Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Season Schedule Breakdown

Plenty of virtual ink has been spilled over the brutally tough schedule the Buffs are about to dive headfirst into.  Hell, Phil Steele even named it his toughest schedule in the nation.  13 games in 13 weeks, 8 to be played away from Boulder, against some of the best schools in the nation (and CSU).  No one ever said this game was easy, but damn, that's some rough shit.  CU has long held the perspective that they'll play anyone, anytime, anywhere.  Unfortunately, that policy can get them into loads of trouble, like this year.

Opinions are all over the place:  Thorburn likes us to sneak into a bowl, and some asshole at SI thinks the Buffs will fumble the season and go 2-11.  In the end, I anticipate that CU will end up somewhere in the middle; that this strenuous series of 13 weekends will be too much for CU to handle, but not so terrible that I'll hide my face in embarrassment.  A lot of it comes down to injuries; if a prime contributor goes down for a few weeks or more, it could get ugly.

That is not to slight the skill level of the squad.  I certainly do think the Buffs are loaded at the top of the depth chart with the most talent the program has seen in years.  Three high profile offensive seniors, a super-star in the making at wide out, and an experienced offensive line make for one hell of an offense.  Combine that with a defense loaded with talent and toughness in the front seven and a defensive backfield anchored by a pair of veteran safeties, and you've got a hell of a team.

To be clear: this is not a push-over team, I just think the schedule is too much for any team, let alone this CU bunch, to handle.  Give this bunch last year's schedule, and CU probably wins 8 or 9 games.  But we in Buff nation can't cry over an over-stuffed schedule.  Coach Embree has said all summer that he likes the schedule; while that is mostly coaching bravado, I know this coaching staff is going to see it as more of an opportunity than an obstacle.

In that vein I'm going to take a look at this bear of a schedule, and try and give my best pre-season guess how it's all going to go down.   You won't find any scoring predictions, just how I feel about the game headed into the season.

Click below for the schedule breakdown...

@ Hawai'i - cautiously optimistic - Up until recently I had been down on this game, going so far as to predict a loss on Allbuffs.  Now, with the suspension of 2 Hawaii starters, I'm starting to like this matchup more and more.  I'll have my full preview of this game up tomorrow, but in the meantime I'll simply say that I'll happily take the +10 Vegas was offering CU fans a few weeks ago.

vs California - cautiously optimistic - Forceably evacuated from Berkley due to a massive stadium reconstruction (the old stadium is precariously placed atop a fault line) the Golden Bears are playing this season in the home of the World Champion San Francisco Giants, AT&T Park.  It can't be very comfortable having your gameday routine disrupted in such a way, and I get the feeling that their whole season will be slightly "off" as a result.

Additionally, CU has recently played well in games where the athletic department is honoring past greats; the 30-0 blanking of Wyoming on Whizzer White day in '09, the Hawaii win last year on Alfred Williams day, and the black-out win over Georgia while honoring the 1990 national champions.  Not for nothing, but this year the 2001 Big XII champions are being honored at the Cal game.  (Maybe the Buffs can slip a uni on Chris Brown while no one is watching...)

The 52-7 scoreline from a year ago keeps me from being too confident about this one, but Cal is just as lousy away from home as the Buffs are.  Cal may have a better team on paper, but I think they really struggle this season, and September 10th is no exception.
I'd like to order a nice tall glass or revenge, please.

vs CSU (in Denver) - very confident -  We're still playing them?  C'mon Bohn, if you can get us out of the Big XII, than you can get us out of this yearly shit-show.

(Remember all those empty seats from last year?  They're still going to be empty this year!)

I'm starting to get the feeling that CSU may not beat 'big brother' again until Steve Fairchild is gone.  That program is headed in the wrong direction with the engines set to 'maximum.'  Additionally, CSU, much like Hawaii, is having a series of off-season issues.  That said, you never know, and I'm not putting this one in the bank quite yet.

@ Ohio St - "no chance in hell" - You say 'the Senator' has been axed?  You say 5 key contributors, including star Terrell Pryor, have been booted for trading memorabilia for tattoos?  You say that this game has never seen so winnable?
It still won't matter, the Buffs will still lose, and probably by a bunch.

After the cathartic media shit-storm descends on the OSU/Miami game the week prior, the Buckeyes will be glad to play some football at home, in front of a large, loving, and appreciative crowd.  Additionally, there's still plenty of talent in Columbus, regardless of how many get suspended over trifling crap like free tattoos.  As long as the Buckeyes new coach isn't a complete idiot, they should win comfortably against the Buffs.

In a game dedicated to the leftover legacy of Dan Hawkins, CU takes the beating, cashes the check, pays Hawk off, and starts forgetting the last 5 years ever happened.

vs Washington St - pretty confident - I really like Jeff Tuel, the star QB of the much maligned Wazzou Cougar program.  Others do as well as he's been receiving some NFL-level hype.  Unfortunately for Washington State, there's not much around him that can help.

The Buffs should shake loose the demons of 2003, when a much more athletic Washington State squad used big plays, and an injury to Joel Klatt (he was never the same after this game), to run up and down the field en route to a 47-26 stunner in Boulder.  If CU can't beat these Cougars at home, it's going to be a long, tough rest of the way, cause the road through the Pac-12 only gets worse from here.

@ Stanford - "no chance in hell" - Two words.  "Andrew Luck."  'Nuff said.
You heard of this guy?  He's kinda good.

@ Washington - pretty pessimistic - Coach Embree said "one, maybe two" stadiums in the Pac-12 can claim to have a true home-field advantage.  Husky Stadium on Lake Washington in Seattle is one of those stadiums.  It's loud, intimidating, and the weather can be lousy at the drop of a hat.  I don't care how bad they are, or how tough the opponent is, they can take anyone in that place if the crowd stays in the game.  I'm not too impressed with the Washington Huskies, but, this being a road game, I'm not liking the Buffs chances too much.

vs Oregon - "no chance in hell" - CU is just a small bump in the road on their way to national title contention.
Smug sonofabitch.

@ Arizona St - very pessimistic - They've got a great defense, and the trip to Tempe can be a rough jaunt.  CU wore down there a few years ago, mostly due to the hottest temperatures ever recorded for a CU football game, and, by this point in the season, I think the miles may be starting to catch up with the Buffs.  Could get ugly late.

vs USC - cautiously optimistic - Who cares if they can't win the inaugural Pac-12 South title, they're still loaded with talent. Probably should beat the Buffs easily.
I actually think CU has a chance to steal this one from a more talented team.  Not only do I perceive Lane Kiffin to be the coaching equivalent of a wet paper bag, but the game will be played in November, so the weather could be lousy, it'll be a black-out game, so the students will be fired up, and USC will come in on a short week, fresh off brutal games @ Notre Dame and vs Stanford, and vulnerable to a trap game.  If, and it's a very big if, CU is still healthy, the Buffs could pull a huge upset on national television.

vs Arizona - cautiously optimistic - Senior day mojo usually helps, and Arizona lost one of their best defensive players to an ACL tear last week.  There are plenty of seniors who deserve a positive send-off from the Folsom Faithful, so I'll give the benefit of the doubt to CU in their final home game of 2011.

Additionally, how well do Arizona teams play in the snow?  We may find out if the weather gods are kind to the Buffaloes.

@ UCLA - "need more information" - I'm nowhere near as sold on UCLA as ESPN's Kirk Herbstreet is; the famously above-average former Ohio State QB went on the air Sunday night and picked UCLA to win the Pac-12 South.   I think that's a big leap, and it's far more likely that current UCLA, and former CU, head coach Rick Neuheisel will be fired by the time this matchup rolls around.  Not saying I expect it to happen, just that it's far more likely than the Bruins winning the South.  (They have a tough schedule too.)

Specifically to the matchup, I think this game has the possibility to hinge on whoever is healthier headed in.  UCLA will be playing at home on their senior day, but the Rose Bowl is hardly much of a home field advantage, and I perceive CU to have a better collection of talent overall.  If CU has survived the 11 previous weeks relatively unscathed, thereby keeping depth issues out of the equation, I think the Buffs have a good shot of taking this one.  Catch me the week of the game for a more concrete look at who I think may win.

Interesting note:  CU Coach Embree will be squaring off against his son Taylor, a senior wide-out for UCLA, on the Bruins senior day.  Awkward, yes, but not nearly as awkward as the senior day scenario CU found themselves in last year when the recently fired Dan Hawkins met his son Cody on the field.  I imagine the Embree's will make the most of it, being helped by Jon's almost guaranteed job status that day in November.
Coach Embree will get to see his son play on senior day.

@ Utah - very pessimistic -13 grueling weeks later, the Buffs will descend on Salt Lake City.  I'll be there to help them over the final hump, but by then I think everyone involved, myself included, will be ready for an off week.  New rival Utah (damnit, I'm happy with them as our rival, even if no one else is) should have no problem with the Buffs.


Overall - Give the Buffs a little luck, and a shocking upset somewhere along the way (*cough* USC *cough*), and CU could finish with 6 or even 7 wins.  Bad luck?  Well with that CU could find themselves with only 2 or, God forbid, 1 win.  Sports almost never go as well or as poorly as is conceivable, so I expect somewhere in the middle.

Considering this, put me down for that somewhere in the middle.  I'll go with 5 wins, 3 from conference play, and a 5th place finish in the South (W vs Cal, CSU, Washington St, Arizona, and UCLA).  Were CU to shock a team somewhere along the way (USC at home, hint-hint),  that Thanksgiving trip to Utah may be made with a shocking bowl bid on the line.  All-in-all, not terrible, especially considering the 13-week endurance test the program is about to find themselves in.

Go Buffs!


Aaron Jordan said...

I agree that Utah would be a great rival for us, but I just don't feel any remorse for them (other than leftover Red hatred from Nebraska).

What do you think has to happen to kick the rivalry into overdrive and make it a legitimate event?

RumblinBuff said...

I could always vandalize their campus with CU styled graffiti when I hit SLC later this year. That might piss them off a bit. :-)