Colorado was a much more compettive team in 2014, despite their 2-10 record, which was actually 2-games worse than their 4-8 finish to 2013. The Buffaloes were only -50.9 ypg inside conference play, which was a signifigant improvement from their -188 mark in 2013.
They ended up going 0-9 in conference play, largely due to their inability to win close games. They lost 56-59 in double-overtime at Cal, fell 31-36 at home to Oregon State, lost 37-40 in double-overtime at home to UCLA, gave up two non-offensive scores in a 23-38 defeat to Washington and lost 34-38 at home to Utah.
It’s now head coach Mike MacIntyre’s 3rd year on the job and he clearly has the Buffaloes headed in the right direction. With 16 returning starters, Colorado figures to take another big jump in 2015. The big question is whether or not it will be enough for them to escape the basement in the jam-packed Pac-12 South.
|9/19||Colorado State (Denver)|
|10/10||@ Arizona State|
|10/24||@ Oregon State|
|11/21||@ Washington State|
Estimated Wins: 4.75
*We take the win chance by using the college football win percentage chart for each point spread
In the season prior to MacIntyre taking over, Colorado managed just 17.8 ppg and 303 ypg. The offense improved to 25.4 ppg and 370 ypg in his first year on the job and took another step in 2014 with 28.5 ppg and 439 ypg. With 7 starters back on this side of the ball, including talented junior quarterback Sefo Liufau and 2nd-Team All-Pac-12 wide out Nelson Spruce, the offense could be in line for yet another jump in the right direction.
Liufau has started 18 games already, as he became the first true freshman to start in Boulder since 2008 when he started 7 in 2013. He production nearly doubled in his second season. After throwing for 1,779 yards with 12 touchdowns to 8 interceptions as a freshman, he threw for 3,200 yards with 28 touchdowns to 15 interceptions as a sophomore. The key for Liufau taking another big step is to take better care of the football.
Spruce was without question Liufau’s favorite target in the passing game. Spruce easily led the way in 2014 with 106 catches for 1,198 yards and 12 touchdowns. He will once again be the go to guy, but look for sophomores Shay Fields and Bryce Bobo to take on bigger roles.
Colorado averaged an impressive 155 ypg on the ground with a solid 4.1 yards/carry last year. You have to go back to 2006 (173 ypg, 4.5 ypc) to find the last time they came close to those kind of rushing numbers. They should be able to at least match that production in 2015, as they get back their top back in senior Christian Powell. They also have 3 starters back on the offensive line, including their top two in junior center Alex Kelley and junior left tackle Jeromy Irwin.
While the offense is progressively getting better, the Buffaloes still have a lot of work to do on the defensive side of the ball. Colorado gave up 39.0 ppg and 461 ypg in 2014. Most of that damage came on the ground, where they allowed opponents to average 5.6 yards per carry and gave up 205 ypg.
A big reason for their struggles against the run, was the fact that their defensive line was extremely young. Their top 6 defensive ends were made up of 4 sophomores and two freshmen. This year they only lose senior defensive tackle Juda Parker, but get back Samson Kafovalu (missed last year), who would have started if eligible. While it still figures to be one of the worst defensive lines in the Pac-12, it should be greatly improved from last year.
At linebacker the Buffaloes are excited about the potential of their starting three of juniors Kenneth Olugbode, Addison Gillam and Chidobe Awuzie, who finished 1-2-3 in tackles last year. This trio is one of the more underrated units in the Pac-12 and should play a big role in Colorado shaving off a big chunk of the 39.0 ppg they allowed last year.
The only signficigant loss in the secondary is starting corner Greg Henderson, but the Buffaloes have a lot of improving to do in this department. Last season opposing quarterbacks had a ridiculous 35 to 3 touchdown to interception ratio, with safety Tedric Thompson the only defensive back responsible for the 3 interceptions.
Regular Season Win Total
Pac-12 South Odds
Pac-12 Championship Odds
National Championship Odds
Odds Courtesy of 5Dimes
*Odds updated live on our college football odds page
Prior to coming to Colorado, MacIntyre took over a San Jose State team that had posted just 1 winning season in the previous 9 years. He went a dismal 1-12 in his first year with the Spartans before going 5-7 in year two and 11-2 in year 3. So far I’ve been extremely impressed with what he’s done to turnaround the talent level here and you get the feeling this team is going to surprise people sooner rather than later.
As much as I wanted to pick the Buffaloes to finish outside the basement of the Pac-12 South, there’s just too much talent on the other 5 teams in the division to put them ahead of anyone else. The schedule certainly doesn’t stack up well for them, as they draw home games against Stanford and Oregon, while having to go on the road to face Washington State and Oregon State in their 4 contests against the North this year. They also draw USC and Arizona at home, as they have 5 road games in conference play.
It wouldn’t surprise me if the Buffaloes went 3-6 in conference play and swept their non-conference schedule to finish up at 7-5 and back in a bowl game for the first time since 2005, but I think that’s the best case scenario. I personally think the schedule is going to be too much to overcome (play 13 straight without a bye). I’ll give them credit and call for a 4-0 sweep in non-conference, but I have them going just 2-7 inside the Pac-12 for an overall record of 5-8 (get to play 13 games due to traveling to Hawaii).
Win Total Prediction
I asked some more experts on Colorado football what they thought about the Buffaloes’s upcoming season. Here’s what they had to say.
OVER 5.5 Wins – I think the Buffs will win seven games as long as they win the first one at Hawaii. Otherwise, I’d be inclined to lower my expectations to 4-5 wins. I really don’t see a jump up to seven wins from two last season as quite the leap it might be in other seasons or for other teams. The Buffs were in a lot of close games last season with a younger, weaker, less experienced team. This season, they are older, stronger and hungry to get out of the Pac-12 cellar. They are changing things up on defense with two solid additions to the coaching staff and more aggressive philosophy. I expect the Buffs to be in a bowl game or maybe just miss getting there.
OVER 5.5 Wins – I believe this is the year that the Buffaloes get to at least 6 wins for the first time since 2005. This is HC MacIntyre’s 3rd season and he guided San Jose State to an eleven win season in his 3rd year there. He clearly has his best team yet and brought in Jim Leavitt as the new DC. Leavitt has plenty of experience and was known for having a good defense at South Florida. The defense returns 9 starters this season and I strongly think that they will have one of the most improved defenses in the nation, even playing in the PAC 12. Colorado should open up the season going 4-0 as they will be a favorite in all 4 games. There are 5 other games that I will give them a chance of winning, and we only need to win 2 of them, to go OVER the 5.5 wins. Colorado plays @ Oregon State who is the least experienced team in the PAC 12 this season. They play @ Washington State whose defense has given up at average of 36 ppg over the last 7 years. (That should be 6 wins already) Now, they play Stanford at home and this is a ‘look ahead’ spot for Stanford as they have a revenge game vs. Oregon the next week. (I’ll also note that Stanford’s defense appears to be young and rebuilding in 2015). Colorado also gets Arizona at home for their homecoming game. It was a close game last year, but they were -4 in turnover differential including 2 pick six’s, otherwise they could have pulled off the upset. They also play USC at home on a Friday night. We have seen plenty of upsets on Friday nights in the past and USC has Oregon and UCLA on deck. It’s a clear ‘look ahead’ spot for USC here. Overall, I expect Colorado to be much improved this season and to shock the nation with some upset wins, thus going OVER 5.5 wins!
Over 5.5 Wins – The projection this season was very low for the Buffaloes after posting a 2-10 record (0-9 Pac-12). Head Coach Mike MacIntyre enters his third season with CU and the expectations are high. The addition of new defensive coordinator Jim Levitt addresses the needs of a struggling defense ranked 122nd last season. Offensively, quarterback Sefo Liufau returns to lead the Buffs after a record breaking season by setting marks for total offensive yards (3,336), passing yards in a season (3,200), touchdown passes in a season (28) and TD’s in a game (7). Participating in the Manning passing academy has helped Liufau’s progression and having another year of experience will help avoid crucial mistakes. Colorado can build momentum and is likely to go 4-0 in the first month of the season at Hawaii, vs. Massachusetts, vs. Colorado St. (Denver), & vs. Nicholls St. The Bulk of the Pac-12 conference schedule follows with five of the eight remaining games on the road. Colorado will have to break the curse of three conference wins in the past four seasons. MacIntyre know that and recently told me, “I know our football team will be better. We’ll be more experienced with a sophomore-junior team and that will help us. We’ll be in close games again and we’ll come out on top for more of those games.” Expect the Buffs to surprise this season with the possibility of returning to a bowl game for the first time since 2007. My prediction is CU will go 7-6 on the season.
OVER 4.5 Wins – This number opened too low in our opinion. It might be tough to find 4.5 now, but if you (or 5) can we recommend the OVER. First of all, the Buffs have an extra regular season game this year as they play at Hawaii. That gives them 13 games instead of 12. CU was 0-9 in league play last year but truth be told, they deserved better. They had tight losses to Utah, UCLA, Oregon State, and Cal, all of which they could have won. Their overall yardage numbers in Pac 12 play (-50 YPG) were actually better than three other teams in the league. They bring back a lot of experience this year with 16 starters back including QB Liufau who threw for 3,200 yards and 28 TD’s. WE look for Liufau to shine in his 3rd years as Colorado’s starting QB. This year we have Colorado favored in all 4 non-conference games including two “almost” layups at home vs UMass and Nicholls State. They also face a down Hawaii team and have a revenger vs Colorado State in Denver. Win those four, or even three of four, and they get very close to this number before Pac 12 play even begins. They play Stanford & Oregon in the Pac 12 crossover, however they also get a shot at Washington State and Oregon State who we consider the two worst teams in the North. We look for CU to pick up a few conference wins this year and get to at least 5.
OVER 5.5 Wins – After a season of marked improvement everywhere but the win column, I believe the Buffaloes finally get over the wall they’ve been scaling and win at least 6 games. That will likely require going 4-0 in the non-conference schedule, with the two toughest games coming in Honolulu and in Denver against Colorado State. They’ll then need to get at least one conference win on the road, most likely against either Oregon State or Washington State but winning in Salt Lake City with everything on the line certainly isn’t out of the question. Finally, the Buffs will have to restore some of that Folsom Field magic and pull off a signature upset. At first glance, Arizona is the most gettable but if the key guys stay healthy and the defense makes a significant leap under Jim Leavitt either USC or Stanford could fall in Boulder. And maybe, just maybe, if the Ducks are struggling to adjust to life without Marcus Mariota and the Buffaloes come in to that game undefeated and playing with a confidence that they’ve not had in years…well, they’ll at least give Oregon everything they can handle.