The Gekko File kicks off its annual exercise in witless futility as we begin our process for preparing for the upcoming 2013 football season. Every year, the Gekko File gets opened as we assess where the various programs of the Pac 12 have been and document our prognostications for where these programs may be going. Up first is the venerable football program at the University of Colorado. Nestled high up in the Rocky Mountains, the citizens of Boulder have redefined what it means to live life on a high. And, why shouldn't they? They've had to endure the putrid performance of a football program that has managed just nine wins across the last three years - a period of time that spans their participation in two different NCAA Football Conferences. It's been a tough go for Buff fans and, unfortunately, it seems sure to get worse before it gets better.
Gekko File Accountability - what I said in 2012:
"Aristotle once wrote: "Youth is easily deceived because it is quick to hope". Hello Colorado Buffaloes. Despite a lot of positive vibes coming out of their Spring camp, the Buffs don't have the odds in their favor going into 2012." We went on to predict a four win campaign for the Buffs - including three out of conference wins and a victory over UCLA.
Things got off to an inauspicious start for the Buffs and coach Jon Embree in their first game of the season against Colorado State and their new coach, Jim McElwaine. The Buffs looked flat at home throughout the game and were unable to hold onto a fourth quarter lead in the loss to their in-state rival. The wheels came of the cart in Week 2 as the young Buffs got their clocks cleaned by a Sacramento State team that knocked off its second P12 team in two seasons (hello Oregon St fans). A 55 point loss to the Fresno State Bulldogs in Week 3 ended the Buffs season before it really even started and cemented Colorado as, perhaps, the worst Div 1 team in the nation. Buff fans were introduced the term "Cougin' It" after a miraculous 1-point victory @ WSU in which Colorado scored three fourth quarter TDs - a game that was the lone highlight of a season that saw the Buffs go winless at home and finish near the bottom of the P12 in just about every statistical category on both sides of the ledger. All the while, Coach Embree's staff preached patience for both the rebuilding process - which featured a Husky-like strategy of starting 20 first year players over the course of the season - and the rehabilitative process as key players, most notably all-everything WR Paul Richardson, recovered from injury. These appeals were ineffective as Embree was blindsided by his AD and canned shortly after the season. The comedy reached epic proportions when said ambusher, AD Mike Bohn, then got blindsided by his bosses and released from his duties a month later. All in all, a tragic season for the Buffs that will take many years for them to recover from.
2012 Rewind: UW @ Colorado
The Huskies visited Colorado late in the season just as the Huskies were actually ranked in the top 25. At this point, Embree was a dead man walking - even if we didn't all know it - and the Huskies were holding aspirations of a very strong close to the season. In a formula that we had come to expect from Washington during the season, the Husky offense was very sluggish to start the game, but the Defense was dominating. The Huskies scored the first points of the game late in the second quarter on a Keith Price to Cody Bruns TD pass and went into half-time with a 7-0 lead. The barn doors got blown open however in the second half as Price found his rhythm and passed four more TDs to four different receivers in a very efficient performance that drummed up memories of his 2011 season. The Husky D did its thing as the Huskies left Boulder with a convincing 38-3 victory, their fourth in a row at the time. Little did we know that this would be our last win of the season.
Colorado enters 2013 as one of three P12 teams with a new head coach. Mike MacIntyre arrives in Boulder by way of San Jose State where, over the course of three seasons, he had turned the Spartans into a legitimate threat of a team. MacIntyre brings with him a whole new staff and an offense built around the pistol. He also inherits a true playmaker as Paul Richardson, a player who had over 1,000 yards and 11 TDs receiving between his first two seasons, returns to help balance out the Buffalo attack. The question as to who will be throwing the ball to him is one that still remains to be seen. The Buffs, who had quite the carousel at QB in 2012, saw two potential starters fall out of the race after an ACL injury to Jordon Webb and the surprise transfer of Nick Hirschman. Connor Wood is the odds-on favorite to beat out rising RS Fr Shane Dillon. Intriguingly, local product Sefo Liufau enters as a true frosh who may be able to make some noise. The Buff offensive line continues to be tinkered with and will likely have to rely on contributions from one or more of their true freshmen to get through the season. There is potential there with the quality of their young recruits and with the anchoring around the highly regarded Stephen Nembot at T and Gus Handler, a Rimington-esque player, at C. This O-Line is truly an athletic group - not unlike the young recruits that UW has put together - but a not-yet-deep group. The rushing duties will fall on the reliable and burly Christian Powell, who led the team with nearly 700 yards last season, and Tony Jones. There are definitely pieces here to work with, but the keys are the stabilization of the o-line, the quick development of rapport between Wood and his big playmaker in Richardson, the development of a good option at TE (a must have in Mac's offense) and the ability to work Powell into an offensive style that may not suit his strengths.
Defensively, Kent Baer will lead the new Buffalo 4-3 attack. Coach Baer will not have a lot to work with in terms of experience as he works to get his unit ready to face the heterogeneity of offenses that he'll see in the Pac 12. First, some key players are gone from last year's team including, perhaps, the Buffs best player from last year in DT Will Pericak. Some of the challenges that Baer will contend with include managing a DL that has just three players back who played in each game last year, a lack of experience in the linebacking corps and a talented but young and mistake-prone secondary. Their best player is probably DE Chidera Uzo-Diribe who had seven sacks and ten tackles for loss in 2012. Derrik Webb, a WLB is their only returning starter at linebacker and led the team in tackles last year with 88. The secondary has some returning youth with Soph Kenneth Crawley seen as a bright young talent who will be counted on heavily to slow down pass-happy attacks in the P12. As the Buffalo D takes shape, it will be interesting to watch and see how the defensive line rotation works out and whether or not Addison Gillam, a grayshirt who followed McIntyre from SJSU, can claim the starting MLB spot. Regardless, this is at best a developing group of young players and, at worst, a rag-tag group of physically overmatched and not very deep defenders.
- How's this for ugly? According to Football Outsiders and their index formula for ranking college teams, Colorado was the worst D1 program last year finishing with the 118th ranked offense, the 123rd ranked defense and the 122nd ranked special teams.
- Former UW Defensive Coordinator, and causer of nightmares for many a Husky Fan, Kent Baer is reprising his role for the Colorado Buffaloes this season. Baer was part of Coach Mike MacIntyre's staff at San Jose St.
- Though the Buffaloes have endured many coaching changes over the years, this is the first time since the 70's that all 10 of the Buffalo coaches will be new to campus. A big reason for that is the depature of 24 year assistant, Brian Cabral, who has moved on to take the DC job at Indiana State.
- The most shocking stat from last year's one-win squad? The Buffs D surrendered just over seven yards per play last year, by far the most in the FBS. Good luck with that, coach Baer.
- Colorado led the nation in starts by true freshman with 57
- One of Colorado's highest regarded recruits last season is a Washington product. 6'-4" Sefo Liufau figures to be a factor, especially as the Buffs alter their offensive philosophy under their new staff
- Colorado returns approximately 19 starters in 2013, including the P and PK
- Starting DE Chidera Uzo-Diribe (spelling quiz later) has good bloodlines - he's a cousin of NFL All-Pro Osi Umenyiora
- Colorado players recently voted for their team captains and settled on Richardson, Uzo-Diribe, T Jack Harris, LBs Paul Vigo and Derrick Webb, and QB Connor Wood
- Two Buffs from last year's squad were drafted into the NFL. David Bakhtiari, a Junior OL, was taken by Green Bay in Round 4 while TE Nick Kasa was selected by Oakland in Round 6
- There are currently 14 Buffs playing in the NFL including familiar names like Tyler Polumbus, Nate Solder and Mason Crosby. Ray Polk, a hard-hitting rookie safety, is with the Seahawks.
2013 Predictions: Colorado
Coach MacIntyre is, by all accounts, a passionate and caring coach who has clearly demonstrated an ability to rebuild. But rebuilding at SJSU is different than rebuilding something in the Pac12. The Buffs enter 2013 in a state of disarray. Sure, there is some young talent sprinkled across the roster, but is there enough? And how much of a distraction is the lack of an AD going to be to the coaches who have to worry about the fact that the next guy in did not hire them? In addition, there is the general state of fitness on the team. MacIntyre is worrying about O linemen that may not be strong enough and D linemen who may be too big. He is also managing a lot of players recovering from injury. He has to worry about whether or not he can protect Paul Richardson - his only legit playmaker. He has to worry about recruiting to a school that has replaced WSU as the butt of P12 jokes. On top of all of that, he has to worry about the likes of UCLA, ASU and Arizona - teams in the South that all seem to be separating from the bottom of the pack.
In the end, I don't like how this season plays out for Colorado. Their out of conference schedule features two teams that beat them last year in both Colorado State and Fresno State. Their P12 conference schedule has five road games with their home games featuring tough outs in Oregon and USC. They miss WSU (and Stanford). Their offense is being overhauled. Their defense has a long way to go. I'm sorry, but I'm not seeing it. This looks like a two-win team that should be able to handle Central Arkansas and may find an upset win among Colorado State, Cal or Arizona.
The Huskies meet the Buffs in Seattle after a BYE week on Nov. 9th. This game precedes a vital two-game road trip that includes UCLA (Fri night game) and Oregon State. The Dawgs are going to come into this one with a lot on the line as they chase bowl eligibility and I expect that they will blow the Buffs out early with an eye towards having the reserves in by the fourth quarter.
Bottom line: there is a lot to like about what the Buffs are putting together, but 2013 is not the year that Buff fans can hope to see fruits from these sown seeds.