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Does the 2021 Season Equal the 2015 Season?  Stay With Me…..

… “History doesn’t repeat itself. But it often rhymes” … Mark Twain …

… A Guest Essay by CU at the Gamer Rob O … 

So one of the things I love about CU at the Game is the archives.  During the long gaps between spring and fall practices I often peruse them and review past seasons.  One of the things I did this year is look through the reports and comments to see if I can find some guidance on how the upcoming season will go.  Most of the time it is tough to draw comparisons but I have hit on something that I find a bit interesting that I thought I would share.  2021 may be strangely similar to 2015…..

Now you have to stay with me as we all know what happened in 2016, and no one, in their right mind would suggest we are due for a season like we had in 2016.  But I am a fan, and so by definition, not necessarily of sound mind.

Let me begin with some quotes from the archives that might ring a bell:

From the 2015 Hawaii game:

“If I had to pick a word, it would probably be ‘resignation’.”

Now this was the first game of the year in 2015 and it took a bit longer in 2021 but I think I felt “resigned” for the majority of the season.  Stu has the 2021 season labeled as “Acceptance/Resignation” in his archives (I question the acceptance part but clearly agree that most of this season I felt resigned).

From the 2015 Umass game:

“Well into the second quarter the game was very much in doubt.”

The 2021 UNC game:

Do we all remember how long Northern Colorado hung around, before being put away solidly.

From the 2015 Arizona State Game:

Sisyphus

“The 2015 season, MacIntyre’s third, was supposed to be the season of progress.  Perhaps not the ten-win success MacIntyre enjoyed in his third season at San Jose State, but progress nonetheless.

The boulder had been pushed far enough back up the hill that the Buffs and their fans could at least see the summit once again. After a slip to start the season against Hawai’i, the boulder started edging up, with the Buffs posting their first three game winning streak in seven years,  A 41-24 loss to Oregon, while not a step higher up the hill, was at least not a step back.  It was a sign of progress that the Buffs – and their fans – were upset that they had let an opportunity to take down a vulnerable Duck program slip away.

Then….. the Arizona State game.

And the Boulder slides back down the hill again.”

Compared to the 2021 Minnesota game:

After the game in which we took A&M (a team that later that year beat Alabama) to the wire:

Why Should we continue to Care

“After watching the beat down the Buffs took against Minnesota, falling 30-0 at home in a game which wasn’t even that close, I have to ask the question myself:

Why do I keep doing this…..only to be continuously disappointed?”

The 2015 Oregon game compared to the 2021 UCLA game

2015 Oregon half time score 17-17 but Oregon put on the gas and the final score ended up at 41-24

2021 UCLA half time score was a 20-10 CU lead, quickly lapped in the second half by UCLA by 34 unanswered points leaving us with a 20-44 loss….

As I read through the seasons there are so many similarities.  It is not just the losing though, there is a lot of losing seasons to pick from.  It is how we lost, how we had such high expectations going into the season and yet how we always seemed to come up short of those expectations in those years.

In 2015 we thought we might be good just like we did in 2021.  Sefo had started setting records and Lewis was such a bright star during the Texas game….

Team Statistics

Taking  look at the team statistics there is surprisingly little difference, both were historically bad teams.

2015

  • Points Scored/Game: 24.6 (97)
  • Passing Yards/Game: 239.3 (49)
  • Rushing Yards/Game: 157.5 (86)
  • Points Scored Against/Game: 27.5 (71)
  • Passing Yards Against/Game: 218 (60)
  • Rushing Yards Against/Game: 198.7 (100)

2021

  • Points Scored/Game: 18.8 (121st)
  • Passing Yards/Game: 131.2 (126th)
  • Rushing Yards/Game: 126.2 (98th)
  • Points Scored Against/Game: 26.67 (73rd)
  • Passing Yards Against/Game: 242.3 (90th)
  • Rushing Yards Against/Game: 178.6 (96th)

The 2015 and 2021 defenses look pretty similar from an overall statistics standpoint.  The only noticeable difference is the extra passing yards given up in 2021.  This could likely be for the developing NFL defensive backs in the 2015 defense or the bend but don’t break defense that Wilson seems to prefer.  But the key is scoring defense and in that regard we are very close.  From a defensive perspective this is the first year of a new defensive coordinator implementing their scheme.

The offensive numbers are pretty horrendous on both sides especially from a scoring perspective.  The 2015 team at least had the ability to throw the ball while the 2021 team was largely mired in futility in all offensive aspects.  One thing that even I did not recall until perusing the archives is that while Lindgren remained the play caller, in 2016 Chev was brought in to help with the offense.  While 2021 showed the futility of Chev’s offense with him as a play caller we saw the difficulty that defenses had adjusting to his offensive ideas when they first see it in 2020.  For 2022 we will see a completely new offense lead by Sandford.

These statistics do not point towards anything that would indicate the success that would be seen in 2016 but I want to point out that as bad as we were from a team statistics point last year we were not much worse in 2015.

Game Comparisons

Let’s look at how the 2015 and 2021 teams compare against ranked teams, winning teams and beatable teams.

Steal a Game against Ranked Teams:

The next question is how do we stack up against the elite teams we faced:

 

YearRankOpponentResultScoreDifference
201524@UCLALost31-35-4
20159StanfordLost’10-42-32
201524Wash St.Lost‘3-27-24
20215A&MLost‘7-10-3
20217OregonLost29-52-23
202116UtahLost13-28-15

I think the 2021 A&M game is a bit of an aberration due to the A&M QB going down on the second series of the game.  But the UCLA game in 2015 also had some pretty significant bounces towards the CU Buffs to  help them keep that score close.

Excluding those two games the 2021 score differential are much closer in 2021 than they were in 2015 and against higher ranked opponents.

Losses are still losses but we are not seeing blow outs like we were in the early McIntyre and Embree years and we may even be closer to these teams in 2021 than we were in 2015.

Play well against teams with winning records:

How we do against ranked teams is good to know but when you are fighting for bowl eligibility how do you do against teams with winning records.  I will ignore lower division opponents for this comparison:

Excluding the ranked teams above and non Power 5:

YearOpponentOpp RecordResultScoreDifference
2015Oregon‘9-4Lost24-41-17
2015ASU‘6-7Lost23-48-25
2015Arizona‘7-6Lost31-38-7
2015Utah’10-3Lost14-20-6
Average-13.75
2021Minnesota‘9-4Lost0-30-30
2021ASU‘8-5Lost13-35-22
2021Oregon St.‘7-6Won37-343
2021UCLA‘8-4Lost20-44-24
Average-18.25

Overall both teams consistently lost against teams with winning records.  The 2021 team is markedly better for the single win against a team with a winning record but there was a noticeable increase in the average deficit against these opponents.  Neither of these is a clear indicator of a turn around building.  

Beat the bad teams

Teams that are growing are occasionally going to drop a game to a team you should beat but by and large you need to beat the bad teams or lower division teams:

I am excluding the lower division teams.  I know we have lost to those teams in the past but we are past that point.  Both teams beat the lower division teams they faced.

YearOpponentOpp RecordResultScoreDifference
2015Hawaii‘3-10Lost20-28-8
2015CSU‘7-6Win27-243
2021USC‘4-8Lost14-37-23
2021Arizona‘1-11Win34-034
2021Cal‘5-7Lost29-52-23
2021Washington‘4-8Win20-73

Both teams are 50/50 against bad teams or teams from a non power 5. If CU had beaten everyone from a bad team in 2021 they would have went bowling last year.  This will likely be the difference for the 2022 team.  Can they beat all of the teams that are beatable.  No one predicted USC and Washington having down years last year.  They just did, and there are always teams like that every year.  CU will have to beat all of these for a chance at a bowl.

Personnel Comparisons:

So from an overarching statistical analysis we can see a lot of similarities between the 2015 and 2021 seasons.  Let’s dive in and start looking at the specific groups and take a look at the players that contributed to each result.  I will focus a bit on the people that carried over from the 2015 team to the 2016 team as well as those that will carry over from the 2021 to the 2022 team.

Quarterbacks

YearNameGamesDrives/GameYards/Game% CompPassYd/

Attempt

Pass TD /GmInt/GmPass 1st Dwn/

Game

Rush 1st Dwn/ Game
2015Liufau1111.3624462.270.820.5510.82.9
2021Lewis1212.61445860.830.2551.42

At first glance there is no comparison between the two QB’s.  I have been loudly proclaiming that Lewis was the worst quarterback I had ever seen.  I like the young man, and I feel that if he had an OC that could adapt to Lewis’s limitations he could have had a much better year, and may have in 2022.  But last year Lewis’s play as called by Chev was garbage.  So this comparison can be potentially told in two different stories.

  1. Sefo was a better quarterback in virtually every measurement in 2015 compared to Lewis with the exception of INT’s.  This was Sefo as a Junior though.  Looking at Sefo as a Freshman we see at least a closer comparison of what a freshman QB is going to look like.  
YearNameGamesDrives/GameYards/Game% CompPassYd/

Attempt

Pass TD /GmInt/GmPass 1st Dwn/

Game

Rush 1st Dwn/ Game
2013Liufau812.1227597.11.5110.750.5
2021Lewis1212.61445860.830.2551.42

Sefo was still better but it is a lot closer.  Which gives us hope that Lewis might see a similar jump to his Sophmore year that Sefo had:

YearNameGamesDrives/GameYards/Game% CompPassYd/

Attempt

Pass TD /GmInt/GmPass 1st Dwn/

Game

Rush 1st Dwn/ Game
2013Liufau812.1227597.11.5110.750.5
2014Liufu1213.0827865.36.42.331.2512.51
Multi1.081.221.110.91.561.251.162

If Lewis were to see the same jump as Sefo  (adjusting for the extra games Sefo had his sophmore year) 

Lewis would potentially look like:

YearNameGamesDrives/GameYards/Game% CompPassYd/

Attempt

Pass TD /GmInt/GmPass 1st Dwn/

Game

Rush 1st Dwn/ Game
2021Lewis1212.61445860.830.2551.42
Multi1.081.221.110.91.561.251.162
2022LewisEstim13.6117664.35.41.30.315.82.83
2016Liufau111124262.27.510.557.823.36

So even adjusting for a jump to a Sophomore Lewis as a Sophomore is not a clean match for Sefo as a senior.  But we see enough of a bump for Lewis to go from the 104th QB to the 80th along with Kedon Slovis from USC and Zach Calzada from A&M and only 10 slots away from DTR from UCLA and Jayden Daniels of ASU.  So while this not be a 10 win season, it could be much closer to the 10 win season than the 3 win season.

  1. Another way to look at this would be to consider what if Sefo were hurt in fall camp and Cade Apsay the redshirt freshman was forced to step in for a full season.  While Cade never ended up developing into a starter it gives us some insight into the difficulties of a redshirt freshman playing in the PAC12 when they are not ready.

This story may be closer to ours if you believe that JT would have won the job in fall camp.  This is less a statistical comparison and more of a story.  If you are interested go watch the 2015 Utah Colorado game on the PAC12 network in which Cade Apsay started and Jordan Gehrke finished.  Compare that to the 2021 Utah Colorado game and you will see a lot of similarities.  Now Go watch the last 2 drives of the Tennessee Florida game in 2020 on YouTube.  Shrout leads those drives against a top ranked defense midway through the 4th quarter.  After watching those 2 drives I suspect that Lewis would have been pulled early in the year and Shrout would not have looked back in 2021 even if he did not win the position outright.

Running Backs

YearNameYards/GameYards/AttemptTD/Game
2015Lindsay50.24.660.46
2021Broussard60.14.650.18
2019Fontenot79.54.720.45

So the running back stats line up almost perfectly.  Lindsay and Broussard match up almost perfectly other than TD’s per game (which with Broussard being a smaller back this is somewhat expected).  With Broussard moving on we look at Fontenot in 2019 when he was the lead back and see slightly better numbers than Lindsay in 2015.

In 2016 Lindsey’s yards per carry went up to 5.17, yards per game up to 91 and his Tds/game to 1.23 .  This increase will be based not just upon the talent of the runner but also the o line and scheme but I think it is possible to say that Fontenot at least has a reasonable chance of seeing the same statistical increase.

Receivers

Receivers are a dependent position and so comparisons between 2015 and 2021 will be difficult without adjusting for the poor 2021 QB play.

2015

ReceiverYardsYards/ReceptionTD’s
Spruce*105311.84
Fields59814.24
Ross324132
Bobo2078.60

2021

ReceiverYardsYards/ReceptionTD’s
Russell30712.30
Rice29914.23
Arias23712.51
Lemonius-Craig12312.32
Sneed57312.52

Looking at this comparison I think we can see Fields production in Sneed’s (albeit on a different team), Ross’s production in Russell’s and Bobo’s production in Arias.  Losing Rice and Stanley were effectively non issues and the production we do keep and bring in is easily equivalent to the production on the 2015 team.  It will remain to be seen if the receiver group will produce like the 2016 group but I think we can say that the talent is there if we can get the ball to them.

Offensive Line

2015

NamePlaysPPP%PlusKDTDBQBSPRSPEN
Nembot*96652.35052564.5245
Kelley95658.15551394142
Callahan72146.93381989.5212
Kough56253.83031776.5145
Irwin11948.758491110
Lynott*
Kronshage50456.92873761161
Haigler*
Huckins62561.83862391111

2021

NamePlaysPPP%PlusKDTDBQBSPRSPEN
Wiley67471.51%48288175
Fillip53673.51%39428.5232.5
Roddick55076.55%42142.563
Fenske3154.84%170101
Johnson2360.87%140010

Looking at this comparison I have to say I am a bit surprised at the fairly significant difference between the 2015 and 2021 lines with the 2021 lines being SIGNIFICANTLY better.  But this long confirms something I have thought and written on the boards about.  The issues last year were not about the line.  Yes, Fillip got beat on his inside shoulder in pass block more often than he should, Yes, Wiley didn’t take good sets and could give up an edge.  And there were definitely times that Roddick got lost looking for someone to block.  BUT that was not the real problem.  The real problem was 2 fold:

  1. Lewis held on to the ball too long and almost never anticipated a route.  After 2020, defenses knew they had to stop CU’s running attack first.  So they almost always had 1 unblocked defender in the box and they also ran press man coverage a lot.  There are a number of ways to beat this defensive approach but nearly all of it requires throwing the ball on time and with anticipation (other than just the fade route which just requires timing) or running crossing routes which take a whole bunch of time.  Because Lewis would almost never throw the ball when he needed to we saw a lot of passes defended and batted away because defenders had a chance to react to the break and go after the ball. The crossing routes are generally good to beat press man coverage but remember we have a bunch of people in the box to begin with and so it creates small windows that Lewis was never comfortable throwing into.  The same goes with the fade.  You throw the fade trusting your receiver can beat the press coverage off the line and then go get the ball. None of which Lewis would do.  Once defenses learned this they would start to send extra people on both run and passing blitzes.  Unblocked rushers do not impact individual lineman’s stats.
  2. The play calling never adjusted to too many men in the box and having difficulty breaking this in the pass game.  So running a stretch running play into an unblocked defender is extremely difficult.  If you have the stomach for it go rewatch the games and pause the game before the snap and count the number of defenders and the number of blockers.  There will almost always be a blocker +1.  Now the read option is designed to help this by allowing you to leave one of the backside defenders unblocked and forcing them to account for the quarterback keeping the ball on the backside.  Unfortunately, the actual mechanics of Chev’s read option stretch plays often allowed that backside player to get back into the play bringing the unblocked defender back in play.  Heck often the play design doesn’t really even create an unblocked defender to be ignored.  Instead of recognizing this and altering our offense to adjust for what defenses were showing us we just kept trying to run the same stuff.  But this is not an individual o lineman’s fault.  They can block the guy in front of them and do their job and the runner is still going to be tackled after a 1 yard gain.

Why were we successful in 2020 and not 2021 then?  #1 Noyer.  Noyer got the ball out quick and forced defenses to respect the throw.  #2.  Defenses just started stacking the box at the end of 2020 and then backing out for the pass.  This continued into 2021.

So while stats can be deceiving I would say these tell a very important story.  Due to QB play and offensive play call we put our offensive line in a position they could not succeed.  Better QB play and better play design and play calling will fix this.  The offensive line man for man was less likely to be beat in 2021.  It was the scheme and the defense they faced that caused our o line to look so bad in 2021 not the actual lineman.  I know this will be a controversial point but looking at the stats above I think we can see the 2021 lineman can produce if we put them in a position to succeed.

Defensive Front 7

2015

NamePlaysUnassisted TacklesTackle AssistedSacksTackle for Loss3D StopsQB PressuresForced Fumbles
OlugBode7154337210
Gamboa71958391163
Gilliam90511
McCartney6484723558161
Carrell7843715176113
Gilbert3943413621041
Kafovalu33119143244
Jackson586181520541
Totals261157181950426

2021

NamePlaysUnassisted TacklesTackle AssistedSacksTackle for Loss3D StopsQB PressuresForced Fumbles
Perry4835325431
Barnes3763311351
Thomas26628823312
Sami4322371.53311
Lang5891191.5286
Rodman4291331.5122
Gustav190112142
Grant145112321
Chandler-Semedo68421.55.5Not TrackedNot Tracked2
Totals252109928.526137

Now a bunch of stats jump out at you here that would tell you there is a big difference.  But adding Wells 5 ½ sacks, 15 3rd down stops, and 17 pressures you are at least getting closer but still off from a pass rush perspective.  Some of that would be recovered by more snaps for the other outside line backers but clearly not all.  On the other side, looking at the tackles for a loss the 2021 team is much better.  What this tells me is that the focus was on stopping the run in 2021 or our talent is more suited for it.  Both teams are roughly equal in keeping running backs out of the 2nd level with maybe a little better on the 2021 team as Well’s and Johnson’s numbers were not included while almost all of the 2015 front 7 are.  Wilson says they are going to put more focus on rushing the passer this year.  I also think the switch to a 4-3 may assist, but that is just my opinion at this point. 

Defensive Secondary

YearPlayerPlaysTackles3rd Down StopsPass Break UpsInterceptions
2015Awuzie8979010102
2015Thompson88280693
2015Moeller37647321
2015Crawley*8554611131
2015Witherspoon54741742
2015Laguda23722210
2015Oliver21619560
2021Lewis6357972
2021Perry*76172243
2021Gonzalez*78154660
2021Blackmon*51550651
2021Woods13923010
2021Taylor25710100
2021Bethel1519230
2021Reed1998321
2021Moore1347110

* will not participate the next year.

So we know the 2015 secondary were all very successful with most of them playing in the NFL.  The stats we see in 2015 with 33 3rd down stops, 32 pass break ups and 8 interceptions are improved upon in 2016 and clearly show the talent on those teams.  Now if Blackmon, Gonzalez and Perry were to have stayed we would likely be in a better place, though we would need to recognize that their productivity was roughly ½ that of the 2015/2016 unit.  You can see that there is a decrease in number of snaps defended but even accounting for that the unit that is leaving is not at that quality from a performance perspective.

With those three gone then we are hoping the young DB’s we have can step into those shoes.  Simple multiplication of plays would see Taylor, Bethel, Reed and Moore equal the production we got from Gonzalez and Blackmon and in some cases even surpass.  In fact Reed, Bethel and Moore begin to get close on a per snap basis of the pre-elite 2015 team:

YearPlayerPlaysTackles / Play3rd Down Stops / PlayPass Break Ups / PlayInterceptions/Play
2015Awuzie8970.10030.01110.01110.0022
2015Witherspoon5470.07680.01280.00730.0037
2015Oliver2160.08800.02310.02780.0000
2021Bethel1510.05960.01320.01990.0000
2021Reed1990.04020.01510.01010.0050
2021Moore1340.05220.00750.00750.0000

Given this per play analysis I think you may see that the gap in third down stops and pass break ups is not as far as one might think.  Interceptions are rare enough that I believe the number of opportunities significantly matter so the lack of opportunities for these young corners make it difficult to judge though I think Gonzalez’s 0 and Blackmon’s 1 in 2021 show that the drop off for this year will not nearly be as steep as we thought.  Especially when you see what an elite set of CB’s can provide.  The tackles are a bit more concerning as these freshman corners may not be responding to run plays and beating wide receiver blocks to make tackles on the edge.  I watched Reed in the Utah game and I believe that both of these are true.  He will need to do a much better job in the coming season.  

Other Years

So I reviewed many other years before setting in on the 2015 season for my comparison.

Going backwards I did not think the 2020 or the 2019 teams were a fair comparison as they where both the first year of a new head coaching regime.

2018 I threw out because it was the last of the McIntyre years to be replaced by Tucker so it would not be a valid comparison anyway.

I threw out 2017 because our offense was actually pretty competent that year and it was the complete lack of a defense.  I also remember thinking to myself over and over again “this is the game” and it never was.

Of course 2016 has no comparison.  And my entire article is about 2015.

Many will say the 2021 team was closer to the 2014 Buffs instead.  CuAtTheGame had 2014 as still a year away Buffs Still a Year Away and pointed out the 1-8 record in the Pac-12  during 2013.  But in the end I threw out 2014 as CU was not able to win a single Pac-12 game and we are beyond that point now.

2013 is McIntyre’s first year so I threw that one out as well.

Looking for the depths of offensive production we had and found it during the 2012 Embree year, but threw that out as well as as we lost all but one game and most by “pick em scores”.  The 2021 team never gave in and always fought unlike the 2012 team.  With 2012 and 2011 being transition years though they also got thrown out.

2010 is out as everyone (even the players) recognized this was the end of the Hawkins era almost from the beginning.

I threw out 2009 with loses to lower division teams despite its quality win against Kansas.

2008 is a legit contender.  Horrible offense and an ok defense.  If 2022 goes completely pear shaped we will look back and think that 2021 is comparable to 2008 instead of 2015.  Instead of focusing on this though I want to quote a portion of the preseason article in 2009 from Stuart:

Let me tell you about a Buff team I know of. The quarterback situation was muddled, with two relatively mediocre signal callers splitting time behind center. Fortunately, they had a pair of quality running backs to hand off to, and an offensive line with NFL-caliber talent. When the Buffs passed, they had an All-Conference tight end to throw to, along with just enough speed and talent at wide receiver to keep the defenses honest.

The 2009 Buffs? Certainly, the description fits. Cody Hawkins and Tyler Hansen are battling it out to see who will be the starter, with the possibility that both will play. Whoever starts, there will be quality backs (Scott and Stewart) lining up behind a quality line. An All-American candidate lines up at tight end (Riar Geer), with a possession receiver (McKnight) and some speed (Simas, Simmons) at wide out.

Thing is, the above description also fits the 2001 Colorado Buffaloes. Yes, the Buffs in the Big 12 title season went 10-3 – but they were also coming off a 3-8 season in 2000. Check out the position battles the 2009 Buffs will be going through during fall camp, but also take a look at the surprising similarities between the 2009 Buffs and their counterparts from 2001.

I’m just sayin’ ….

Conclusion

So should we expect a 10-2 season like we had in 2016 or 2001 or are we in for what we fear and the 3-9 season in 2009?

I think by my title you can tell where I am leaning.  It may be my fandom or my innate optimism that cannot be crushed even after nearly 2 decades of losing.  But I think the talent we have on this team is far closer to the 2016 team rather than the team we had in 2001 or 2009. 

In the end, I am not sure where we will end up in 2022.  I am too much of a fan to separate my hopes from my expectations.  What I am comfortable saying is that there are a lot of similarities between the two teams and there is the potential to have that sort of year.  So many things would have to go well to be 10-2 it would be mind boggling.  But wasn’t the 2016 season a bit mind boggling?  For those of you that have read through my fever dream showing that we are not that far away as most would tell us please be kind in the comments.  My wish is that I gave you a little light of hope to cling to as we are surrounded by the darkness.  In the wise words of Ted Lasso:  “I believe in Communism…..Rom-Communism, that is.  Gentlemen, believing in Rom-communism is all about believing that everything’s gonna work out in the end.  Now, these next few months might be tricky, but that’s just cause we’re going through the dark forest.  Fairy tales do not start, nor do they end, in the dark forest.”  While we are clearly in the dark forest now, I see a trail in front of us that is leading us out.  It may not be this year, we may have another year in front of us, but the trail is there and if we can continue walking it we will emerge soon.

Go Buffs!

RobO

11 Replies to “If CU’s 2021 Season Compares to 2015, Will 2022 Compare to 2016?”

  1. Love the depth of analysis and found this to be the best read of anything out there. From reading other stuff and this post and my observations of last year: 2021 had BIG disconnects betweeen HC and OC, between OC and OL coach, between OC and the skills/experience of the players. Total chaos….and we still won 4 game. Optimism. Also believe in the addition by subtraction. We may have had depth on recent teams but the coaches didn’t put them in position to get ready to play; wasted depth because I think they were scared to lose even one play with an untested guy. Coaching scared will not make you better. If KD follows through and actually plays the 2nd-slot guys then we will get a lot better and maybe even finish 7-5 like you think. Thanks for the dose of non Kool-Aid optimism.

  2. Rob, the time and thought you put into your analysis is always amazing, entertaining, and informative. I may not always agree w/ your conclusions, but it’s still great stuff to discuss. Thanks for taking the time.

    To me, the key distinction between 2016 and what will be 2022 is the number of NFL dudes 2016 had, along w/ a 4-yr starting QB who was a good college QB (who at least got to try to make the NFL) along w/ experienced skill guys around him, all of whom were tired of losing. Was it four draft picks and two undrafted free agents from the D? A couple of the offensive guys made free agent deals for a minute (wide receivers, I think?).

    Having said that, I think the talent level of the 2022 team is probably overall even better, BUT, they’re predominantly freshmen and sophomores (some w/ that extra year, which helps).

    So, I still see a rough 2022. But, 2023? My optimism is returning.

    Go Buffs

    1. Thanks man, I also respect your view point even when we disagree, though I am glad you are starting to believe in 2023!
      It was funny, as I started to write the article I had that same thought “what is the special sauce that made a bad team in 2015 and 2000 turn into great teams….” That was went sent me diving into the player stats. The DB’s were definitely something special but they were already pretty special in 2015 when they were a bad team. Sefo was a good solid college qb in 2015 and 2016. He ran a bit more in 2016 (Chev’s influence I believe) but he wasn’t a world beater. So what was it? Statistically, the only other big differences we’re passing yardage. But that didn’t really result in TD’s. And pass rush, but defense wasn’t really our issue last year. To be honest I think it was a bunch of guys who were seniors deciding they didn’t want to lose anymore. It started I. Spring and they started holding their teammates accountable for extra work and practices. It continued in the fall when they demanded execution of not only themselves but of their teammates. And it went into the games when something went wrong they didn’t hang their head and say “here it goes again” instead they fought back. Remember Awuzie running down a pint return in the Utah game at the 5? The defense then stood up and gave up a field goal. This team may be young in some places but to be honest I think this is more about desire. You gotta work your butt off in the off season to get ready for the season. Then you have to demand accountability across the entire team. Not be the coaches but by the players. 2016 did that. I am not sure 2022 will, but I think if they have and they do this team could win, probably not 10-2. But 7-5 is within reach this year.

      1. I put the key as the players for 2016’s success. More NFL talent than we’ve seen on the field for CU at the same time, in a long time. And, they’d mostly played together for four years. And, they were tired of losing.

        I think this team can get there. IF they can hold it together, and the coaching staff, too. That’s Karl’s #1 job, in my opinion. Show progress this year. Fight, don’t quit, and keep games in the “lose close” category. That earns him next year. Heck, maybe even an extension so people aren’t recruiting against the “Karl? He’ll be gone after this year” bit. But, make the extension w/ no buyout for 4-8 or whatever threshold they want.

        2023 could then be a pretty good year. They’ll have talent and depth at every offensive position, especially QB (I’m very high on McCown, for no other reason than gut- provided he can take the beating of that position) but Shrout and/or Lewis could still take the reins next year. And, they’ll be another year in the new system.

        On D, the DBs could be special next year. I think too inexperienced to be “that” special, this year, despite good talent. They’ll have to replace a lot on the DL, but it seems from what we’re hearing, they like their rotation there, so if they can recruit replacements for 2s and 3s, that’ll work. LB should be solid too.

        Two weeks.

        Go Buffs

        1. Go to YouTube and search for the 2020 Tennessee / Florida game. There is a versioN out there with like 28 minutes. Shrout gets in for the last 2 drives. I have heard rumors that there were Tennesse insiders that said Shrout was the best QB on the team but the coaches didn’t like him. If we get that Shrout I think we win a lot of games

  3. Love the article! Statistics can be made to tell a lot of varied stories. I like the story RobO is telling. Young players with talent get better with experience. Do we believe the Buffs are talented? I think KD does, so I choose to believe as well. I hear there is more depth at most positions. A team with depth has some staying power into the season. I see the Buffs with 7 wins: TCU against a new coach, AFA where we have won 5 straight at their place, loss at Minnesota, but better game than 2021, Upsetting UCLA who has only played 3 cupcakes at the time, win at Arizona who we whitewashed in ‘21, Beat Cal at home. Loss to OSU on the road against a team seeking payback, beat a disorganized and demoralized ASU team in Boulder to get a bowl bid, then limp home 1-3 the last four games with one upset victory of the Huskies on the road. Go Buffs!

    1. I agree with your breakdown on the games. I think UCLA, Cal, Ore St are going to decide our bowl fate. If we pick up these I think we should go bowling.

  4. Solid analysis and a good read. i think many discount how trully awful the offensive play calling (OC), coaching (QB) and teaching (OL) was last year. Also, hangovers from Covid season and the midnight departure of the previous coach, subversive OC, in-fighting and more than a few times heard of players that ‘didnt want to be there’.. Here’s hoping its straightened out enough for a 6 win season or better, and we catch a little lighting in a bottle.

    1. I commented a bit above with Eric but I think I will restate here as well. I actually think the “secret sauce” is at the player level. Football is so hard, it is such a grind and on losing teams it becomes a dull throb that just makes it easier to skate by and do the minimum your coaches are asking you for. On winning teams though you can never do the minimum becuase the guy next to you is just as talented and he will take your position if you are not working your ass off. On winning teams you enjoy the grind becuase you are hanging out with your guys putting the work in, seeing the gains, and those are addictive. On winning teams the leaders from the team make sure everyone on the team is participating becuase everyone is going to have to contribute. And lastly, on winning teams no one’s head goes down when bad crap happens in the game. Everyone comes out swinging harder. Last years qb play and offensive play calling was the worst I have ever seen. I believe they will get that fixed. So now it is up to the players to enforce a culture. Can they, will they, have they? I don’t know but I hope so. I think the article proves they have the talent they need.

  5. War and Peace
    by
    RobO

    I am going to have to read this several more times to truly grasp it.
    I will, but first blush says.
    Shrooms are a blooming, and Rob is sharing them with this Novel.
    And since I am all in, shrooms or not, positivity reigns.

    Go Big Robo……………………..
    Buffs.

    Note: Stuart, you are gonna have to keep this pinned in the front row for a long time..

    1. Ya, I am a fan. But I really think they have the talent to win. Fix the offense (which I believe they will) and I think they have a shot but the players themselves will need to step up.

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