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1. Colorado improved
There are no shortcuts when you fall as far as Colorado fell.
Over the course of almost a decade, Colorado had slowly, methodically torn down the "past success predicts future success" idea that I have turned into a cliché over the years. The 1990 national title didn't stop the Buffs from going 2-10 in 2006. Three top-10 finishes in a row (1994-96) didn't prevent the Dan Hawkins era from falling apart with a 13-23 record from 2008-10. Colorado's Heisman and Big 12 North titles didn't keep the Buffs from making an awful hire in 2011.
Former Buffs tight end Jon Embree held the head coaching job in Boulder for just two years, but he managed to speed up Colorado's collapse in that time. Already teetering in the 70s, 80s, and 90s in the F/+ rankings, CU fell to 3-10 and 110th in 2011, then to 1-11 and 124th, dead last, in 2012. Dead last! Colorado! As I put it in last year's preview, "Even if you don't truly believe that this was the worst team in FBS -- even if you have to lower yourself to saying things like 'Come on, they weren't worse than New Mexico State; they did beat (3-9) Washington State, after all!' -- you have to admit that the Buffaloes were in the conversation."
The only justification I could come up with for not firing Embree after two years was that CU had fallen too far to make a good replacement hire. But the Buffs assuaged those fears by landing Mike MacIntyre, the engineer of San Jose State's sudden turnaround. And in Year 1 in Boulder, MacIntyre did what he does.
Colorado was not a good team in 2013. You don't need me to tell you that. The Buffs won just four games (two against FCS opponents), ranked 95th in F/+, and got outscored by 154 points on the season. Their only Pac-12 win came against a 1-11 opponent. They got destroyed by almost every good team on the schedule (and in the Pac-12, there are a lot of good teams on the schedule) and played below-average football across the board: 87th in Off. F/+, 88th in Def. F/+, and 97th in Special Teams F/+.
But this represented severe improvement. CU was 119th, 123rd, and 122nd, respectively, in 2012. And going 4-8 is better than going 4-21. Colorado wasn't yet truly competitive, but MacIntyre and the Buffaloes were able to take a large step back toward respectability in 2013, and they were young enough that one can expect another step this year. MacIntyre's SJSU teams went from 1-12 to 5-7 to 10-2 over the course of three seasons; it's going to take longer than that at CU. But Year 1 proved that MacIntyre really could be the man for a job that had become infinitely more challenging than it was a couple of decades ago.
2013 Schedule & Results
|Record: 4-8 | Adj. Record: 4-8 | Final F/+ Rk: 95|
|Date||Opponent||Opp. F/+ Rk||Score||W-L||Adj. Score||Adj. W-L||5-gm Adj. Avg.|
|1-Sep||vs. Colorado State||66||41-27||W||30.5 - 15.0||W|
|7-Sep||Central Arkansas||N/A||38-24||W||26.7 - 17.9||W|
|28-Sep||at Oregon State||42||17-44||L||17.2 - 28.5||L|
|5-Oct||Oregon||5||16-57||L||26.7 - 31.2||L|
|12-Oct||at Arizona State||13||13-54||L||23.5 - 37.2||L||-1.1|
|19-Oct||Charleston Southern||N/A||43-10||W||31.2 - 25.1||W||-2.9|
|26-Oct||Arizona||25||20-44||L||23.8 - 39.8||L||-7.9|
|2-Nov||at UCLA||15||23-45||L||26.6 - 36.1||L||-7.5|
|9-Nov||at Washington||18||7-59||L||21.3 - 38.7||L||-10.1|
|16-Nov||California||103||41-24||W||25.9 - 26.2||L||-7.4|
|23-Nov||USC||11||29-47||L||34.4 - 33.7||W||-8.5|
|30-Nov||at Utah||31||17-24||L||20.7 - 25.6||L||-6.3|
|Points Per Game||25.4||87||38.3||115|
|Adj. Points Per Game||25.7||89||29.6||82|
2. Not yet ready for an upset
There are two ways to look at Colorado's 2013 performance. In the opponent-adjusted way, we see that Colorado started and finished the season playing rather average football but briefly fell apart in the middle.
- Adj. Points Per Game (first 4 games): Colorado 25.3, Opponent 23.2 (plus-2.1)
- Adj. Points Per Game (next 5 games): Opponent 35.4, Colorado 25.3 (minus-10.1)
- Adj. Points Per Game (last 3 games): Opponent 28.5, Colorado 27.0 (minus-1.5)
This is a semi-familiar path for young teams with new coaches. You play well out of the gates, when nobody has any film on you, then you hit a slump when teams figure out what you're trying to do. Late in the year, as experience grows, you rally a bit, as CU did with a win over Cal, a competitive home loss to USC, and a near-upset at Utah.
But if we look at the quality of the opposition, we get another unique perspective.
- Actual Points Per Game (vs. F/+ top 25): Opponent 51.0, Colorado 18.0 (record: 0-6)
- Actual Points Per Game (vs. others in FBS): Opponent 29.8, Colorado 29.0 (record: 2-2)
MacIntyre was able to assemble mix-and-match pieces from Embree and Hawkins, sprinkle in some freshmen, and turn Colorado into a team capable of competing with mediocre to solid opponents. They played at an above-average level against lesser teams, but against the best of FBS (of which the Buffs played quite a few), the Buffs just weren't there yet.
This also makes sense, of course. MacIntyre didn't unveil an underdog-friendly offensive or defensive system. His approach is not to confuse or derive unique tactical advantages. Unique systems create unique outcomes -- you're more likely to beat good teams, and you're more likely to lose to bad ones -- but Colorado was more of a best-against-worst team.
You can eventually win a lot of games like that as long as your best continues to improve. MacIntyre quickly raised CU's floor; in the coming years, we'll find out about the ceiling.
|FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE|
|Raw Category||Rk||Opp. Adj. Category||Rk|
|EFFICIENCY||Succ. Rt.||38.8%||98||Succ. Rt. +||96.2||74|
|FIELD POSITION||Def. Avg. FP||33.3||114||Def. FP+||94.4||111|
|FINISHING DRIVES||Pts. Per Trip in 40||3.9||89||Redzone S&P+||86.9||106|
|Q1 Rk||60||1st Down Rk||58|
|Q2 Rk||100||2nd Down Rk||84|
|Q3 Rk||110||3rd Down Rk||88|
3. Gotta pretend to run
Offensive coordinator Brian Lindgren came to Boulder from San Jose in 2013, and at first glance it appears he was able to more or less install the offense he wanted to. Colorado's general run-pass rates (pass-first) and pace (slow) were nearly identical to SJSU's from 2012, and while that says nothing about the size of the playbook or which runs and passes were called, it gives us the impression that Lindgren didn't have to change much.
That Colorado was able to pass frequently and semi-adequately was impressive, considering the Buffs handed the reins to a freshman quarterback four games into the season.
But they couldn't even pretend to run, and that quite obviously held them back. CU ranked a respectable 49th in Passing S&P+ and a heinous 116th in Rushing S&P+. Christian Powell and Tony Jones provided neither efficiency nor explosiveness, and while then-freshman Michael Adkins II provided solid overall numbers, a lot of them came either against Charleston Southern (13 carries, 137 yards) or in garbage time against Oregon State (7 carries, 52 yards in the fourth quarter). Take those five quarters out of the sample, and his average regresses from 5.2 yards per carry to 4.2.
With Powell, Adkins, and Jones all returning, along with veterans Donta Abron and Malcolm Creer, experience certainly won't be an issue for CU running backs; the line brings decent experience to the table as well (four players with starting experience, 62 career starts). But we didn't learn much about the actual talent levels of these players last year ... or if we did, we didn't learn anything good.
CU may have a pass-first system, but you do still have to be able to run, too.
Note: players in bold below are 2014 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.
|Sefo Liufau||6'4, 225||So.||3 stars (5.7)||149||251||1779||12||8||59.4%||10||3.8%||6.6|
|Jordan Gehrke||6'1, 190||So.||NR|
|Trent Sessions||6'1, 190||So.||NR|
|Cade Apsay||6'2, 190||Fr.||3 stars (5.6)|
4. Sefo's job to lose
Texas transfer Connor Wood began the season as the Colorado's starting quarterback and played pretty well against Colorado State and Central Arkansas (68 percent completion rate, 13.2 yards per completion, six touchdowns to two picks). But his output regressed significantly when Pac-12 play began. He completed just 25 of 67 passes with four interceptions against Oregon State and Oregon, and after an 0-for-4 start against Arizona State, he was benched in favor of freshman Sefo Liufau.
- Adj. Points Per Game (first 4 games): 25.3
- Adj. Points Per Game (last 8 games): 25.9
Liufau in no way dominated, but he held his own and improved on Wood's overall numbers. For a true freshman thrown into the fire, you'll take that, especially considering the woeful state of the running game. He averaged more yards per attempt with a higher completion rate, fewer sacks, and fewer interceptions. In CU's two wins under his command (against Charleston Southern and Cal), he was 37-for-56 for 562 yards, four touchdowns, and one pick.
Wood elected to end his football career a year early, which means the job is all Liufau's. And if he stays healthy in his first full year as starter, he should be pretty solid. His run support isn't going to get any worse, and while he loses his best weapon in the receiving corps (second-round draft pick Paul Richardson), almost every other target returns. Nelson Spruce and Tyler McCulloch are decent possession weapons, D.D. Goodson could become an exciting big-play threat if he can raise his catch rate, and there are youngsters galore entering the rotation, including four-star freshman Shay Fields.
Granted, that probably means much better things for 2015 than it does for 2014, but even if CU's pass ratings regress, I don't expect a significant drop.
|Christian Powell||RB||6'0, 230||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||147||560||3||3.8||2.6||31.3%|
|Michael Adkins II||RB||5'10, 195||So.||2 stars (5.4)||103||535||6||5.2||5.1||38.8%|
|Tony Jones||RB||5'7, 190||Sr.||3 stars (5.7)||73||249||1||3.4||2.6||27.4%|
|Sefo Liufau||QB||6'4, 225||So.||3 stars (5.7)||30||111||0||3.7||1.5||36.7%|
|Donta Abron||RB||5'9, 190||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||21||42||0||2.0||1.1||14.3%|
|D.D. Goodson||WR||5'6, 175||Sr.||NR||4||42||0||10.5||13.0||50.0%|
|Malcolm Creer||RB||5'10, 210||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)|
|Terrence Crowder||RB||5'10, 225||So.||2 stars (5.2)|
|Phillip Lindsay||RB||5'8, 175||RSFr.||3 stars (5.5)|
|Nelson Spruce||WR-Z||6'1, 195||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||92||55||650||59.8%||23.8%||53.2%||7.1||-42||6.9||95.8|
|D.D. Goodson||WR-H||5'6, 175||Sr.||NR||46||22||306||47.8%||11.9%||43.6%||6.7||-7||5.9||45.1|
|Tyler McCulloch||WR-X||6'5, 215||Sr.||2 stars (5.2)||20||14||138||70.0%||5.2%||45.5%||6.9||-25||6.3||20.3|
|Tony Jones||RB||5'7, 190||Sr.||3 stars (5.7)||17||13||93||76.5%||4.4%||46.7%||5.5||-52||5.5||13.7|
|Michael Adkins II||RB||5'10, 195||So.||2 stars (5.4)||15||11||127||73.3%||3.9%||37.5%||8.5||2||6.5||18.7|
|Devin Ross||WR-H||5'9, 175||So.||3 stars (5.7)||13||6||24||46.2%||3.4%||100.0%||1.8||-63||1.0||3.5|
|Christian Powell||RB||6'0, 230||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||11||8||71||72.7%||2.8%||55.6%||6.5||-20||7.9||10.5|
|Kyle Slavin||TE||6'4, 240||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||11||9||68||81.8%||2.8%||40.0%||6.2||-29||5.7||10.0|
|Keenan Canty||WR-Z||5'9, 165||Sr.||2 stars (5.3)||6||3||33||50.0%||1.6%||100.0%||5.5||-9||2.2||4.9|
|Bryce Bobo||WR-X||6'2, 185||RSFr.||3 stars (5.6)|
|Elijah Dunston||WR-X||6'0, 185||RSFr.||3 stars (5.5)|
|Lee Walker||WR-Z||6'0, 180||Fr.||3 stars (5.5)|
|Joseph Hall||WR-H||5'9, 165||Fr.||NR|
|Shay Fields||WR||5'11, 165||Fr.||4 stars (5.8)|
|Jay MacIntyre||ATH||5'10, 185||Fr.||3 stars (5.5)|
|Dylan Keeney||TE||6'6, 215||Fr.||3 stars (5.5)|
|Daniel Munyer||RG||6'2, 300||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||28|
|Stephane Nembot||RT||6'7, 300||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||20|
|Kaiwi Crabb||LG||6'3, 300||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||13|
|Brad Cotner||RG||6'3, 270||Jr.||NR||1|
|Marc Mustoe||LT||6'7, 290||Jr.||3 stars (5.7)||0|
|Alex Kelley||C||6'2, 305||So.||3 stars (5.6)||0|
|Jeromy Irwin||LT||6'5, 295||So.||3 stars (5.6)||0|
|Colin Sutton||RG||6'4, 290||RSFr.||3 stars (5.6)|
|Sam Kronshage||LT||6'5, 285||RSFr.||3 stars (5.5)|
|Jonathan Huckins||LG||6'3, 305||RSFr.||3 stars (5.5)|
|Gerrad Kough||LG||6'4, 300||RSFr.||2 stars (5.4)|
|Sully Wiefels||OL||6'3, 300||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)|
|Isaac Miller||OL||6'7, 250||Fr.||3 stars (5.5)|
|John Lisella II||RT||6'4, 265||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)|
5. The makings of a good line
You can drive yourself crazy attempting to divvy credit between the line and the rest of the offense, even with the line stats listed above.
But using those stats, you can paint the picture of a line that did its job well when it comes to keeping defenders out of the backfield (40th in Stuff Rate, 34th in Adj. Sack Rate) but got no help whatsoever from its less-than-explosive running backs (116th in Opportunity Rate). In my opportunities to watch CU last year, I came away unimpressed with the backs, and the stats certainly backed that up, so I'm inclined to divvy as much credit as possible to the Colorado line.
The loss of center Gus Handler and tackle Jack Harris could hurt; both were two-year starters. But with two other two-year starters returning, along with guard Kaiwi Crabb and a boatload of newcomers (including three three-star redshirt freshmen and JUCO transfer Sully Wiefels), I'm pretty optimistic that this line will be able to do favors for its quarterbacks and running backs. We'll just have to see if those backs can take advantage.
|FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE|
|Raw Category||Rk||Opp. Adj. Category||Rk|
|EFFICIENCY||Succ. Rt.||43.6%||82||Succ. Rt. +||98.3||60|
|FIELD POSITION||Off. Avg. FP||28.7||95||Off. FP+||99.5||68|
|FINISHING DRIVES||Pts. Per Trip in 40||4.7||101||Redzone S&P+||107.8||33|
|Q1 Rk||75||1st Down Rk||73|
|Q2 Rk||85||2nd Down Rk||70|
|Q3 Rk||62||3rd Down Rk||55|
|Rivals||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Josh Tupou||DT||6'3, 315||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||12||29.5||4.0%||3.0||0.5||0||0||0||0|
|Justin Solis||DT||6'1, 300||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||12||27.5||3.7%||2.5||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Juda Parker||DE||6'2, 270||Sr.||3 stars (5.7)||12||21.5||2.9%||1.0||1.0||0||1||0||0|
|Samson Kafovalu||DE||6'5, 245||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||7||10.5||1.4%||5.5||3.0||0||0||0||0|
|Jimmie Gilbert||DE||6'4, 225||So.||3 stars (5.5)||12||8.5||1.2%||2.0||1.0||0||0||1||0|
|De'Jon Wilson||DE||6'1, 255||So.||3 stars (5.5)||11||8.0||1.1%||1.5||0.5||0||0||0||0|
|Tyler Henington||DE||6'2, 240||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||12||7.0||1.0%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Clay Norgard||DT||6'0, 240||So.||3 stars (5.6)|
|Markeis Reed||DE||6'4, 235||RSFr.||3 stars (5.5)|
|Derek McCartney||DE||6'3, 240||RSFr.||2 stars (5.2)|
|Patrick Ewing||DT||6'2, 250||So.||NR|
|Michael Mathewes||DE||6'5, 250||Fr.||3 stars (5.5)|
|Eddy Lopez||DT||6'4, 300||Fr.||3 stars (5.5)|
6. One Mississippi, two Mississippi...
Colorado had a full "10 Mississippi" defense in 2013. Opposing quarterbacks had all the time in the world to find open receivers, going up against a pass rush that ranked 122nd in Adj. Sack Rate. The Buffs may have had the worst passing-downs pass rush in the country, and in the Pac-12, there were far too many quarterbacks capable of finding open receivers when given the time to do so. (Actually, that goes for both the Pac-12 and FBS as a whole, doesn't it?)
It's hard to imagine the CU pass rush improving too much considering it must now replace its best (least-bad?) pass rusher in Chidera Uzo-Diribe. But there's hope in the simple fact that the tackles are active, Samson Kafovalu has loads of potential (if he's staying up on academics and not destroying brick walls), and the best blitzer, middle linebacker Addison Gillam, is only a sophomore.
As with the running game, the pass rush isn't going to get worse, but there's not guarantee it gets much better.
|Rivals||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Addison Gillam||MIKE||6'3, 225||So.||2 stars (5.2)||12||89.0||12.1%||9.5||3.0||1||5||0||0|
|Woodson Greer III||SAM||6'3, 215||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||8||28.5||3.9%||2.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Brady Daigh||MIKE||6'2, 250||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||8||16.0||2.2%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Kenneth Olugbode||WILL||6'0, 210||So.||2 stars (5.3)||5||8.0||1.1%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|K.T. Tu'umalo||WILL||6'2, 215||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||2||5.0||0.7%||1.0||1.0||0||0||0||0|
|Ryan Severson||WILL||5'10, 200||So.||2 stars (5.3)|
|John Genova||MIKE||5'11, 205||So.||NR|
|Deayshawn Rippy||SAM||6'2, 215||So.||4 stars (5.8)|
|Grant Watanabe||LB||5'11, 230||Fr.||3 stars (5.5)|
|Rick Gamboa||ILB||6'1, 225||Fr.||3 stars (5.5)|
7. Gillam is a keeper
As many freshmen do, Addison Gillam erupted early in the 2013 season, then regressed as fatigue and opponent adjustments wore on him. Still, Gillam showed loads of potential, logging six tackles for loss in the first four games of the year, then nabbing another three against Washington and Cal. He was the team's leading tackler and was No. 2 behind Uzo-Diribe in TFLs and sacks. Oh, and he picked off or broke up six passes. This defense needs a higher activity level; it needs another Gillam.
In theory, more weapons could emerge this year, and not just with "Well, a two-star freshman erupted once, so it could happen again" rationale. Four-star sophomore Deayshawn Rippy, who originally signed with Pitt, becomes eligible this fall, and sophomore Kenenth Olugbode was interesting enough to win the starting will spot this spring. If more linebackers can become solid play-makers and Kafovalu can keep his head on straight, this front seven could end up more dangerous against run and pass.
|Rivals||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Jered Bell||FS||6'1, 200||Sr.||3 stars (5.7)||12||64.5||8.8%||4.5||0||3||5||2||1|
|Terrel Smith (2012)||SS||5'9, 190||Sr.||2 stars (5.4)||12||59.0||7.7%||0||0||0||3||0||2|
|Greg Henderson||CB||5'11, 185||Sr.||2 stars (5.4)||12||52.0||7.1%||3||0||4||10||1||1|
|Chidobe Awuzie||CB||6'0, 190||So.||3 stars (5.5)||12||45.5||6.2%||5||1||0||3||2||1|
|Kenneth Crawley||CB||6'1, 170||Jr.||4 stars (5.8)||11||35.5||4.8%||2||0||2||4||0||0|
|Tedric Thompson||SS||6'0, 200||So.||3 stars (5.5)||9||28.5||3.9%||0||0||0||3||0||0|
|Marques Mosley||FS||6'0, 185||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||11||13.5||1.8%||0||0||0||0||1||0|
|Jeffrey Hall||CB||5'11, 180||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||9||5.0||0.7%||0||0||0||1||0||1|
|John Walker||CB||5'9, 175||So.||3 stars (5.5)||6||3.0||0.4%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Richard Yates II||FS||6'2, 190||Jr.||NR||3||2.0||0.3%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Yuri Wright||CB||6'1, 170||So.||4 stars (5.9)|
|Tedric Thompson||SS||6'0, 200||So.||3 stars (5.5)|
|Ryan Moeller||FS||6'0, 205||RSFr.||NR|
|Gavin Andrews||CB||6'0, 170||So.||NR|
|Ahkello Witherspoon||CB||6'3, 185||So.||3 stars (5.6)|
|Donovan Lee||DB||5'8, 170||Fr.||3 stars (5.6)|
|Evan White||DB||6'3, 195||Fr.||3 stars (5.5)|
8. A rock solid secondary
Considering the complete lack of a pass rush, the fact that CU was able to rank 52nd in Passing Success Rate+ says pretty good things about last year's secondary. And considering 10 of last year's top 11 tacklers return from said secondary, along with 2012 starter Terrel Smith, it says good things about 2014 as well.
The corner trio of Greg Henderson, Chidobe Awuzie (a freshman in 2013) and Kenneth Crawley (a former star recruit) combined for 10 tackles for loss, six picks, and 17 break-ups last year despite unruffled quarterbacks throwing passes. Safety Jered Bell is active against both run and pass, and any number of youngsters (safety Tedric Thompson or Ryan Moeller) or newcomers (transfers Gavin Andrews or Akhello Witherspon) could threaten for playing time as well.
This is easily the deepest, most exciting unit on the Colorado defense. If it gets more help from its front seven, it could end up known as one of the Pac-12's best as well.
|Darragh O'Neill||6'2, 190||Sr.||66||40.5||4||N/A||22||N/A|
|Will Oliver||5'11, 190||Sr.||57||59.3||26||0||45.6%|
|Darragh O'Neill||6'2, 190||Sr.||3||44.0||0||1||0.0%|
|Will Oliver||5'11, 190||Sr.||30-30||11-12||91.7%||6-12||50.0%|
|Ryan Severson||KR||5'10, 200||So.||36||22.1||0|
|Devin Ross||KR||5'9, 175||So.||5||21.4||0|
|Nelson Spruce||PR||6'1, 195||Jr.||10||4.6||0|
|Special Teams F/+||97|
|Field Goal Efficiency||33|
|Punt Return Efficiency||72|
|Kick Return Efficiency||104|
|Opponents' Field Goal Efficiency||116|
9. A good place-kicker, and nothing else
Will Oliver was automatic on kicks under 40 yards and was pretty solid at longer ones as well.
There. I just listed Colorado's special teams strengths in 2013. The Buffs' coverage units weren't strong, Darragh O'Neill's punts didn't travel far enough in the thin air, and there was no return threat of which to speak. That everybody returns in 2014 is a good thing because of Oliver, but some new blood in this unit wouldn't be a bad thing.
2014 Schedule & Projection Factors
|29-Aug||vs. Colorado State||79|
|Five-Year F/+ Rk||-17.5% (109)|
|Two-Year Recruiting Rk||68|
|TO Margin/Adj. TO Margin*||-3 / 2.5|
|Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.)||15 (7, 8)|
10. Beat the beatable teams
I liked the Mike MacIntyre hire when it happened, and after a year of evidence, I like it even more. MacIntyre is not a dynamic recruiter, but he's outstanding at developing and identifying talent, and if he can craft a top-40 team at San Jose State, he can do it at Colorado as well.
He isn't going to do it in 2014, mind you, but I like this team to improve a bit this fall after improving quite a bit a year ago. The loss of Paul Richardson and the general lack of known explosiveness at skill positions will prevent the offense from improving much; the defense, on the other hand, could take a lovely step forward because of both experience and an outstanding secondary.
Okay, so Colorado improves from 95th in F/+ to, say, the 70s or 80s. What does that mean for the record? The Pac-12 should be absurdly loaded once again this fall, and Colorado's schedule once again features six teams projected 36th or better. But there are four winnable September games, and two other potentially beatable conference opponents (Oregon State and Utah) come to Boulder.
Even if the Buffs still struggle against the best teams, they could at least build bowl optimism over the first half of the year. Even if they fall short and finish 4-8 (this time with four FBS wins) or 5-7, this year should represent further improvement. And again, when you fall as far as the Buffs did, that's enough for now.