, it is to be in favor of the home team, especially early when everything is new to both teams.

And not only do the Buffs get to open at home, the opponent is not Utah, the defending Pac-12 South champions, or Arizona State, a dark horse candidate to win the South division this year … but against UCLA.

The Bruins, along with the Buffs and the Arizona Wildcats, are considered to be the bottom tier of the Pac-12 South. The Bruins, while they currently are allowed to practice in cohorts (unlike CU), have had their own issues with local and state authorities this fall in terms of what is allowed in terms of practice. The Buffs’ inability to practice this past week (assuming that they will be allowed to conduct all 25 Fall Camp practices, starting next week) could be offset by UCLA’s prior issues.

UCLA has been inconsistent on offense under Chip Kelly, and has only three starters returning on defense. The last time the Bruins played in Folsom Field, the Buffs dominated, winning 38-16.

It’s going to be a tough go for Karl Dorrell & Company in 2020. The Buffs haven’t played in ten months, and it will be almost 11 full months between games by the time UCLA hits Boulder. There has been plenty of time to forget that CU has posted three consecutive 5-7 seasons. Every team in the Pac-12 is currently undefeated.

Colorado is not likely to maintain that status.

But the Pac-12 didn’t screw the Buffs when it laid out its revised schedule.

And that, for a change, is a pleasant surprise.

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5 Replies to “Pleasantly Surprised”

  1. Stu
    I think it was an auto fill the out my real name in the “name” box as opposed to EP. Please dont post
    thanks. Computers that want to think for you are another one of my peeves

  2. Optimistic View
    UCLA – Our defense is returning largely intact, under the same defensive scheme they were really starting to shine in. The UCLA QB can be rattled and I suspect we will get to him. Our offense finds enough of a running game groove to run over UCLA’s pour outs defense. W
    Stanford – Buffs like to win grind out games with low scoring offenses – W
    ASU – somehow we got this teams number. Frankly, I don’t understand why as this team was significantly better than most of the teams that beat us last year. So another W
    USC- so by this point in the season, images of Helton our being burned in the street, and they ignite another wildfire. The team has completely abandoned Helton as they wait for their next coach. CU finally gets of the snide versus the Trojans -W
    Arizona – can we finally, beat this loser of a team? Yes, we can! W
    Utah – sorry, even I am not that optimistic. They beat us. Wait….. what am I saying? They are breaking in a new QB, they are in rebuilding mode, and fragmented by their implosion at the end of last year….wrack it up! W
    6-0. You heard it here first……

    I refuse to go down the pessimistic line, just can’t do it. Been to tough of a year already.

    1. Click on the Colorado Daily heading for the CU Press release.
      But, for convenience purposes … here you go …

      Date Opponent Site
      Nov. 7 UCLA Boulder
      Nov. 14 at Stanford Stanford, Calif.
      Nov. 21 Arizona State Boulder
      Nov. 28 at Southern California Los Angeles, Calif.
      Dec. 5 at Arizona Tucson, Ariz.
      Dec. 11 (Fri.) Utah Boulder
      Dec. 18 Pac-12 Championship Game Campus Site
      (OR) Dec. 19 North Division Opponent TBD

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