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Savoring CU’s 2-0 Start to the 2020 Season

In this space, we were supposed to be talking about CU’s home game against Arizona State.

Would the Buffs continue their impressive start to the season? Would the Sun Devils, still hurting from their last minute loss to USC in their opener, come to Boulder with a chip on their shoulder … or with slumped shoulders? Would CU continue to befuddle the nation’s skeptics, or would Arizona State put the Buffs in their place?

Seems like we are not destined to know (unless the game gets rescheduled as a Game Seven in December).

An outbreak of positive COVID tests prevented Arizona State from playing their home opener against Cal last weekend, forcing the Bears to load their equipment trucks and head to Pasadena to play UCLA in a rare Sunday morning matchup.

The situation was so bad in Tempe that ASU didn’t need to wait until late in the week to cancel the CU game … we knew last Sunday afternoon that the Buffs’ home game against the Sun Devils was off. Later in the week, the Pac-12 did make allowances for games against non-conference opponents, but it was too little, too late for the Buffs to set up a game against an opponent which could meet the Pac-12’s criteria (CSU and Wyoming, by the way, didn’t meet two of the three standards set, namely that the game be played on the Pac-12’s home turf and that the testing of the proposed opponent was equal to that of the Pac-12).

So, where does that leave the 2-0 Buffs?

Well, for one thing, they remain undefeated, something only 16 other teams in FBS (and only eight in Power Five conferences) can claim. They will carry an unblemished record into Thanksgiving weekend for only the second time in school history (the first in 1937, in the Bryon “Whizzer” White Cotton Bowl year; the second being 1989, when the Buffs took an 11-0 record to the Orange Bowl).

What’s more satisfying to the Buff Nation is that no one nationally – and we’re talking no one – saw this coming.

Athlon ranked no unit on CU’s roster higher than eighth in the Pac-12 (with the quarterbacks, wide receivers/tight ends, and offensive lines being ranked dead last in the conference). Athlon quoted an (anonymous) opposing coach as saying: “How are you going to sell Karl Dorrell? How does that work? He had an unsuccessful run at UCLA. Every coach in the league is going to use that against him“.

You remember the narrative … No practices + no Laviska Shenault + no quarterback = a disaster for Colorado. Vegas had the over/under on CU wins at 1.5 (for a seven-game season). CBS Sports rankings had the Buffs ranked in the 100’s – ranking CU as not only one of the worst programs in the world of Power Five conferences, but one of the worst programs in the entire nation.

Which makes the season opening wins over UCLA (48-42) and Stanford (35-32) are all the more delicious.

The Buffs were a touchdown underdog in each game, yet pushed out to double digit leads against both opponents with an imaginative and productive offense, together with an aggressive, bend-but-don’t break defense.

It’s easy, as the dust settles on our memories of the first two games, to reflect on the worst part of those two games … allowing the opposition to make comebacks; with a porous CU defense allowing both the Bruins and the Cardinal to make a game of it late.

The Buffs are giving up 37 points a game! 

Also giving Buff fans pause … It is a true statement … though I found it hard to believe, so I had to go and look it up … that this is the fifth straight year that CU has opened the season with a 2-0 record.

Yup. It’s true.

CU started 2-0 in 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019 before opening this fall with wins over UCLA and Stanford.

But, as we all know so well, except for the stellar 10-4 season in 2016, the Buffs were unable to sustain the initial success, finishing the last three seasons 5-7, 5-7, and 5-7.

Is the 2020 team destined to backslide as well?

After all, while the pundits thought the world of UCLA and Stanford (at least in comparison to Colorado), reality told us different. UCLA under Chip Kelly had opened up 0-5 and 0-3 in his first two seasons at Westwood, so slow starts were nothing new (in defeating Cal last weekend, the Bruins hit .500 for the first time in a season under Kelly). Stanford, meanwhile, entered its game against CU on a five-game losing streak, a streak which started with the Buffs’ win over the Cardinal in Boulder last November.

No one seemed to remember, but both of CU’s first two opponents in 2020 struggled to 4-8 records last fall.

Both UCLA and Stanford were expected to improve in 2020, while CU was expected to backslide. Dennis Dodd at CBS Sports had the nerve to say that the Buffs, if anything, were “overrated” …

How does a 5-7 team that lost its previous coach after one season become overrated? Easy. It replaced that coach with a guy who hasn’t been a head coach for 13 years. When Karl Dorrell was a head coach, he wasn’t a very good one (two winning seasons in five at UCLA). Look, I get that CU wanted someone who was going to stay awhile and wasn’t going to look around. But that’s in indictment of what Colorado has become rather than the man himself. Mike MacIntyre didn’t work out. Mel Tucker left after a year. The last winning coach in town was Gary Barnett. That was 15 years ago. Nothing against Dorrell, who is a fine person and veteran assistant coach, but if the idea is to get back to the glory days at CU, this isn’t the right move.

To date, however, Karl Dorrell and his band of misfit toys is confounding the intelligentsia of college football. The Buffs are scoring at the rate of 41.5 points per game – without Steven Montez or Laviska Shenault – and without, it bears noting, the team’s leading rusher from last season, Alex Fontenot, and without CU’s leading returning receiver, K.D. Nixon, neither of whom has yet to play a down this fall.

Sam Noyer, who no one (and yes, that includes me) expected to be named the starter, has not only been an efficient “manager” of the offense (which was the best that we thought we could hope for), he has had the look of a seasoned starter, making good decisions, both with his arm and his legs.

Jarek Broussard, himself a surprise starter, leads the conference (and is third nationally) in rushing, and has, like Noyer, been named the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week.

Karl Dorrell, for his part, was this week named to the watch list for the Paul “Bear” Bryant Award, given to the Coach of the Year. One of 24 coaches named to the list, Dorrell joins two other coaches from the Pac-12, Oregon’s Mario Cristobal and USC’s Clay Helton.

It’s been a great start … but is 2-0 enough?

Not when two wins does not equate to a bowl invitation. With the Pac-12 losing partners in the Holiday Bowl, the LA Bowl, the RedBox Bowl, and, quite possibly, the Las Vegas Bowl, bowl invitations will be at a premium, and CU will need at least one – and more likely two – more wins to secure only its second bowl bid in 13 seasons.

But 2-0 beats the Hell out of 0-2, which is where CU was predicted to be at this juncture. (And, if you are like me, you are enjoying the seasons of three teams Buffs fans love to hate – Colorado State; Nebraska; and Michigan State. The 1-2 Rams got the weekend off, giving them more time to ponder having three – three! – blocked kicks returned for touchdowns in a 52-21 beatdown by Boise State … Michigan State, at 1-3, has been out-scored 73-7 the past two games … Nebraska, also 1-3, did play this weekend, though Cornhusker fans wish they hadn’t. Nebraska was a 16.5-point favorite at home against Illinois, but the Illini dominated the Cornhuskers, winning 41-23 for their first win in Lincoln since 1924).

Would it have been nice to have CU hosting Arizona State this weekend? Sure.

Would it have been amazing to see the Buffs take down Herm Edwards and the Sun Devils for the third straight season? Absolutely.

But we didn’t get the game … and we don’t know how the game would have turned out.

So, for another week … Enjoy the run. Enjoy the victories. Enjoy the return of hope.

Savor the moment … and then get ready to explode if the Buffs can manage to beat USC (for the first time in school history) and take command of the Pac-12 South!!

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9 Replies to “Savoring CU’s 2-0 Start”

  1. The national fallacy of our team last year…that we were successful b/c of Montez/Viska. Glad at least one national pundit mentioned it…what the heck was Tuck thinking putting Noyer on D?? He looks better, more poised, confident and assertive than Montez. Those of us that watch know that Montez every year faded, and faded badly, falling back to awful habits and turning the ball over. Viska was really not that impactful last season and while Fontenot did well, wasn’t like he was the 2nd coming of Phillip (and coaches were talking up our other backs).
    Credit to HCKD for trusting what he sees and putting the best players out there period (though Mangham is the one I question…still no burst or power).

    1. As some will remind you Montez is now getting paid in the NFL and holds a few Buff passing records.
      Having said that its my opinion his talent was wasted in Bufland because of poor coaching which I evidence by the poor poor play calling and design through the Mickey and Mel years as well as the evidence of the Mel and Johnson results at MSU. You can probably ask “what was he thinking?” to all the aforementioned coaches at more than one level.
      Also evident is the O line play this year helping Noyer which was less than satisfactory during the Montez years.
      No knock on Noyer. He has looked great but 2 games out and its a little early to anoint him as the best QB…since Sefu?
      Its still a team game

  2. Definitely like you, Stu. Thoroughly enjoying the travails of CSU, MSU and Cornholers. They can’t lose enough or by enough points. I think that the Cornholers are in a Hawkins-Peterson situation. Reminiscenct of way back when Bohn-head in his finite wisdom hired HWSRN instead of Peterson. In the Cornholers case, they probably should have hired Josh Huepel the UCF OC instead of Frostie. But it would be unimaginable for the Cornholers to hire a former Heisman Tropy winning OU QB over the Golden Boy. But they probably should have. Watching the Cornholers in all black unis yesterday seemed like they were mocking themselves, Blackshirts indeed. Wait until Iowa gets ahold of them on Friday.

  3. Oh how I have been enjoying analyzing these first 2 games of the Karl Dorrell era. The offense is fun to watch. The o-line play has been amazing. They have dominated the line of scrimmage especially in the red zone. Nine touchdowns in 10 trips to the red zone. Are you freakin kidding me!! I doubt if there is another team in college football that is converting 90% of their red zone entries into touchdowns. Plus only 1 QB sack in 2 games!!
    As I said once before, of all the coaching hires that KD made, Mitch Rodrigue stands out in my mind. He has the same players that Midnight Mel and Coach Kapilovic had on the roster last year with totally different results. Maybe it’s those blocking dummies that Coach Rod is selling online that is helping these young studs learn the finer points of line play. Are maybe its his style garnered from 3 decades of coaching in the South where the emphasis is on trench warfare. Whatever it is, I’m loving watching these linemen play.
    Give this coaching staff 2 weeks to prepare for USC and hopefully we will have a very entertaining game. We need to get that monkey off our backs with a win over USC.
    Go BUFFS!!!!!

    1. I agree. Think how big of a risk that was to hire Rodrigue out of a high school program….. and the knowledge to know he is out there…..

  4. Thanks for the smile this morning Stu. Smile? I almost fell out of my chair laughing when you used the term “the intelligentsia of college football.” In keeping with that its also hilarious that Dennis Dud casts the aspersion of “over rated” to anyone besides himself.
    Even Vegas has eggs benedict on their face. Huskers by how many? Good thing they have all those honest billionaires backing up their sports bets. Are the days gone when one of their employees causes a hemorrhage of money winds up in a shallow grave?
    In short, so far, its been a great year for the Buffs and college football in general. The new found parity has made the games more exciting. Ohio State and Alabama still need to be kneecapped but I dont pay any attention to them anyway.

    1. Uh, ep, the Evil Geniuses in Lost Wages invented the “point spread” to even out the money bet on each team, combined with “odds” on the money line so they don’t get killed on upsets anymore! Instead they make their money on the vigoresh and on stupid prop bets (who wins the coin toss, etc.) these days! It’s not your father’s Las Vegas…….

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