Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Friday, August 10, 2012

Five reasons to be optimistic about the upcoming football season

The stated goal this year is to do what no CU football team has done since 2007: get to a bowl game.  I may not be sold on that, but I can at least can see a potential path to that end. Below the jump, I'll give five legitimate reasons why the Buffs might actually sneak into that bowl game.  No hyperbole or leaps of faith here, just honest-to-goodness truths that will allow any Buff fan to believe.

Click below for the list...

1) The schedule is easier than in 2011.

CU did themselves no favors last season.  Through a combination of the conference switch, a misguided contract with the local safety school, and a quick cash grab, the 2011 schedule was a nightmare.

It started with a 3,500 mile trek to the Hawaiian Islands, swung through a pimp-tastic trip to Columbus, OH, included a shocking total of 10 conference contests, and only featured five true home games. In isolation, the reasoning behind the individual games that made up the schedule makes sense, but, in total, it was something out of the Bataan Death March. The result was a 3-10 slog to the finish.
No guaranteed losses on the non-con schedule this year.
I'll talk about this in more depth next week, but the 2012 schedule is much easier, and better tailored to a program still re-learning how to walk.  The non-conference schedule is restricted to the western third of the US mainland, and even includes a 1-AA opponent.  In conference play we play more in Boulder than on the road, and even feature something I like to call a "bye week."  The team won't be hung out to dry for the machinations of the whole athletic department this year, and that's a good thing.

2) The defensive backfield cannot get any worse.

Last season the defensive backfield was awash with injuries and suspensions.  By the end of the season, 5th string WR's were being turned around, with one week's notice, into DB's.  This situation was far from ideal, and it translated to CU being one of the worst passing defenses in the country.  115th in opponent completion percentage, 97th in passing yards allowed, 102nd in opponent 3rd down conversion percentage... it goes on like that.
An infusion of young talent should help improve the defensive backfield.  From: the BDC
The good news, of course, is that it can only get better from that sorrowful 2011 performance.  For starters, I can guarantee that the defensive backfield will be made up entirely from scholarship players recruited for their defensive potential.  Additionally, the freshmen chosen to help shore up the depleted DB corps are some of the best national recruits at their positions.  While there may be some shaky play early, they entire unit should begin to get good in a hurry.  Hell, even former coach Gary Barnett has noticed an immediate improvement, and the group is already picking off passes.

3)The winner of a QB battle will feel legitimate for the first time since 2006.

Not that it was his fault, but Cody Hawkins was never seen as a legitimate winner of any QB competition he competed in during his tenure in Boulder.  Regardless of the records he set, good and bad, his father holding the whistle left a cloud of doubt hovering over the position for years.  The continuing roster gymnastics played with Tyler Hansen's career certainly didn't help matters.

Thankfully, that is all in the past.
Wood, along with Webb and Hirschman, will all get an honest look at the #1 job.  From: the BDC
The current QB competition is free of that taint.  The winner, whoever he is, will be given a conscience free shot at running the program.  The potential for dissension, both in-program and out, should be reduced significantly.

4) The O-Line boasts plenty of experience.

The loss of NFL draftee Ryan Miller notwithstanding, the O-Line is shaping up to be the veteran strength of the offense.  David Bakhtiari is turning heads, and the rest of the corps is battle-tested, and comfortable with their designated roles.  What was once a constant rotation of new faces finally has some seasoned depth to it, and that reality should form the backbone of an offense in the midst of larger transition.
Bakhtiari is the left side anchor of a tough, veteran line.  From: Scout

5) The coaching staff has a full year under their belt.

This may be the key.  The players now go into a season knowing exactly what is expected of them.  While other teams, specifically half of the schedule, will be dealing with neophyte coaching staffs, CU enters the 2012 season in the unusual position of returning all of their coaches from the previous year.  While coaching continuity isn't always an indicator of future success, it can't hurt.
We won't see this deer-in-headlights look from Coach Embree again.
Plus, the goal last season was to end to road losing streak, and the Buffs managed to pull it off in the final game of the year (suck it, Utah!).  The coaching staff is 1-for-1 in season defining goals, and have earned some benefit of the doubt.

Let's go bowling!

Have a happy and optimistic Friday!

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