Six Months from Today …

Six Months from today … is Christmas Day.

The question for Buff fans today, as we marvel at how quickly 2023 is whizzing by:

Will, Christmas, 2023, it be a Merry Christmas for CU and its fans? Or are Buff fans more likely to feel that their stockings are (again) filled with lumps of coal?

Come December 25, 2023, the first regular season of the Coach Prime era will be in the books. Perhaps more than any other year in recent history, how the upcoming season will play out is a complete mystery.

And that in an of itself is a good thing, as on the field the Buffs have been all too predictable over the past two decades.

By almost any objective measure, there is more talent on the roster than there has been in a some time. There will be more fans in the stands this fall than there has been in a some time. There will be more enthusiasm and optimism about the team this fall than there has been in a some time.

But how many more wins will be produced?

How well will Year One of the Coach Prime experiment pay off?

Christmas is six months from today … How Merry will the Buff Nation be?

In his interview with Coach Prime, former Buff (and current lead Fox analyst) Joel Klatt tried to give the CU head coach an out. “In my profession”, Klatt began, “I know that a plus-four or plus-five in the win column is a drastic improvement … “.

Coach Prime didn’t even let Klatt finish the sentence. “Not for me”, Sanders said. “I don’t think like that, man. I want it all. I don’t want a sip … I don’t want one spoon. Give me it all!”.

For most of the Buff Nation, though, a plus-four or a plus-five in the win column would be a drastic improvement. With that in mind, let’s take a quick run through the months between now and Christmas, and rate on a “full stocking v. a lump of coal” index the likelihood as to whether CU fans will be able to look back at the 2023 season in which the Buffs did the unlikely and earn a bowl bid.

Summer, 2023 

The “Search for Six” wins begins now, with summer conditioning. Critics believe that Coach Prime and his staff will not be able to forge together a team with a coherent plan. “Team chemistry” is apparently a necessary ingredient for success, and with a completely new coaching staff and 70 new players on the roster, the thought is that the Buffs won’t be able to pull it off. Since an overhaul of this magnitude hasn’t been attempted before, we’re in uncharted waters. But if anyone is going to pull it off, it would likely be Coach Prime.

Two other storylines Buff fans will be tracking this summer have to do with personnel. First, will CU be able to find a scholarship backup quarterback with any experience? With each passing day, it seems more and more likely that the Buffs will go into the season with Shedeur Sanders … and true freshmen. Spending the season holding our collective breaths every time Shedeur runs the ball may not be our first choice, but it may turn out to be the case.

The second story line: Will there be any injuries? This will become more of an issue when Fall Camp opens in August, but the injury report will play a significant role in CU’s Search for Six. Coach Prime has acquired significant talent at almost every position, but there are question marks up and down the lineup. The first team lineup contains plenty of Power Five worthy talent … but after that? Fingers crossed.

Chances for a full stocking: 70%; chances for lumps of coal: 30%

September, 2023

If the Buffs are to become bowl-eligible, they will need at least six wins. A fair way to break that down would be for CU to post at least two wins per month, and September gives the Buffs five such opportunities.

Coming out of the first month of play with a 2-3 record might not sound that impressive, but it might very well be.

If you have been on an internet-free sabbatical for the past six months, and haven’t read about the gauntlet which is the Buffs’ schedule, CU’s September unfolds like this:

  • at TCU
  • Nebraska
  • Colorado State
  • at Oregon
  • USC

Two rivalry games at home, and three games against teams likely to be ranked in the Top 15 in the country. Yes, TCU lost a great deal of talent (eight starters) on offense, but a solid base of talent remains on the defense, and the game is in Fort Worth. CU’s two historic rivals will be gunning for the Buffs, with new Nebraska head coach Matt Rhule already taking shots at Coach Prime. Even if the new Cornhusker coach wasn’t already focused on the Buffs, Nebraska fans and boosters will be all too ready to remind him that the Buffs beat the Cornhuskers in 2018 and 2019 … and that isn’t sitting well with the Big Red Horde in Lincoln.

Colorado State, meanwhile, will also be all in on beating the Buffs. Not convinced? Check this out: There are 133 teams playing FBS football this fall, and 132 of them will be playing on September 9th. The lone FBS team taking Week Two off? The CSU Rams.

Yup. Colorado State has a bye week before playing Colorado. The Rams will host Washington State on September 2nd … take a week off … then play 11 straight weeks.

Think the Rams want to win in Boulder?

Then Pac-12 play opens with Oregon and USC. In case you hadn’t heard, the Buffs have never beaten the Trojans, and the Buffs have all of one win over the Ducks since joining the conference. So yes, Buff fans will be hoping for upsets, but this program, through four head coaches, is a combined 1-23 against these teams since joining the Pac-12.

Coach Prime loves a challenge.

September, 2023, will be a challenge

Chances for a full stocking: 35%; Chances for lumps of coal: 65%

October, 2023

The October calendar only gives CU three chances at victories, with a bye week coming between the Stanford and UCLA games. The October slate:

  • at Arizona State
  • Stanford
  • Bye week
  • at UCLA

CU has one victory in its history in the Rose Bowl against UCLA, and that came back in 2002. Otherwise, the Buffs have an 0-7 record against the Bruins in their home stadium. Stanford, meanwhile, may be the only Pac-12 game in which the Buffs – at least until the season begins – could be listed as the favorites.

Which leaves the Arizona State game as the potential tie-breaker as the Buffs look for two October victories. Like CU, Arizona State has a new head coach. Like CU, Arizona State flipped its roster this off-season – though not to the same extent as Colorado.

Yet Arizona State is being given the benefits of multiple doubts, partly due to the disparity in schedules. While the Buffs are running a September gauntlet, Arizona State eases into the 2023 season by not leaving Tempe until the last day of the month. Four straight home games, including a layup against Southern Utah, opens the Kenny Dillingham era.

The Sun Devils will have victories and momentum heading into October … Will Colorado?

Chances for a full stocking: 45%; Chances for lumps of coal: 55%

November, 2023

If – somehow – the Buffs can find their way to a 4-4 record through the first two months of the 2023 season, the final month gives CU some opportunities … and some challenges. The November calendar:

  • Oregon State
  • Arizona
  • at Washington State (Friday)
  • at Utah

The Buffs haven’t won in Salt Lake City since the inaugural season of the Pac-12, and aren’t likely to win there this November. The home game against Arizona is a must-win in any scenario which gets the Buffs to six wins and a bowl bid, so the trick will be trying to find another win between the home game against Oregon State and the Friday night road tilt against Washington State.

The Beavers, lest we forget, are coming off of a ten-win season, which included a 42-9 laugher over Colorado. Including an upset win over Oregon and a 30-3 pasting of Florida in the Las Vegas Bowl, Oregon State comes into the 2023 season having won seven of its last eight games, and is a dark horse candidate for a Pac-12 championship game bid.

Washington State parlayed an upset win over Wisconsin on the road into a 7-6 season and some high hopes for the 2023 campaign. Playing in Palouse is never easy, but in November? At night? A tough place for a “last best chance” at a victory in the ’23 regular season.

Chances for a full stocking: 40%; Chances for lumps of coal: 60%

Signing Day, 2023

The most important date on the recruiting calendar has shifted in recent years from the first Wednesday in February to the third Wednesday in December.

December 19th, a week before Christmas, will be the main Signing Day for the Recruiting Class of 2024, and will be Coach Prime’s chance to continue the momentum started with the Recruiting Class of 2023, which was CU’s highest-rated Class in 15 years. The CU Class of 2024 currently has four four-star commits, but only eight commits overall, which puts the Class at No. 45 at Rivals; No. 44 at 247 Sports.

The Class of ’24 could be one of quality over quantity, as Coach Prime and his staff will be more likely to fill holes than to inundate the roster with freshmen unlikely to play a significant role in 2024.

It will be classic half-full, half-empty perspective. Buff fans should be very pleased with the quality of players signed, but may be disappointed with the national ranking.

Chances for a full stocking: 50%; Chances for lumps of coal: 50%

Transfer Portal, 2023-24

The Transfer Portal will just be getting underway when Christmas, 2023, rolls around, but there will already be some indication as to how active Coach Prime and his staff will be in the Portal. If there are Buffs who are dissatisfied with their playing time, or their prospects for the 2024 season, they will be jumping into the Portal in late November and early December (though the potential number of defectors will be reduced significantly as players who transferred in to CU this past season will, unless they graduate, have to sit out a season if they choose to transfer again).

By Christmas, 2023, we will know how CU’s regular season played out, and will know all too well which holes in the depth chart were exposed over the fall. If the Buffs are successful – or are at least perceived as being on an upward trajectory – the Transfer Portal could be very kind to the CU program. If, on the other hand, things have not played out the way Coach Prime envisions, and the program is struggling for an identity – and victories – there could be defections.

Best guess here is that Coach Prime and his staff will be able to again take full advantage of the Transfer Portal to supplement the ranks for the 2024 season. The fruits of their labor might not all be in place by Christmastime, but they will come.

Chances for a full stocking: 75%; Chances for lumps of coal: 25%

Overall … 

If CU had UCLA’s non-conference schedule (Coastal Carolina, San Diego State, North Carolina Central) or Oregon State’s non-conference schedule (San Jose State, UC-Davis, San Diego State), or even Arizona State’s non-conference schedule (Southern Utah, Oklahoma State, Fresno State – all at home), we could talk with much greater confidence about Colorado being a bowl-eligible team in 2023.

As it stands, with a brutal opening September, and plenty of uncertainty up-and-down the roster, you have to really squint at the 2023 schedule and find six wins. We know that Joel Klatt’s statement: “A plus-four or plus-five in the win column is a drastic improvement” is not good enough for Coach Prime …

… But will it be good enough for the Buff Nation?

Christmas Day is six months from today (I’m 6’4″, so I’m an XL in almost everything you might want to get me for a present!).

The next six months will be a roller coaster of emotion for the Buff Nation.

But, at least for the first time in recent memory, there is justifiable reason for optimism.


5 Replies to “Six Months from Today …”

  1. I’m almost happy with any of the poll answers. A bowl is the obvious choice, but if they are competitive and win games in November, even if they fall short of a bowl that brings momentum for the next season.

    The schedule is brutal, especially the 1st 6 games (yes, ASU is included, as we play like shit down there, and coming off two very physical games). Also, we are installing new systems/players/coaches in every facet of the game. IMO, generally a new defense takes 1.5-2.5 years under the same schedule to fully implement the system, multiple adjustments, recruit/re-train players and to implement all the nuances of the scheme. IMO, to get bowl eligible, they need the offense to be white-hot in a bunch of games.

    1. I agree with your post, and yet (Kool aid time) I expect so much more from the coaches and staff that CP has assembled along with HIS expectations of them and the players that I can’t help but to think a 3-0 start is possible. I don’t think TCU will be nearly as good as last year, they had many close wins that without that QB and the NFL talent they lost, do they win those games?

      They’ll struggle in the first game without all the NFL talent that left, but mostly their QB; TCU got better after their starting QB got injured last year against CU. CU will have the mature squad this year. That maturity level and skills will help this staff get more out of the transfers and get them into Lewis’ scheme, the altitude (and conditioning) should be a factor in wearing down opponents too and because of their maturity level I just see this staff coaching them up faster too.

      When CP went to JSU, they had nothing faculties wise and was a losing program and he turned them around way faster than anyone imagined he would. So, until someone proves him wrong, I’m betting on him and the two coordinators to get a lot out of these (mature & skilled) transfers faster than anyone expected.

  2. I think Montez maybe made every start one year?….but otherwise have a hard time thinking our QB will be healthy enough to take every snap this season.

  3. I understand how easy it is to look at the schedule and have a hard time finding more than 3 or 4 wins based on everyone’s record and returning players; like Oregon State’s end of year’s wins against quality teams. BUT, when excellence demands excellence from men ready to follow, the fight becomes real and it’s going to be hard for teams to match that week in and week out.

    Cinderella stories start with HC & staff assembling a team they can coach up and lead. Thirty-something players are seniors or Grad students and many are rated higher than the last team the Buffs had. Trying to measure what a completely new team, both coaching & players, is going to do compared to another team that had a good year last year is almost impossible. But when USC hired a new coach (with a winning record) and he added 21 new players to a 4 win team, they were all of a sudden recognized by all the pundits as a playoff contender.

    Sure USC had good talent to begin with and got a lot of Blue Chip transfers, but the Buffs brought in more than 50 new players and while not as highly rated (number 4 & 5 stars) there is a lot of talent and the most 4 & 5 star players CU has seen since it’s championship days. If coaching and transfer can take USC from a 4 win team to an 11 win team overnight then why can’t a total overhaul of a team by an entirely new and experienced staff result in similar results?

    I’m not saying CU will win 11 games like USC did, but an improvement in the number of wins will be better than 2 or 3 more wins than last year. The offensive line is the key to winning more than 3 games… Duh, Captain Obvious! But really, watching those guys improve and work out together makes me think these guys are going to be better than expected; not the best, but better than we know. We know there are talented players at the “skilled” positions chomping at the bit to shine, so if the line can pull and push enough for the QB to run Lewis’ fast offense, CU will win more games than 3.

    It doesn’t matter what we think the limit is, “the Buffs should beat so & so, but will probably lose to so & so,” CP & staff won’t let the team think that way; CP & staff want it all and that’s the focus for this team. 3-0 start, GO BUFFS!

    Funny how neb is a winnable game but the lowest 4 or 5 teams in the PAC12 are not considered winnable?

  4. Sorry Stuart, anything I could get you for Christmas wouldn’t stack up to a Buff’s bowl game so your size doesn’t matter.
    The only time I played on a team that won a championship was in a men’s hockey rec league. We didn’t have much talent compared to the several of the other teams that had a lot of ex college stars. We did have one “rubber boot” (our Prime/Hunter?) on our team who was our coach. Not only was he by far the best player on our team but he was an excellent coach and everyone wanted to play for him. My hope is a similar scenario for the Buffs this year.

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