CU v. California: “T.I.P.S.” for a Buff Team Pushing the Restart Button

… Related … If you prefer your predictions verbally, “CU at the Game Podcast: “T.I.P.S.” for CU v. California, Buffs Looking for the “Interim Coach Bump”, can be found at Apple Podcasts, Spotify, iHeart Radio, or pretty much wherever you download your favorites. Or, if you would prefer, you can listen to the podcast here on the website.

Montana refers to itself as “The Last Best Place”.

The California game, for the Buffs, might be “The Last Best Chance”.

With Arizona State showing some signs of life in the post-Herm Edwards era, and with CU’s other remaining home games being against Oregon and Utah, the Buffs game against the Bears might be CU’s last best chance at a victory in 2022.

Since are just now reaching the midway point of the ’22 campaign, it may be premature to talk about 0-12 … but really it’s not. The Buffs are 14.0-point underdogs to the Bears, and may not have a line even that close against any of their remaining opponents. As a result, the countdown to a winless season might begin as early as this weekend, if the Buffs, under interim head coach Mike Sanford, don’t show some competitiveness on Parent’s Weekend in Boulder.

You heard it here first: CU hasn’t had a winless season since the 19th century.

Let that sentence sink in for a minute, as you contemplate the 0-5 Buffs being the only FBS team (out of 131) yet to win a game this fall.

The last – and only – winless team in school history was the first team, in 1890. In that season, the Buffs were out-scored 217-4 and went 0-4. That team didn’t have a head coach (insert your own joke here), as CU went without a coach for its first four seasons of competition. Colorado picked up its first-ever head coach for the 1894 season, Harry Heller, and promptly went 8-1, winning CU’s first-ever conference championship (going 5-0 in Colorado Football Association play).

So redemption may be only a few years away.

Will the Buffs’ road to recovery begin this Saturday?

Let’s find out …


This Week’s “T.I.P.S” for CU v. California – Saturday, Noon MT, Pac-12 Networks

T – Talent

Jekyll and Hyde.

The last two times the Cal Bears have taken the field, they have shown the world two different offenses.

Against Arizona, the Bears were a juggernaut, outscoring the Wildcats in an offensive showcase, 49-31. The Bears amassed 599 yards of total offense, with an eye-popping 354 yards rushing.

The following weekend, however, the Bears took on Washington State, and were shut down in a 28-9 loss. The Cal offense barely passed the 100-yard mark of total offense in the first half, and settled for 311 total yards … with only 31 yards rushing.

It would seem clear that the “revamped” Colorado defense, under interim defensive coordinator Gerald Chatman, might want to focus their attention on running back Jaydn Ott, who had 19 carries for 274 yards and three touchdowns against Arizona (a 14.4 yards/carry average), but was brought down to earth by the Washington State defense, which surrendered only 69 yards to Ott in only three fewer carries. (Comparable: Dieon Smith leads the Buffs in rushing, with 195 yards. Ott has as many rushing touchdowns in his past two games – four – as CU has rushing as a team all season).

Cal’s quarterback is Jack Plummer, a transfer from Purdue. Plummer is the older brother of Will Plummer, who started seven games for Arizona in 2021, but is not related to Jake “The Snake” Plummer, former quarterback at Arizona State. Plummer had mixed results at Purdue, and is completing 62.8% of his passes this fall for the Bears, going for 1,248 yards, eight touchdowns and only two interceptions.

The wide receiver corps is led by Jeremiah Hunter (27 catches for 414 yards and two touchdowns) and J. Michael Sturdivant (23 catches for 296 yards and two scores. (Comparable: The Buffs only have one receiver with double digit catches – Daniel Arias with 16 catches for 237 yards and one touchdown).

Overall, the Cal offense is not daunting, averaging just under 400 yards a game in total offense, good enough for 73rd nationally. The Bears are scoring at the rate of 25.8 points per game, which stands 93rd in the country.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Bears are giving up 387.0 yards/game, which puts Cal at No. 76 in the country. The Cal defense is giving up, though, only 22.0 points per game, 44th nationally.

So … the Buffs had better bring their A++ game on defense, especially against the run, and hope for some improvement on the offensive side of the ball, if CU is to keep the home crowd interested.


I – Intangibles

How the Colorado team will respond to the firing of their head coach is anyone’s guess.

There really isn’t a division on this roster whatsoever,” interim head coach Mike Sanford said. “Everybody wants to win, everybody’s got a desire to win.

“I think that’s what we’re continually looking for is who are going to be those guys that are gonna really provide that energy, provide that jolt, not just in practice, but on game day.”

The players, at least off the field, are buying in to what the interim coaches are selling. Offensive lineman Tommy Brown said last week it was greatly appreciated by players that Sanford took the time to meet with them. He added that players know they have to lead, rather than fall away.

“I can only speak on the guys that I’ve talked to,” he said. “I’m very close friends with the offensive line, obviously, and that’s where a lot of the senior leadership on the offense comes from. We feel like we just need to keep pushing along. We felt like we were moving in the right direction, but now it’s just like, ‘All right, we have to do it now.’ It’s not like we want to move in the right direction; we need to have our coaches’ backs and play the best that we can.”

That being said, don’t look for wholesale changes, either on offense or defense.

“The thing that I’ve learned, particularly with the abruptness of this opportunity, is you can’t make every single change in one day,” Sanford said. “If you change everything day one then it’s tough to be able to deal with it. Players are resilient, but to a point, and I don’t think that we need to make any massive wholesale changes at this point, other than just putting people in the right chairs, and then schematically we’ve gone back to the drawing board on both sides of the ball.”

Will the interim staff throw caution (and halfback passes) to the wind? Or will CU continue to try and make old schemes work.


In an otherwise dreary outlook, there is this from the “glass half full” category …

The Buffs could look for inspiration from other Power Five schools who have fired their coaches:

  • Nebraska is 2-1 since firing Scott Frost, and is currently (you know how this is playing in Lincoln), tied for first in the Big Ten West division;
  • Arizona State is 1-2 since firing Herm Edwards, but all three games were against ranked teams. Last Saturday, the Sun Devils defeated No. 21 Washington, 45-28;
  • Georgia Tech is 2-0 since firing its head coach, Geoff Collins, including a 26-21 win over No. 24 Pitt;
  • Wisconsin won its first game since firing Paul Chryst, a 42-7 thumping of Northwestern on the road.

Four other Power Five programs have fired their head coaches so far this offseason, with a combined “post-firing” record of 6-3, with two wins over ranked teams.

So … It can be done, Buffs.

Just do it.


P – Preparation/Schedule

Colorado is coming off a bye week, which should help. The extra week of getting used to the fact that Karl Dorrell is no longer the head coach at Colorado has to be a plus for the Buff players.

But, Cal is also coming off of a bye week, so, at least in terms of scheduling, the bye week is a wash.

The Bears are 3-2 (1-1), and are certainly looking to the CU game as one of the three remaining wins on the schedule in order to secure bowl eligibility. Cal also has a home game against struggling Stanford (1-4, 0-4) to look forward to, but has a daunting stretch upcoming: Washington; Oregon; at USC; at Oregon State, before finishing with Stanford and UCLA). Counting wins over CU and Stanford gets the Bears to five, with a sixth win hard to see just now.

But, first things first for the Bears … they need to take care of business against the Buffs.

Meanwhile, in Boulder …

CU can’t afford to look ahead against anyone, and, even at a 14.0-point underdog at home against the Bears, this may be CU’s last best shot to avoid the program’s first 0-12 season (and first winless season since the 19th century).

The Buffs have a road game against Oregon State next weekend, a Beavers team which is 4-2, with both losses coming against ranked teams (USC and Utah). After that, it’s Arizona State, fresh off of a 45-28 pasting of No. 21 Arizona State, before the Buffs face a November we-won’t-want-to-remember: Oregon; at USC; at Washington; Utah.

Yup, it’s pretty much win at home this Saturday afternoon (in front on a near capacity crowd – it’s Parent’s Weekend) … or else.


S – Statistics 

Ugh … Do we have to?

You just have to laugh … to keep from crying.

The major stats:

  • Offense … Rushing (108th nationally) … Passing (117th) … Total yards (126th) … Scoring (129th);
  • Defense … Rushing (131st – dead last – 40 yards/game shy of 130th) … Passing (53rd … the Buffs were 7th before being scorched by Arizona) … Total yards (129th) … Scoring (130th).

Depressing stat of the week, Part I

  • Not only is CU last in the nation in rushing defense, that stat isn’t going to change any time soon. The Buffs are giving up 294.2 yards per game. The No. 130 team, Charlotte, is giving up 253,3. Charlotte has played one more game, giving up a total of 1,520 yards. Colorado, in five games, has given up 1,471 … Translation, in order to “climb” to 130th nationally, the Buffs would have to surrender no more than 48 total rushing yards to the Bears;

Depressing state of the week, Part II

  • Time spent in the lead. This is not normally a stat which carries much weight, but it does demonstrate how depressing the season has been for CU fans. The Buffs have been in the lead for 5:08 of game clock this season, coming in the first quarter of the first game against TCU. Time spent in the lead by CU’s opponents: 264:51. That’s a whole lot of Buff watching … with the Buffs playing from behind.

Stats to watch (i.e, stats which will play a role in deciding the game)Turnovers … Cal has two turnovers this entire season – two. That’s tied for third in the nation. The Buffs are going to have that total in one game (and perhaps surpass it), to have a chance  … Third down conversion defense  … Not that there is much reason for hoping the Colorado defense will finally find its magic, but, if the Buffs are to have any chance at all, they have to find a way to get off of the field. The Buffs haven’t been forcing too many third downs, but, when they do … opposing offenses are converting. The opposition has a 57.4% conversion rate on third downs (35-of-61), putting CU dead last in the nation in that category (how bad are the Buffs on third downs, the No. 130 team in the nation in third down conversion defense is Bowling Green, at 51.6%. In a statistic which is measured in tenths and hundredths, this is an appalling gap between CU and the rest of the country).

On the bright side … Colorado did score its first touchdown in the first quarter this season in the Arizona game, and its first points period in the third quarter … Not to mention the first time the Buffs have topped the 20-point mark this fall.

I’m not even sure that you can say scoring the first touchdowns of the season in the first and third quarters are baby steps, but it’s still better than (literally) nothing.



Prediction … 

Colorado is a 14.0-point underdog to a team which many Buff fans were counting on as a possible win on CU’s quest for six wins and a bowl game.

That’s so six weeks ago.

Now, the CU program is looking for a win anywhere it can find it, and Cal is as close to a possibility as the Buffs may see the remainder of the season.

The early start (11:00 a.m., on the Bears’ Pacific time body clocks) may give the Buffs a chance to come out with some early surprises, and gain some of the first quarter momentum they have been since the opener against TCU.

Cal is 3-0 at home; 0-2 on the road, albeit against much better competition (Notre Dame and Washington State) than Colorado.

Is there enough there for the Buffs not only to keep it close, but to actually win the game?

Possibly, but not likely.

I gave the Karl Dorrell Buffs the one-game benefit of the doubt in the opener, and got burned. Ever since then, my position has been to take the opposing team and the points until the Buffs can prove to me otherwise. So far, it’s been four more straight CU losses by more than the point spread.

I’m not willing to give Mike Sanford complete benefit of the doubt. He has been a head coach before, but went 9-16 as the head coach at Western Kentucky. That’s not an inspirational number.

I believe the Buffs will show more spirit this week, and I am going against my previous mandate of taking the opponent and giving the points.

I can’t see the Buffs winning the game, but I can see them keeping it close enough to beat the spread for the first time in 2022 …

Prediction … California 33, Colorado 21

2022 Predictions … (Straight up: 4-1; Against the Spread: 4-1) … 

  • Prediction: Colorado 27, TCU 24 … Actual: TCU 38, Colorado 13
  • Prediction: Air Force 42, Colorado 17 … Actual: Air Force 41, Colorado 10
  • Prediction: Minnesota 49, Colorado 10 … Actual: Minnesota 49, Colorado 7
  • Prediction: UCLA 38, Colorado 13 … Actual: UCLA 45, Colorado 17
  • Prediction: Arizona 33, Colorado 14 … Actual: Arizona 43, Colorado 20


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