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the Gekko File: Colorado

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Rodney Stewart is the spark plug of the Colorado offense.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Rodney Stewart is the spark plug of the Colorado offense. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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This week's Gekko File documents the Colorado Buffaloes.  The University of Colorado is a beautiful campus situated in the surprisingly small town of Boulder.  Boulder is actually only 25 miles away from Denver and it sits at the base of the Rockies, about 5,500 feet in elevation.

When a typical passer-by notes that the typical Colorado student is high all the time, he isn't referring to the elevation.  With its entry into the Pac 12, the annual two-man race between Eugene and Berkeley for the title of "Hip(pie)-est PAC School" will now have to become a three-man affair.  Boulder grows more weed per capita than a Pullman Football player's basement.  It has been noted that Colorado students/residents like to walk and ride their bikes everywhere.  While the presumption is that this is because they all want to save the earth, the reality is that nobody can remember where they parked their cars.  Despite its deep historic connections with the Native American populations of the region, Boulder is not a racially diverse community.  Nearly 90% of its population is white and the median age is 29 years old.  Thus, any offending statements that I make from here on out will be directed at only rich, stoned, young, white people.  More Gekko File: Colorado after the jump.

  • Colorado holds the all-time advantage vs UW at 4-5-1.  Interestingly enough, each team has a winning record on the home field of their opponent.  Colorado is 3-1-1 at Seattle while UW is 2-1 at Boulder.  These teams have met twice in bowl games with UW taking the 1985 Freedom Bowl (remember the Freedom Bowl?) and Colorado returning the favor in the 1996 Holiday Bowl. 
  • DenvDawg has already noted that there are at least a few common threads between the universities of Colorado and Washington.  Outside of the gift that was Rick Neuheisel, there are surprisingly few notable connections.  I consider this surprising given the relative close geographic proximity of the two schools.  That said, I can't help but to note one very interesting connection.  Several of you commented on the rather ... uhhh ... uninspired sideline reporting of the UW/Utah game.  That reporter was none other than Jeremy Bloom, a two-time US Olympian and 11-time Gold Medal Winner in the World Cup in Snow Skiing (freestyle moguls).  Jeremy was also a Colorado Buff football player for two years (in addition to a pro for both the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Philadelphia Eagles).  Jeremy played just two seasons of football for the Buffs - setting several records in the process including the longest TD reception in Colorado history and most career plays over 75 yards.  He was declared permanently ineligible by the NCAA in 2004 for accepting skiing-related endorsements to fund his training for the 2006 Olympics (in what was the biggest crock of bullshit that the NCAA has ever pulled out of its ass).  Interestingly, Jeremy did compete in those Olympics and, two days after his events concluded, he participated in the NFL combine. 
  • The third peak of the Flatirons (the Flatirons are a widely recognized attraction of Boulder) stands 1,400 feet tall and is a very popular climbing spot.  Boulder Park Rangers report that the effervescent residents of Boulder have attempted to climb that peak with no hands, while wearing roller skates, while blindfolded, and without clothing.
  • Speaking of "without clothing", another mountain in the area, Flagstaff Mountain, is said to have gotten its name from the flag pole that sits on top of its summit which is clearly visible from the surrounding base.  I question the veracity of this report.  I have heard, in fact, that the name came from the naked hiker who planted the flag pole on top of that summit and was, errrr, "very excited" about his accomplishment.
  • The Buffs have produced a long line of good, if not great, players in their storied history including many who have gone on to have great NFL careers.  Their only Heisman winner was Rashaan Salaam who entered into the rarified air of hitting the 2000 yard mark in a single season in 1994.  Other notable players to come from Colorado include Tom Ashworth (Patriots), Rae Carruth (ugh, we all know his story), Kordell Stewart, Tyler Polombus (Seahawks), Eric Bienemy, Nate Solder (rookie for the Patriots), Chris Brown, Mike Pritchard, the great Bobby Anderson, Deon Figures and rookie CB Jimmy Smith. 
  • The old 80's sitcom "Mork and Mindy" was based in Boulder.  Is it a coincidence that Robin Williams has gone on to be a drugged out hippie freak for the greater portion of his post-Mork life?  I think not.
  • Interestingly, Colorado is considered by some sports purists to be the worst sports state in the world.  Why, you ask?  Colorado is actually the only state to have ever turned down the opportunity to host the Olympics.  This happened in 1972 when the residents overwhelmingly voted against the opportunity to host the 1976 Winter Olympics allegedly due to the cost and the potential of a resulting "population boom".  While that is a convenient set of excuses, we know it to be a canard.  In truth, 1972 was a bad year for the ganja crop and the residents didn't really know if there was going to be enough weed to go around by the time the Olympics would come to town.  Chivalry and good hostmanship (how is there no real word for this?) is, indeed, dead in Boulder.
  • Colorado lays claim to the 1990 National Championship, the year before the Huskies shared in the 1991 title.  Colorado earned the top slot in the AP poll that year but ended up splitting the title with Georgia Tech, who won the top honors in the UPI poll.  This National Title debate was one of the more controversial in pre-BCS history given that GT was undefeated (with a tie) while Colorado had a single loss (and a tie) on their record.  In addition, 1990 was the year that Colorado won the famous Fifth Down Game against Missouri - scoring a game winning TD in the final seconds after officials had erroneously given Coloardo a fifth down by not flipping the down marker after second down.  Nevertheless, Colorado had a far more difficult schedule that GT that season - including a victory over then #12 Washington.
  • Boulder ranks as the number one "walking city" in the United States.  That is, more people walk to work/school per capita than anywhere else in the country.  Also well known to the locals is the fact that Boulder ranks first per capita in the following:  per capita citations of "Walking and Toking", per capita citations of "Urinating in a Neighbor's Azalea Garden" and per capita citations of "Illegal Neighborhood Distribution of Magic Brownies"
  • Speaking of Magic Brownies, Cheech and Chong have reunited.  Go check it out.  Cheech and Chong should live in Boulder.

Colorado at Washington:  A Preview

Nothing about any aspect of Colorado's game screams "matchup nightmare" for the Huskies.  This is mostly because the Buffs are undergoing a serious overhaul of both sides of the line of scrimmage.  Under most circumstances, we would point out that Colorado does have some legit P12 talent on the offensive side of the ball.  However, the loss of Paul Richardson to a knee sprain leaves the Buffs seriously shorthanded in the passing game.  QB Tyler Hansen is a useful player, but he'll have very little time to throw the ball and his receiving options are limited to seniors Logan Gray, Toney Clemons and Ryan Deehan.  Gray, in particular, will figure to be featured.  He's a possession guy who is supposed to be pretty steady (although he dropped a big pass early in last week's game).  Freshman Keenan Canty is a little guy (5'8", 155) who got his first action of the season against Stanford.  Figure on him to join RB Rodney Stewart as wildcards the passing game.

Speaking of Stewart, he emerges as the true playmaker of the Buff offense.  He is a small scatback kind of player who reminds me of Ken Simonton.  He can get bottled up for several straight plays and then come out of nowhere to smack you upside the head.  He's a gritty, tough player in a small package (and, no, I'm not saying that his package is small).  I like Stewart, but he has really struggled getting past the line of scrimmage as his patchwork offensive line just hasn't been sufficient.  Given the overall state of affairs, look for the Buffs to organize their offense around a lot of screen passes to Stewart and short routes for Deehan and Gray over the middle - its really all they have available to them.

Defensively, the Buffaloes are simply in disarray.  Between injuries and suspensions, Colorado is scraping the bottom of the barrel when it comes to the back end of its defense.  They are playing a few guys converted from other positions in the secondary and they are operating with almost no depth.  The Buffs showed some backbone in their run D versus the Cardinal last week, but they are not able to generate much of a pass rush without blitzing (which they didn't do a lot of last week).  Given where they are with their season right now, there really isn't any point in playing conservative D.  I expect that we'll be seeing a lot of blitzing LBs in order to take advantage of the UW's middling offensive line and to lay some licks on Price.

In terms of the special teams, there is not a lot to like right now.  Stanford scored a special teams TD last week off a blocked placekick when a Cardinal backer literally ran right up the middle untouched to block, recover and score the football.  Colorado has already resorted to putting in their starters on the special teams units.  In fact, Stewart not only returns both punts and kicks, but he also plays on coverage units.  There is not much to like here.

Jon Embree, Eric Bienemy and staff have a lot of work to do.  This season is pretty much lost, so the focus will soon begin to shift to playing the younger guys and getting them some experience without exposing them too much.  Players like Canty, Paulay Asiata (remember when we were in on him?) and QB Nick Hirschman are all players that could get some run this week.  This coaching staff is going to get a long leash to develop this team, but there is a long way to go.

The Prediction:  Colorado 20 - Washington 43

Despite our biases against UCLA, WSU and Oregon St, there is no doubt in my mind that Colorado is the program most in tatters in the PAC.  The good news for the Buffs is that the UW defense will be one of the softer ones that they will have faced in a while.  The bad news for them is that the UW offense will be giving them heavy doses of Keith Price, Chris Polk, Jermaine Kearse, Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Senio Kelemete.  It's a pick-your-poison situation.  As I said, I expect Colorado to dial up the pressure frequently and to put their poor secondary in a lot of vulnerable positions.  Thus, I expect UW to take some negative plays, but to hit on more than their fair share of big gains.  In fact, this could be one of those absolutely huge days for one of our WRs - maybe Kearse or James Johnson.

Defensively, I expect UW to get nickel and dimed all day.  No doubt, we'll come out of this game frustrated that we didn't shut down Colorado as well as Stanford did, but we should be pretty respectable - especially in the red zone where Colorado just doesn't have any physical beasts who can make their own plays.  I also expect that we'll see some juggling of that Colorado offensive line and that this might lead to some gaps and breakdowns.  Look for UW to generate their highest sack output of the season and at least one turnover as a result of QB pressure.

In the end, I see this being the same kind of gameas what we had last year against Syracuse.  We'll come out of it with a 5-1 record feeling pretty good about our team and singing the praises of Sark and his staff.  We'll have the normal debate about whether or not Nick Holt is worthy.  Lear will remind us again that he is reserving judgment and Steen will pepper us all day about how he loves Keith Price despite how fragile he is.  Crazi will continue to call for more Gilliland sightings and Rollo will gleefully tell someone to "suck it" (once again) on the game thread.  Look for Hawnk to make some insightful inferences on how the rest of the season will play out and for Bugs to wax poetic about the virtues of Boulder above and beyond the football program there.  Expect JB just to be happy to notch up our fifth win and for JoeinFW to put together the case for a 10 win campaign.

Other Predictions

... this will NOT be the week for the first TD run from Jesse Callier (I've predicted incorrectly every week, so let's do a little reverse psychology)
... Nate Fellner will be spotted and will make a BIG play somewhere along the line
... We will all notice Senio Kelemete on Saturday
... Ditto Josh Shirley
... Rodney Stewart will provide some life for the Buffs - particularly in the passing game.  I'm guessing 5 receptions for 80 yards and a TD
... Nick Montana will get his first pass attempt of the year
... Bishop Sankey will break off a big run - either on offense or on special teams

That's it, Dawgfans.  What else do you have for the Gekko File?