Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Quick Post: Can momentum be maintained?

I need more information.  That was my overall feeling once the euphoric wave from Saturday wore off. The upset pulled in Pullman was a fantastic win no matter how you look at it; from a morale perspective, to performance growth, to simply relieving the mounting pressure.  It's harder to understand, however, what the long term impact will be.

The questions, tinted with optimism, came fast enough.  Is this the turning point?  Is this the watershed moment?  For me, it's a question of whether the real Buffaloes are the team that played extremely well in the second half on Saturday, of if they're closer to the team that played heartless football in Fresno a week ago.  The answer is almost certainly somewhere in the middle, but I'm not yet ready to say exactly where.  As to longer-term contextuality, there are plenty of steps on the road to respectability, and Saturday certainly could be one of them, but the destination is not guaranteed.  This Saturday's matchup with UCLA will go a long way to telling us what kind of team the 2012 Buffs really are, and in what direction they are headed. 

It was just last season that the Buffs manhandled Arizona at home, leading many in the program to loosely "guarantee" an end to the infamous road losing streak the following weekend in Los Angeles.  The result of all that momentum and positive feeling?  A mostly humiliating 45-6 loss to UCLA.  While the Buffs followed up on that stutter step with a cherry-busting win in Utah the subsequent Friday, that UCLA loss shows the danger of leaping to conclusions.

The saying in baseball has always been, "momentum is only as good as tomorrow's starting pitcher."  In football, I'd change that to "next Saturday's opponent."  The Buffs proved that by stealing a win from a fellow Pac-12 cellar dweller just seven days after reaching a nadir.  UCLA will be a different story this weekend.

Washington State, much like Arizona last season, is a horrific football team right now.
  • The Cougars are the only Pac-12 team with a worse defense than CU (they give up an extra half yard per contest).
  • Their pass defense is particularly atrocious, as it's 3rd worst in the country with 346 yards allowed per game.
  • They can't run the football to save their lives.  In addition to only gaining 16 rushing yards in Saturday's second half, they sit next to last in national rush yards per game with less than 60 yards per contest.  Even Texas Tech at their Air Raid worst was rarely that bad.  You'll cough up a lot of leads playing like that...
  • Washington St has a modern culture of losing.  While CU has struggled in recent years, the Cougars haven't been to a bowl game since 2003.  Additionally, they've only won four conference games since the start of the 2008 season (CU has nine).
Comparatively, UCLA is a quality opponent, capable of causing trouble in the Pac-12 South, and desperate for a win after stumbling against Oregon State.  If CU can continue the upward trend of growth, despite a big jump in competition, I'll be in a happy place regardless of the final numbers on the scoreboard.

This rebuilding project is bringing new meaning to the word "comprehensive," so BuffNation needs to find joy in the little things.  I was already pretty happy with the overall performance Saturday before the 21-point 4th quarter comeback.  A similar effort, even in a losing cause, will suffice for another week.  The team can't afford any regression now.

They have to keep the ball rolling.

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