Unit-by-Unit Midseason Report Card

How are the Buffs doing this year?

Your answer may depend on the lens through which you view CU’s 4-3 record to date.

Look at the Buffs’ record through the lens of the Vegas placing an over/under on CU’s wins for the season at 3.5 … and the first half of the season has been an amazing success.

Look at the Buffs’ record through the lens of CU’s running stats, its defensive stats, and the second half meltdown against Stanford … and the first half of the season has been a series of missed opportunities.

Seven games down, five tough games to go. The only thing Buff fans know for certain is that the second half of the season will include continued uncertainty.

But with the majority of the regular season in the books, and the Buffs on a bye, it’s a good time to assess how each unit has fared to date.

Quarterbacks – Grade … A

How quickly we have become spoiled. Two months ago, there was the question as to whether Shedeur Sanders would be able to continue to put up impressive numbers against Power Five conference defenses. Now, we are disappointed if Sanders doesn’t put up heroic numbers every weekend.

The numbers to date …

  • Passing yards: 2,420 (1st in the nation)
  • Passing touchdowns: 21 (3rd)
  • Passing attempts: 303 (1st)
  • Completions: 219 (1st)
  • Completion percentage: 72.3 (T-9th)
  • Quarterback rating: 160.26 (23rd)

Now take a look at how Sanders is faring against every other quarterback to ever wear the black-and-gold …

  • Passing yards: 2,420 … CU single season record: 3,200 … Sefo Liufau, 2014 (Sanders’ total is currently 13th on the list – after seven games)
  • Passing touchdowns: 21 … CU single season record: 28 … Sefo Liufau, 2014 (Sanders’ total currently tied for third)
  • Passing attempts: 303 … CU single season record: 498 … Sefo Liufau, 2014 (Sanders’ total currently 16th)
  • Completions: 219 … CU single season record: 325 … Sefo Liufau, 2014 (Sanders’ total currently 9th)
  • Completion percentage: 72.3 … CU single season record: 68.4 … Koy Detmer, 1995 … If maintained, Sanders will set a new school record

Despite a rushing attack which is non-existent, and an offensive line which has been a sieve, Sanders is putting together the best season by a Buff quarterback in school history.

‘Nuff said.

Running backs – Grade … C-

The Colorado running back corps was supposed to be so good, that CU running backs coach Gary Harrell was going to have a tough time keeping every member of his talented stable happy.

Midway through the 2023 campaign, however, Buff fans would be ecstatic if one of the running backs would take charge of the room.

Colorado is 125th in the nation in rushing, scratching out only 86.3 yards/game. Even if you were allowed to take out the over 300 yards in sacks surrendered, the Buff rushing attack would still be ranked 94th in the country.

Dylan Edwards leads the team with 250 rushing yards … tied for 180th in the country. Anthony Hankerson is right behind Edwards, with 239 yards (tied for 196th). Transfers Alton McCaskill and Kavosiey Smoke have been non-existent, with 14 carries between them through seven games.

Again, the offensive line gets its share of the blame, but by any metrics you wish to place upon this room, it has been a disappointment so far this season.

Wide receivers and tight ends – Grade … A-

When your team is third in the nation in passing yards/game, at 346.1, you must be doing something right. When your team is set to post over 4,000 passing/receiving yards for the first time in school history (Buffs on a pace for 4,153 … the school record is 3,415), you must be doing something right.

When you have two wide receiver cast offs from another 1-11 school who already have over 1,000 combined receiving yards, you have done some pretty good scouting. Xavier Weaver and Jimmy Horn last year played for South Florida, which was just as woeful as the Buffs, with the Bulls posting one win all year, and that was over … Howard University.

But here are Xavier Weaver (50 catches for 631 yards and four touchdowns) and Jimmy Horn, Jr. (44 catches for 436 yards and four touchdowns), leading the way for the CU receivers, with Weaver this week being added to the Biletnikoff Award watch list.

And that’s not counting Travis Hunter, with 29 catches for 353 yards and two touchdowns in just four games.

And that’s not counting other Buff receivers who have stepped up at different moments. Walk-on tight end Michael Harrison was the hero of the Colorado State game, with Tar’Varish Dawson (Nebraska) and Javon Antonio (Arizona State) taking their turns in the spotlight.

CU hasn’t had a 1,000-yard receiver since 2018, when Laviska Shenault posted 1,011 (despite missing three games). Xavier Weaver is currently on pace to become just the 11th Buff in school history to hit four digits. Michael Harrison has CU believing in the tight end position again. Travis Hunter is back in the lineup, and determined to make his presence known in the second half of the season.

The Colorado record for receiving touchdowns in a season is 29. With 21 already in the bank, this corps is poised to shatter that record.

Offensive line – Grade … D

Coach Prime’s plan to build from the outside in has been a success … and a failure.

Colorado has skill positions players who are a huge upgrade from last year’s team, with a multitude of players who have Power Five talent.

The offensive line, however, has been a major disappointment, and that is saying something, considering little was expected from the group heading into the season.

Buff fans understood that the offensive line was going to be a patchwork of returning players (Gerad Christian-Lichtenhan and Van Wells) and Kent State transfers (Savion Washington and Jack Bailey) who were following their offensive line coach (Bill O’Boyle) and offensive coordinator (Sean Lewis) to Boulder, together with a long list of players who – if you squinted real hard – had potential to be Power Five caliber players.

The experiment, to date, has been a bust.

As noted, Colorado is 125th in the nation in rushing, failing to come up with even 100 yards rushing per game, despite having any number of potentially game-breaking backs behind them.

What’s worse, the Buffs are last in the nation – 130th – in sacks allowed. Colorado has given up 35 sacks in seven games, an easy-to-calculate five sacks per game average. Yes, Shedeur Sanders has held onto the ball too long at times. Yes, some of those sacks could have been avoided with throwaways by the quarterback.

But Shedeur Sanders is the sine qua non (“without this, nothing”) of the CU offense, and Sanders is getting battered every game. If Sanders gets injured, the Colorado season comes to an abrupt halt, with little chance to believe that the Buffs would be able to win another game until 2024.

Little was expected from the CU offensive line this fall … and they have delivered.

Offense – Overall Grade … B

As long as Shedeur Sanders remains upright, the Colorado offense has a chance to score. Compared to season’s past, that is nothing short of a miracle.

If Travis Hunter comes back full force, the South Florida boys continue to produce, and Michael Harrison continues to surprise, the Buff offense can continue to compete.

If the running backs can begin to contribute, if offensive tackle Savion Washington (injured during the USC game) can come back and start, and if the CU coaching staff can find a way to work around the deficiencies of the offensive line … the Buff offense can find ways to pull off an upset or two in the second half of the season.

Colorado is averaging 34.4 points per game. That’s good enough for 29th in the nation … and is light years ahead of the 15.4 points per game the Buffs put up in 2022.

More food for thought … Top scoring offenses at Colorado since 1900:

  • 41.1 – 1989
  • 39.9 – 1905
  • 36.9 – 1995
  • 36.2 – 1994
  • 34.4 – 2023 (through 7 games)
  • 33.0 – 2001

The Buffs are 4-3, and, if it was up to the offense, CU would be 5-2 and still the darlings of the national media.

As it is, the Buffs are still two games away from bowl eligibility, and have a tough back end of the schedule ahead.

The CU offense has been very good, but it will have to be great if the Buffs are to finish the season with a winning record and a bowl invitation this fall.


3 Replies to “Mid-Season Report Card – Offense”

  1. So this year’s Buff offense is likely the highest scoring offense in about 30yrs. It’ll probably blow the doors off most prior offensive records (except in rushing), with a mediocre offensive line. And the schemes and play calls and designs are the problem? I don’t see it that way.

    Can’t wait to see how they, and the defense, come out at the Rose Bowl. And the somewhat unspecial teams, too.

    Go Buffs

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