CU Not Getting (Or Deserving?) Any Love From Preseason Magazines

According to T.S. Eliot, April is the cruelest month.

Buff fans could argue for June.

Every June for well over a decade, when college football preseason magazines have hit the shelves … CU fans have found little positive to read about.

Low expectations are nothing new in Boulder. Since the Buffaloes joined the Pac-12 in 2011, conference media have picked them to finish last in the South division seven times. They have garnered just two first-place votes in the preseason media poll. They’ve never been picked to finish higher than fourth, not even after winning the South in 2016. That’s the harsh reality, and it sets up this season’s challenge: to prove everyone wrong.

June, 2022, is no different.

If anything … as hard as it is to believe … it may be worse. If there is any national publication predicting Colorado will post a winning record or go bowling, I haven’t seen it. Colorado is universally being picked to finish last in the Pac-12, and that’s in a division which features Arizona, a team which has won one game in the past two seasons.

So, yes, there is more optimism nationally about a program which has gone 1-23 in its past 24 games dating back to the middle of the 2019 season (with the only win being a 10-3 decision over a COVID-depleted Cal team last fall) than there is for Colorado.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the predictions are that dire …

From The Athletic … Colorado has a difficult road. The Buffaloes’ nonconference schedule is tough, and the second-half schedule is a nightmare. The portal losses don’t help. It’s hard to see a path to six wins and bowl eligibility. But this is how Colorado is often viewed this time of year.

From ESPN … After a long run of mediocre play, the bottom dropped out in 2021. The Buffs plummeted to 104th in SP+. The defense was occasionally decent, but the offense averaged 15.6 points per game against opponents who weren’t Arizona or from FCS. Experience levels are solid this year, but almost no returnee stood out statistically, and from the perspective of pure recruiting rankings, this is barely a power-conference roster. In Karl Dorrell’s third season in charge, Colorado is not a projected favorite in a single game.

From Lindy’s … Karl Dorrell’s debut season defied expectations with Colorado contending for the Pac-12 South during the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign. With a home of returning starters back, including Jarek Broussard, CU had the makings of a dark-horse Pac-12 contender in 2021. But the Buffs’ offensive woes sent them back near the bottom of the league, where CU has typically finished since joining the in 2011. The 2022 campaign could be more of the same if the influx of new offensive players cannot engineer a dramatic turnaround.

From CBS Sports … Colorado, like Arizona, has no gimme games on its schedule. That makes life tough when you’re a projected bottom-feeder searching for footing early in a coach’s tenure. Colorado isn’t so void of talent that can’t win four games. But with Oregon and Washington both on the schedule from the North, six true road games and no pushover opponents, the under is a safer bet on this Vegas projection. Pick: Under 3.5 wins (-130).

From CollegeFootballNews … The running game didn’t go anywhere, the passing attack couldn’t convert on third downs, and the steady production wasn’t there. On the plus side, the offense didn’t turn the ball over enough to matter, but it’ll have to take a few more chances and risks to open it all up a bit more.

Colorado came up with three sacks in the opener against Northern Colorado, and it came up with three late in the year against Washington. It also came up with two against a hapless Arizona offensive line. It only generated five in the other nine games.

National rankings haven’t been positive, with very little positive reinforcement for Colorado fans . When there are 65 Power Five conference schools, and your Buffs aren’t anywhere close to that number, it’s a bad look.

And if that’s the case … what is there to look forward to?

Some of the national rankings:

  • Athlon’s … National ranking: 92 … Last in the Pac-12 South … projected record: 3-9,2-7
  • Lindy’s … National ranking: 83 … Last in the Pac-12 South
  • ESPN … National ranking: 100 … Last in the Pac-12 South … 2% chance of earning a bowl bid
  • College Football News … Last in the Pac-12 South … projected record: 4-8

What may be the most telling is what opposing coaches have to say about Colorado. Both The Athletic and Athlon Sports offered anonymity to Pac-12 coaches in exchange for their candor.

Here’s what they had to say …

Athlons … “It will be interesting to see how they look this year. What was the real Dorrell product? The quick wins in the pandemic season, or what came after? They’re definitely still transitioning, and some of that is because of the time of year Tucker left and the inability to hire out from a full pool of assistants, but the trick with Colorado is that from the outside, the expectations are unclear. Coaches talk in this league, and there’s a rep out there that they’re not interested in pressing to be great again, that they’re just going to be focused on academics … Since they’ve joined the league, they’ve underperformed relative to their potential, if you believe in Colorado as a brand, because they could recruit and develop like a Utah if they had the right guys in there … Dorrell is a veteran coach. There’s a chance he can play this right and let his guys recruit their asses off and surprise some people in a year or two. Until then, you look at this program and thing about what could be”. 

The Athletic … A Pac-12 coach mocked the question. “What are your thoughts on this team that changed its offensive coordinator and has a bunch of new personnel?”

Welcome to the transfer era. Rosters change quickly, Colorado’s maybe more than most. At least in terms of producers. Last season, the Buffaloes struggled so much offensively they were not difficult to evaluate.

The program struggles go deeper. “Colorado is a good program, it seems like a nice place to be,” the Pac-12 coach said. “They have had some players that should excel, but there’s just been a lot of (coaching) changes for those kids over the years. They really don’t get a chance to get into a groove. It’s also hard to get into a groove with your recruiting profile when there’s so much change.”

Is there any optimistic language out there? 

A little …

Athlon Sports … Outside expectations are low, but with a rebuilt staff and young talent, there is a quiet confidence. Dorrell is ready for the challenge. “I do believe by the time we line up and play, we’ll have a good 22 – first and second team – on both sides of the ball that can move and do some good things for us”. 

The Athletic … For the Buffaloes to surprise, they’ll need better quarterback play and better offensive protection. Young players on defense will have to blossom into the game-changers Wilson covets. An important part of success is knowing who you are, and no one would argue that Colorado is trying to be something it’s not. Maybe that means something. Maybe it doesn’t.

College Football News … But let’s not get too much into the doom and gloom. Colorado should have the talent to get by Air Force on the road, it can beat TCU if the offense is strong right away, and there will be a few games when everything works and the Pac-12 team on the other side doesn’t have it. Again, the problem is the schedule – there’s no base of certain wins to count on. Now, beat TCU and Air Force to kick things off, and everything changes and Colorado will project to be a bowl-bound team. But until then, considering all the 50/50 games – and worse – this might be a better team without the great record to show for it.

Sure, it’s easy to ignore the national publications. They are trying to write stories on 131 FBS teams, and it’s difficult to keep up with each program, especially in an era when rosters have been completely overturned by the Transfer Portal. CU’s narrative has changed little in the past decade-plus, so why bother to spend any time going in depth on a team which no one – no one – thinks has a chance to compete for a division title?

Still, in the CU at the Game interview series, the “quiet confidence” referenced by Athlon Sports article was certainly evident. The quotes from the players like “They are not in the locker room” was a constant refrain. There was high praise for the new coaches on the staff. The players were talking about winning the Pac-12 South and playing for a title, not just trying to get to .500 and earn a bowl bid.

The (over)confidence of youth? Probably.

Karl Dorrell’s third team may prove to be the surprise team of 2022 … but probably won’t.

The off-season is supposed to be a time for optimism for college football fans, with every program undefeated until proven otherwise.

For Buff fans, it’s just another cruel June.


5 Replies to “CU Not Getting (Or Deserving?) Any Love From Preseason Magazines”

  1. Karl Dorrell’s third team may prove to be the surprise team of 2022 … but probably won’t.

    Sheesh, did earache write that line for ya…………..??

  2. We have been in this situation for what seems too long now. Significant coaching turnover and now the added issue of portal impacts on the roster. I read where Rice may now be the 5th receiver in the new USC offense, which is telling given how he was supposed to be our best.

    Oh well, it is what mediocre Phil wants for CU so it is what we get. Until Phil goes, little will change.

  3. “…. there’s a rep out there that they’re not interested in pressing to be great again, that they’re just going to be focused on academics …”
    If your goal is to just field a team, and cash the conference TV money then maybe the University views what’s been going on the last decade as a success. The flagship school in the state should aspire to something greater.

  4. It is really hard to read all those comments. I want to have hope, so I do think we will surprise other teams this year. Then again, I was at CU in the late 196o’s and 1970’s, when we had talented kids, often better than the other teams. We also had great assn’t coaches and I can’t tell anymore if that is true. I am wondering about Wilson, is he really good as a Def cord, or is he just all old reputation? He never made the D Line kids perform all that great IMO. I hope again that he is better than he has shown so far. Before everyone yells at me, think about what Coach Levitt might have done with the past defense kids we had? How many would jumped to another team?

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