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1. Two years of improvement (believe it or not)
It's cruel when a rebuilding team gets hit with loads of bad luck at once.
The job is hard enough already. Depth and confidence are fragile, and in the Pac-12, you've got nine conference games to deal with; the slate's full of middleweights and heavyweights, and you could use a few more featherweights.
In 2013, Mike MacIntyre left one rebuilding job for another.
At San Jose State, he needed only three years to move from 12 losses to 11 wins. His first season was one giant reset button, but his Spartans showed significant growth by year 2, then surged in year 3, winning double-digit games for the first time in 25 years.
MacIntyre's progress in San Jose was so linear that it wasn't hard to assume he would pull off the same act in Boulder. And he has, whether the win column shows it or not.
The Colorado program was at its nadir when MacIntyre took over. Two years with Jon Embree had resulted in a 4-21 record and, in 2012, the worst team in Colorado history according to the SRS ratings (and this is a program that had quite a few sketchy teams before the 1980s). The Buffaloes had no depth, little talent, and no organization.
Embree, a former CU tight end, was a curious hire, a guy who had never even been a coordinator and whose sales pitch in landing the job seemed to be "Hey, remember how awesome we were in the 1980s? I'm going to get the band back together!" Risks are sometimes rewarded, but this one was not. The defense fell apart in his first year, the offense in his second year, and the 2012 Buffaloes were outscored by an average of 28 points and lost four times by at least 44.
MacIntyre has begun to right the ship. Colorado improved from 122nd to 104th in the F/+ ratings in 2013, then improved again to 83rd. The defense hasn't yet come around, but the offense almost had more exciting moments in 2014 than in the previous three years combined. The Buffs averaged 6.9 yards per play against Utah and 6 against Arizona State, and they scored at least 28 points six times, their most since 2007.
Colorado had a mountain to climb, but in 2014, the Buffs had to deal with a downpour on the trail.
As encouraging as the improvement was, the defense assured that there would be no significant progress overall. Already struggling with youth and depth, the line and secondary were obliterated by injury, and in an offense-friendly conference, this defense was friendlier than most. The Buffs allowed at least 6.1 yards per play eight times and at least 36 points 10 times.
And if the injuries weren't cruel enough, CU also got smacked around by the turnover gods (minus-3.6 points per game in turnovers luck) and close game gods (1-4 record in one-possession games).
The rain has let up, but there's still quite a bit of climbing. Quarterback Sefo Liufau returns three efficient targets (including two sophomores), and there's reason to believe the offense could be pretty good. Plus, MacIntyre welcomes back quite a few potential starters from injury and has brought in well-regarded defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt. If luck turns, the Buffs could start quickly and threaten to reach five wins for the first time in five years.
2014 Schedule & Results
|Record: 2-10 | Adj. Record: 5-7 | Final F/+ Rk: 83|
|Date||Opponent||Opp. F/+ Rk||Score||W-L||Percentile
|29-Aug||vs. Colorado State||49||17-31||L||56%||3.7||19%|
|Points Per Game||28.5||67||39.0||119|
2. Defense travels
If you're a believer in the old "defense travels" truism -- meaning, teams with good defenses are more likely to play well on the road (in part because the home crowd is going to be more disruptive of a visitor's offense) -- Colorado was a pretty good example. In five games outside the state of Colorado, the Buffs scored 10, 20, 28, 41 and 56 points, a wild range. The defense, meanwhile, was more consistent.
Note: consistent isn't always good. CU allowed at least 38 points in all five road games and, thanks to the trip to Berkeley, figured out a way to score 56 and lose.
- Average Percentile Performance (in state): 58% (~top 55 | average score: Opp 33, CU 27)
- Average Percentile Performance (out of state): 31% (~top 90 | average score: Opp 47, CU 31)
The story of the season took shape from there: interesting and unlucky at home, bad on the road.
CU did manage to avoid an upset loss at UMass, and looking at Win Expectancy (which looks at a game's statistical output and says "based on the stats, you would have won this game X times out of 100)", the Buffs were a bit lucky to do so. But the Buffs played at a 50th-percentile level or higher five times, and all five games -- including near-upsets of UCLA and Utah and an unlucky loss to Oregon State -- were in Colorado.
Perhaps that says good things about potential upset bids this fall; CU plays host to Oregon, Arizona, Stanford, and USC in-conference, and maybe the defense will improve just enough for a surprise win there. But the defense has a lot of improving to do to make the Buffs a good traveling team.
|FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE|
|Raw Category||Rk||Opp. Adj. Category||Rk|
|EFFICIENCY||Succ. Rt.||43.4%||52||Succ. Rt. +||104.5||53|
|FIELD POSITION||Def. Avg. FP||31.8||103||Def. FP+||96.0||108|
|FINISHING DRIVES||Pts. Per Trip in 40||5.0||17||Redzone S&P+||107.4||46|
|Q1 Rk||44||1st Down Rk||73|
|Q2 Rk||52||2nd Down Rk||58|
|Q3 Rk||51||3rd Down Rk||88|
Note: players in bold below are 2015 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.
|Sefo Liufau||6'4, 230||Jr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8747||325||498||3200||28||15||65.3%||18||3.5%||6.0|
|Jordan Gehrke||6'1, 195||Jr.||NR||0.7000||20||44||170||0||0||45.5%||4||8.3%||3.1|
|Cade Apsay||6'2, 190||RSFr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8447|
|Steven Montez||6'4, 205||Fr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8470|
3. The Sefo Show
Colorado's run game wasn't very good, which is, in a roundabout way, encouraging. The offense returns almost everybody outside of leading rusher (from a carries perspective) Tony Jones and longtime starting guards Daniel Munyer and Kaiwi Crabb, but it's less scary to replace replaceable players.
Michael Adkins II went crazy against USC and UCLA (30 carries, 216 yards), but when the CU offense was good, it was usually because of Sefo Liufau and the passing game. He completed 46 of 67 passes for 455 yards and seven scores against Cal, and if you discount that because it happened against Cal, he also went 20-for-31 for 317 yards against Utah. He showed symptoms of being a young QB, throwing 15 interceptions (eight in five games against ranked teams), but he did a solid job of operating coordinator Brian Lindgren's quick-passing system; he took few sacks, and he completed nearly two-thirds of his passes.
Liufau had his redshirt torn off about one-third of the way through his freshman season, and he's been CU's man ever since. He showed reasonable progress last year, especially considering half of the members in the receiving corps were freshmen. He's got a more experienced supporting cast, so we should learn quite a bit about his ceiling.
|Christian Powell||TB||6'0, 230||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8620||85||448||4||5.3||8.1||28.2%||0||0|
|Michael Adkins II||TB||5'10, 195||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7833||82||398||3||4.9||3.7||42.7%||2||1|
|Phillip Lindsay||TB||5'8, 175||So.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8341||79||391||0||4.9||4.3||39.2%||3||2|
|Sefo Liufau||QB||6'4, 230||Jr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8747||51||246||0||4.8||3.9||41.2%||6||3|
|Donovan Lee||WR||5'8, 170||So.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8320||8||39||0||4.9||22.0||25.0%||0||0|
|Jordan Gehrke||QB||6'1, 195||Jr.||NR||0.7000||7||38||1||5.4||3.3||57.1%||0||0|
|Shay Fields||WR||5'11, 170||So.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8615||6||35||1||5.8||3.7||50.0%||0||0|
|George Frazier||FB||6'2, 245||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8199||5||4||1||0.8||N/A||0.0%||0||0|
|Kyle Evans||TB||5'6, 175||RSFr.||NR||NR|
|Patrick Carr||TB||5'8, 195||Fr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8591|
|Donald Gordon||TB||5'11, 205||Fr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8410|
|Rivals||247 Comp.||Targets||Catches||Yards||Catch Rate||Target
|Nelson Spruce||WR-X||6'1, 195||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8332||153||106||1198||69.3%||29.7%||59.5%||7.8||-66||7.8||138.2|
|Shay Fields||WR-Z||5'11, 170||So.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8615||80||50||486||62.5%||15.5%||56.3%||6.1||-122||6.1||56.1|
|Bryce Bobo||WR-X||6'2, 190||So.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8337||36||23||215||63.9%||7.0%||58.3%||6.0||-63||6.0||24.8|
|Donovan Lee||WR-H||5'8, 170||So.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8320||23||13||78||56.5%||4.5%||60.9%||3.4||-83||3.4||9.0|
|Christian Powell||TB||6'0, 230||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8620||17||12||64||70.6%||3.3%||29.4%||3.8||-79||3.1||7.4|
|Phillip Lindsay||TB||5'8, 175||So.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8341||16||14||118||87.5%||3.1%||62.5%||7.4||-43||7.6||13.6|
|Michael Adkins II||RB||5'10, 195||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7833||16||11||60||68.8%||3.1%||56.3%||3.8||-71||3.7||6.9|
|Devin Ross (2013)||WR-Z||5'9, 170||So.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8463||13||6||24||46.2%||3.4%||100.0%||1.8||-63||1.0||3.5|
|Sean Irwin||TE||6'3, 245||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8495||11||7||67||63.6%||2.1%||81.8%||6.1||-18||5.6||7.7|
|Elijah Dunston||WR-X||6'0, 185||So.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8025|
|Joseph Hall||WR-H||5'9, 165||So.||NR||NR|
|Lee Walker||WR-Z||6'0, 175||RSFr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8256|
|Jay MacIntyre||WR-H||5'10, 185||RSFr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.7000|
|Dylan Keeney||TE||6'6, 220||RSFr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8442|
|Hayden Jones||TE||6'6, 245||RSFr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7757|
|Justin Jan||WR||6'3, 205||Fr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8479|
4. Wanted: a few more options
CU was in the top 40 in Passing Success Rate+ (efficiency) and in the top-50 in Passing Downs Success Rate+. The Buffs were decent at finishing drives with points, as well. This was promising, considering the number of underclassmen, but if you look at the numbers above, you see two areas for improvement:
- Big plays. Running back Christian Powell had some explosive moments in the open field, and receiver Tyler McCulloch had a few -- four catches for 76 yards against Oregon State, four for 101 against Utah -- but the Buffs were lacking. Liufau averaged only 9.8 yards per completion, and the top four backs averaged a combined 4.8 yards per carry.
- The fourth quarter. CU ranked between 44th and 52nd in Q1, Q2, and Q3 S&P+ ... and 114th in Q4 S&P+. This hints at a lack of options: defenses weren't stressed, and when it came time for close games to be decided, the Buffs had nothing in the tank.
These two issues go hand in hand. Big plays mask weaknesses and prevent you from having to string together 10 decent plays to score. The more snaps you need to score, the fewer cards you need to play. If you've got a precision option offense, that's fine. CU's offense is promising, but it isn't that.
Can this change? Depends on the value of experience -- CU has more, even if there's little proven big-play ability. Senior Nelson Spruce is one of the nation's best possession receivers, but he is what he is; he has averaged between 10.1 and 11.8 yards per catch each year in his career. There's value in a good possession man, but he becomes even more valuable if others can stretch the field. Shay Fields was easily the most well-touted member of CU's receiving corps, but he was used primarily as a possession man as well.
That three of last year's top six wideouts (Fields, Bryce Bobo, Donovan Lee) were freshmen could be beneficial in a couple of ways. First, they are more likely to run full-speed and play without thinking as they get more experienced. Second, they could become more experienced as blockers. This quick-passing attack puts a lot of blocking responsibility on fellow receivers in attempting to turn three-yard passes into 50-yard gains.
It's hard to guarantee big plays will emerge, but there's no reason to think efficiency will lessen.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||Career Starts||Honors/Notes|
|Stephane Nembot||RT||6'7, 295||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8410||32|
|Alex Kelley||C||6'2, 305||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8363||12|
|Jeromy Irwin||LT||6'5, 295||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8460||11|
|Gerrad Kough||LG||6'4, 295||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8026||2|
|Sully Wiefels||LG||6'3, 300||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.7667||0|
|Shane Callahan||RG||6'6, 300||Jr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9135||0|
|Ed Caldwell||RT||6'5, 300||Jr.||NR||NR||0|
|Jonathan Huckins||RG||6'3, 305||So.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8339||0|
|Sam Kronshage||LT||6'5, 285||So.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8175||0|
|Colin Sutton||RG||6'4, 290||So.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8366||0|
|John Lisella II||LG||6'4, 265||RSFr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7907|
|Josh Kaiser||LT||6'5, 270||RSFr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7700|
|Tim Lynott, Jr.||OL||6'2, 295||Fr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8913|
|Isaac Miller||OL||6'7, 265||Fr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8492|
|Dillon Middlemiss||RT||6'5, 290||Fr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8382|
5. An exciting future up front
Quick passing helped Colorado's sack rates; when the ball's coming out of the quarterback's hand almost instantly, it's hard to sack him.
The run-blocking numbers were pretty awful, though. The Buffs were decent at keeping defenders out of the backfield, but they generated next to no push when they needed to. Of course, a lot of the carries went to a freshman (Philip Lindsay) and a sophomore (Michael Adkins II). That's going to hurt your efficiency, as would the fact that the only explosive back (Christian Powell) was the least efficient.
There were a lot of good vibes regarding redshirt freshman running back Kyle Evans. But assuming the trio of Powell, Adkins, and Lindsay see most of the carries, it will be interesting to see if a less experienced line -- both tackles return, but neither guards do -- will be able to help this experienced trio out.
MacIntyre isn't posting incredible recruiting rankings, but a few of his best recruits thus far have been linemen. That could mean there's hope for the future, especially considering the two-deep won't have more than two seniors. But don't expect immense improvement in 2015.
|FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE|
|Raw Category||Rk||Opp. Adj. Category||Rk|
|EFFICIENCY||Succ. Rt.||43.7%||92||Succ. Rt. +||99.3||69|
|FIELD POSITION||Off. Avg. FP||27.7||114||Off. FP+||100.9||64|
|FINISHING DRIVES||Pts. Per Trip in 40||5.1||123||Redzone S&P+||90.9||100|
|Q1 Rk||102||1st Down Rk||63|
|Q2 Rk||78||2nd Down Rk||114|
|Q3 Rk||88||3rd Down Rk||95|
6. Good on passing downs, couldn't force passing downs
It's a tease when you are able to shut drives down well on second- or third-and-long but rarely get to do it.
Colorado's thin, young, banged-up defense was pretty good at attacking offenses that were leveraged into awkward situations but had one of the worst power-five defenses in the country on standard downs. They also allowed a nearly automatic touchdown once opponents had created scoring opportunities.
It's easier to be optimistic about this defense than it was a year ago. Quite a few players who missed 2014 are back: senior safety Jered Bell, junior end Samson Kafovalu, sophomore tackle Tyler Henington, junior DB Marques Mosley. Plus, a lot more players than expected got experience last year, because seemingly every starter missed at least a couple of games. Only three of seven primary linebackers and two of 10 defensive backs played in all 12 games.
It's also easier to be optimistic because of the new coordinator. Leavitt has spent some time out of the college game, and he comes with some alleged character issues, but his track record is sterling.
A member of the Bill Snyder branch of the Hayden Fry coaching tree, Leavitt was head coach of the USF startup from 1996-2009, winning at least seven games 10 times and taking the Bulls to five consecutive bowls. His Bulls ranked sixth in Def. S&P+ in 2007 and were in the top 40 each year from 2005-09. He spent the last four years coaching for Jim Harbaugh's San Francisco 49ers, and if he has horsepower at his disposal, he'll make the most of it.
We might give Leavitt a mulligan for 2015, however. The Buffs haven't ranked better than 98th in Def. S&P+ since 2010, and while he inherits a unit far more experienced than what CU had last year, issues up front might harm his efforts in installing his 3-4 system.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Josh Tupou||NT||6'3, 325||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8322||12||26.0||4.0%||4.0||3.0||0||0||0||0|
|Justin Solis||NT||6'1, 305||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8460||12||17.5||2.7%||1.5||1.0||0||0||0||0|
|Samson Kafovalu (2013)||DE||6'5, 245||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8417||7||10.5||1.4%||5.5||3.0||0||0||0||0|
|Christian Shaver||DE||6'3, 235||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7889||12||8.5||1.3%||1.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|George Frazier||DE||6'2, 245||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8199||10||7.5||1.1%||1.0||0.0||0||1||0||0|
|Tyler Henington (2013)||DT||6'2, 245||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8684||12||7.0||1.0%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Eddy Lopez||NT||6'4, 300||So.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8020||11||5.0||0.8%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Clay Norgard||DT||6'0, 240||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8510||11||2.0||0.3%||1.0||1.0||0||0||0||0|
|Jase Franke||DE||6'4, 270||RSFr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8382|
|Jordan Carrell||DT||6'3, 275||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8398|
|Blake Robbins||DE||6'5, 265||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8159|
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Kenneth Olugbode||ILB||6'0, 210||Jr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7885||12||63.5||9.7%||1.0||0.0||0||3||0||0|
|Addison Gillam||ILB||6'3, 225||Jr.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7200||11||50.5||7.7%||9.0||3.5||0||1||0||0|
|Jimmie Gilbert||OLB||6'4, 230||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8423||12||23.5||3.6%||5.5||2.5||0||0||1||0|
|Derek McCartney||OLB||6'3, 240||So.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7511||12||21.0||3.2%||6.0||4.5||0||1||2||0|
|Woodson Greer III||OLB||7||13.5||2.1%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Ryan Severson||ILB||5'10, 200||Jr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7901||6||13.0||2.0%||1.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Timothy Coleman||OLB||6'2, 250||So.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7752||11||7.5||1.1%||2.0||2.0||0||1||0||0|
|De'Jon Wilson||OLB||6'3, 250||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8207||11||3.5||0.5%||0.5||0.0||0||1||0||0|
|Travis Talianko||ILB||6'1, 210||Jr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.8087||2||2.0||0.3%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Deaysean Rippy||ILB||6'2, 220||Jr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9148|
|Jaleel Awini (Air Force)||OLB||6'2, 220||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||NR|
|Markeis Reed||OLB||6'4, 245||So.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8209|
|Christian Shaver||ILB||6'3, 235||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7889|
|Michael Mathewes||OLB||6'5, 250||RSFr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.7600|
|Rick Gamboa||ILB||6'1, 225||RSFr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8232|
|Terran Hasselbach||OLB||6'1, 235||RSFr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7926|
|Grant Watanabe||ILB||5'11, 240||Fr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8327|
|N.J. Falo||LB||6'2, 220||Fr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8560|
7. Wanted: girth
Leavitt's got speed at his disposal in the front seven. Addison Gillam turned into a strong play-maker against both run and pass, and sophomore OLB Derek McCartney might be custom-made for an attacking OLB role. Kafovalu could be a valuable piece if healthy for a full season, and while linebacker depth can be an issue when moving from three linebackers to four, again, injuries could help out. Five linebackers made at least 13 tackles last year.
This shapes up pretty well as long as you ignore weight. The top five returning linebackers average 221 pounds, which isn't bad, but of the 11 linemen listed above, only three are listed heavier than 275, and one, senior nose tackle Josh Tupou, will not be a member of the squad this fall. That leaves senior nose Justin Solis, sophomore Eddy Lopez, and a whole lot of 240-pounders.
Size isn't everything, but when your line is tasked with occupying blockers to free up linebackers, a baseline is necessary, and I don't think CU meets it. Expect a front seven with major havoc potential and potentially drastic run inefficiency.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Jered Bell (2013)||SS||6'1, 200||Sr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8516||12||64.5||8.8%||4.5||0||3||5||2||1|
|Chidobe Awuzie||CB||6'0, 190||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.7783||9||58.5||8.9%||2||0||0||6||0||0|
|Tedric Thompson||SS||6'0, 200||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8457||8||47.0||7.2%||1||0||3||2||1||0|
|Ken Crawley||CB||6'1, 180||Sr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8891||12||45.0||6.9%||2||0||0||11||1||0|
|Evan White||FS||6'2, 195||So.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8147||9||27.0||4.1%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Ryan Moeller||FS||6'0, 205||So.||NR||NR||5||20.5||3.1%||1||0||0||1||0||0|
|John Walker||CB||5'9, 175||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.7000||10||19.0||2.9%||1||0||0||4||1||0|
|Marques Mosley (2013)||DB||6'0, 185||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8091||11||13.5||1.8%||0||0||0||0||1||0|
|Ahkello Witherspoon||CB||6'3, 185||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.7000||5||10.0||1.5%||0||0||0||2||0||0|
|Richard Yates II||S||4||8.0||1.2%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Yuri Wright||CB||6'1, 170||Jr.||4 stars (5.9)||0.9684|
|Jaisen Sanchez||SS||6'1, 195||RSFr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7893|
|Afolabi Laguda||CB||6'1, 200||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7969|
|Isaiah Oliver||CB||6'1, 185||Fr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8442|
|Nick Fisher||CB||6'0, 195||Fr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8414|
8. A damn M*A*S*H unit
As a general rule, I consider anyone who averaged one tackle per game to be a regular defender. Most teams might expect about six to eight regular defensive backs; Colorado had 10.
Heading into last season, I listed 10 returnees in the Colorado secondary. They missed a combined 58 games. Newcomers like Ryan Moeller and Evan White missed another 10. This was a new secondary every week, and in the Pac-12, that's an issue.
With a more standard number of injuries, you can piece together a solid unit. Bell's looking to replicate a strong 2013 stat line. Corners Chidobe Awuzie, Ken Crawley, and John Walker combined for 21 passes defensed when in the lineup, and there's plenty of experience now. Plus, former four-star signee Yuri Wright still has another two years to turn potential into production. This unit is easily the least of CU's worries ... assuming the injury bug is done biting, anyway.
|Phillip Lindsay||KR||5'8, 175||So.||36||23.6||0|
|Ryan Severson||KR||5'10, 200||Jr.||4||19.3||0|
|Nelson Spruce||PR||6'1, 195||Sr.||12||7.5||0|
|Shay Fields||PR||5'11, 170||So.||6||4.5||0|
|Special Teams F/+||85|
|Field Goal Efficiency||44|
|Punt Return Efficiency||95|
|Kick Return Efficiency||69|
|Opponents' Field Goal Efficiency||127|
9. New legs
Colorado's special teams unit was pretty mediocre -- solid in place-kicking and average in most other things. The Buffs ranked only 85th in special teams efficiency, but that was, incredibly, their best ranking since 72nd in 2009.
This program has become a special teams wasteland, and while all the return men return, none of the legs do. Punter Darragh O'Neill had a booming 44-yard average but outkicked his coverage at times, and Will Oliver made four of seven field goals over 40 yards, and both are gone. It's hard to imagine CU suddenly surging in these rankings without them.
2015 Schedule & Projection Factors
|Date||Opponent||Proj. S&P+ Rk|
|19-Sep||vs. Colorado State||72|
|10-Oct||at Arizona State||24|
|24-Oct||at Oregon State||70|
|21-Nov||at Washington State||66|
|Five-Year F/+ Rk||-24.8% (106)|
|2- and 5-Year Recruiting Rk||61 / 58|
|2014 TO Margin / Adj. TO Margin*||-10 / -1.4|
|2014 TO Luck/Game||-3.6|
|Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.)||14 (6, 8)|
|2014 Second-order wins (difference)||3.6 (-1.6)|
10. Start fast
Whatever Colorado's goals are, the Buffaloes will only meet them with a quick start.
First of all, September's when the team might be its healthiest. But beyond that, September's where the wins are. CU plays four teams projected worse than 70th in its first four games, then doesn't play another one. After October 1, CU will face only two foes projected worse than 39th (Oregon State, Washington State), and both are on the road.
A 4-0 start (which would include a win over Colorado State) would lead to a nice narrative as the Buffaloes head into conference play (and what a start to conference play: Oregon, at Arizona State, Arizona). And while they would then need to pull a home upset and probably beat both OSU and Wazzu at home to get to seven wins and bowl eligibility (teams that play at Hawaii can schedule 13th games, but need more than the usual six wins in order to go bowling), any happy momentum would be welcome.
That Colorado improved despite the demoralizing luck is a sign MacIntyre can still move forward in Boulder. But his Buffaloes are still thinner than most of the rest of the conference, and with every passing year, the coaching stable in the Pac-12 gets stronger.
Colorado might have a relatively low ceiling in this conference, but at the very least, MacIntyre has a good chance of finding that ceiling.