Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Friday, August 31, 2012

Friday Beer Post: 2012 Gameday Beer-o-the-week - RMS edition

Each week throughout the football season I'm going to suggest a good beer for the ubiquitous pre-game tailgate. Let's be honest, with tailgates it's not always top quality that you're looking for. To steal a phrase from the heinous beer terrorists at Budweiser, you want "drinkability." (or what a real beer connoisseur calls "a session beer") So, be warned, these may not be "the best" beers around. But, in the words of Dave Chappelle as Samuel L. Jackson "IT'LL GET YOU DRUNK!"

Confession time: I'm not going to the game.  A pair of good friends are taking the plunge and getting married (HUZZAH!).  For whatever reason, they decided the first Saturday in September was a good time to do the deed (*sad trombone*), which puts their ceremony in direct conflict with that most holy of institutions: a football Saturday.  After much soul-searching, I decided seeing their union was more important to me than another iteration of this ridiculous series, so no football for me tomorrow.

In that light, a beer is not really appropriate for this post, as a wedding ceremony calls for slightly more class.  There is, in the end, only one beverage that fits the bill.  Our society has used it to toast occasions of celebration for most of the past century, and it is indelibly linked with the world of sports through the pomp of post-championship celebrations.  That beverage is, of course, champagne, and I'm naming it as my wedding reception booze-o-the-week.

Champagne is very simple.  Just bottle a wine before primary fermentation is completed, or add a little sugar to the bottle to create a secondary fermentation.  Carbonation is formed, and vua la, sparkling wine.  For it to be truly champagne, it must come from the Champagne region of France, but average Americans have grown to call essentially all sparkling wines "champagne" (suck it, France). Are there bubbles?  Then it's champagne to me.

Champagne, like most wines, gives me a splitting headache, so I wont have all that much tomorrow, but I definitely will be toasting the bride and groom.

Congratulations Mandy and Erik!

also

Happy Friday!  Go Buffs, beat the Lambs!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

2012 Rocky Mountain Showdown Preview

For reasons unknown, the yearly series of questionable profit continues this weekend.  Reality and logic be damned, we're headed back to Invesco Sports Authority Field to face the CSU Rams.  You can find my last two previews in this series here and here.

In case you missed it, star wide-out Paul Richardson, who had previously hoped to return this year from an off-season ACL tear, will shut it down and redshirt this fall.  Many people, including Richardson himself, had openly speculated that he could return as early as the Pac-12 opener at Washington State, but now the Buffs will officially be without the speedy wide receiver's services until the start of next season.

I was not completely surprised by this announcement.  During his radio show Tuesday, Coach Embree alluded to the fact that P-Rich had an upcoming announcement.  Considering that he was already ruled out of the first two games, and that coaches would never confirm his playing status this far out from games later in the season, the only logical explanation was that he was announcing a redshirt.
Paul is obviously devastated, but it's for the best.  From: the BDC
It's probably for the best, as the kid has a very bright playing future, and should make sure he's 100% healthy before risking re-injury.  I know he wants to play, but sometimes you need to be pragmatic.  The notion of him coming back mid-season always struck me as unnecessarily risky, anyway.

As it pertains to game-planning for this weekend, coaches have known since spring ball that P-Rich would be unavailable for the CSU game, so it's business as planned. 

 --

The offseason is over!  Actual sports are about to actually happen!

We've been in the dark for weeks as the team slogged through fall practice behind a media blackout.  Now, there's no hiding from the spotlight.  I just hope they got their shit together while the doors were closed.

Kickoff of the 84th Rocky Mountain Showdown is set for for 2pm Saturday afternoon.  For those of you unable/unwilling to make the trek to Denver, coverage can be seen on FX (with Joel Klatt!), or heard on 850 KOA (with Mark Johnson!).

Click below for the preview...

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Quick Post: Time's running out, DirecTV *shakes fist*

The season is quickly approaching.  In fact (*looks at calendar*), we got three days til gameday.  Still, when I, a simple DirecTV customer, look at my channel lineup, I see a gaping hole in my guide.  Namely: there's still no Pac-12 Network.
Pull your head out of your ass, DTV
Almost from the start, the Pac-12 had a deal with the major cable outlets (including loathsome Comcast) to carry the channel and it's six regional affiliates.  While that deal never got so far as satellite providers, we DirecTV subscribers were told repeatedly that it's as good as done (in fact possibly due as early as this past Monday), but they'll wait til the last minute to forge a final deal.  (Dish Network Subscribers?  You guys are up shit creek.  Better find an escape route.)

Well, the last minutes are quickly approaching, and, if uplink testing news and the president of Pac-12 Enterprises are to be trusted, DirecTV is prepared to start the season without offering any of the seven versions of the Pac-12 Network.  Remember, with no paid access to a Pac-12 Network provider, there's no access to the streamed online content (what I am most looking forward to).
Bullshit.  If we're still sitting here on 9/21 without any satellite provider coverage of the Pac-12 Network, we're way past panic date.  If you want a real drop-dead date, how about tomorrow when football games start being played?  I'm most worried about September 8th, when CU is scheduled to open the home portion of the season against Sacramento State.  Coverage is supposed to be on the P12N, but how am I supposed to see it, or the subsequent replays if DirecTV is playing some asinine game of chicken?  I had also planned on watching soccer and volleyball games (both teams still undefeated) this fall, but no dice if DirecTV is still sitting on their hands by Sept 16th (CU vs Air Force in soccer).

I'll tell you right now:  I hate Comcast.  Hated 'em for years.  I'd rather lick Cam's ram-sack then deal with their customer service system.  However, I'll embrace them in a second if DirecTV keeps stalling, and fails to deliver some version of the network.
This is what I want, and I'll go elsewhere to get it, I promise you.
We're already in a situation where my beloved hometown of Chicago is being deprived of access to Buffs content (Comcast has decided that no one outside of the Pac-12 footprint should even have access to the network on an sports tier, leaving the Chi and Washington DC out of the loop), if satellite subscribers in Boulder/Denver can't even get it, then we've got a problem.

Fixit, fixit, fixit, fixit, fixit... Fixit fixit fixit.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

D-Line play will be key

One of the big matchups I'll be watching this weekend will be the CU D-line against the powerful running of CSU bruiser Chris Nwoke.

Nwoke had been injured, but I'd be shocked to see him on the sidelines, rather then in the game.  He's a solid runner, and while he didn't exactly shine against the Buffs' transitioning D-line last year (only 35 yards on limited carries), he's by far the brightest offensive star for the Rams.  He ran for 1,130 yards last season on 5.7 yards per carry, even cracking off two games of over 200 rushing yards late in the year.  The Rams even return much of their O-line from last season to open holes for him.
CU had a handle on Nwoke last year, but the Ram runner had a solid MWC campaign.  From: the BDC
While McElwain and crew bring a new mindset to offensive scheming in Ft Collins, to abandon Nwoke would be foolish.  The Rams will throw him at the CU front line repeatedly, and it'll be up to the developing D-line to stop him. 

This is the primary area that concerns me. The CSU running attack is their only unit, on offense or defense, that has the explosiveness and experience to cause the Buffs an abundance of problems (... the inexperienced CU offense is also a worry, but CSU's defense was gutted by suspensions and transfers over the offseason.  I figure, it'll be a wash). On the flip side, trying to stop Nwoke and the running attack is a defensive front that crapped the bed last year.

CU made a transition last season to a 3-4 defensive setup, with a hybrid "Jack" linebacker switching between a hand in the ground and the 2-point stance.  The results were less than impressive.  From 2010 to 2011, opponents increased both rush yards per carry (4.0 to 5.27) and pass yards (11.8 to 12.3) per completion.  That '10 squad even had more sacks (34) and tackles for loss (69) than the '11 team did (32, 67) in one fewer game.  The front seven, and especially the D-line, was easy to knife through, and it showed both on the scoreboard, and in the underlying stats.
Josh Hartigan was the primary "Jack" last season, and spent much of the time getting used to the position.
Obviously, it takes time to adjust to a scheme conversion.  CU had no veteran players comfortable playing in the "Jack," and they spent most of the year figuring out what they were supposed to be doing.  Additionally, with the disaster in the defensive backfield, everyone on defense was going to end up with egg on their faces (quarterbacks didn't exactly need extra time in the pocket to beat the CU defense).  Still, the defense, and the line along with it, was garbage last year.  As a response, the team has switched back to a more conventional 4-3 base (one more conducive to stopping the run).

As bad as the defensive line was last year, there were some positive signs late in the season.  The Utah game especially saw a concerted defensive presence.  The line helped to hold the Utes without a first down for much of the first half, and only gave up a total of 89 rushing yards for the game (2.7 per carry).  No weather excuses, no mishegas, the Buffs defense legitimately held the Utes, a team competing for a spot in the inaugural Pac-12 title game, in check.

This late-season improvement may have been the result of proper coaching techniques finally translating into on-field performance. (Key quote: "When the new coaching staff came in I had the fundamentals of the last staff, which weren't really like . . . great." *ahem*)  That alone gives me hope that the poor play was more aberration than enduring reality.

The Buff coaching staff also spent much of the offseason calling in reinforcements.  They threw a shocking eight scholarships at D-line prospects.  One of those that paid immediate dividends is the one awarded to Josh Tupou.  It'll be interesting to see what kind of impact he can make right away, but, suffice it to say, his addition makes the CU D-line a whole different beast.
Can't wait to see Tupou on the field.  From: the BDC
I'm not ready to say that Nwoke will be completely shut down, but I am a lot more comfortable with the D-line situation now than I was last season.  Backed by a typically great crew of CU linebackers, the line should at least mitigate any damage that Nwoke can do.

If he does start to get some momentum going on the ground, however, it could make for some nervous fans on the CU side.  Best to just tackle him in the backfield, and be done with it.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Monday Grab Bag: Game Week!

Game week: we are in you.

I hope everyone had a happy and productive offseason, because it's go time now.  From Saturday through March, CU sports will be in full swing (... and I'll be here to comment on them).  Let's kick this thing off!

In today's bag I'll be discussing Buffzone's Folsom renovation series, the recently released depth chart, and hot starts by both the soccer and volleyball teams.

Click below for the bag...

Friday, August 24, 2012

Quick Post: On RMS attendance issues.

Attendance.

It's become a buzzword with this series in recent years.  Since returning to Denver in 2010, the RMS has averaged a paltry 59k tickets sold per contest, but many estimates have actual butts-in-seats attendance to be in the 40-45k range per game.  Check out this video from '10, which was much better attended than last season:

That's a lot of empty seats!  As to why they're empty, there's a myriad of reasons.  The top three are probably:
  • The cost is too damn high! - Ticket prices are puffed up to premium levels for a game that has never featured all that premium of a product.  (I pay less than $23 per game to sit in decent seats in Folsom and see teams like USC, Oregon, and Stanford play the Buffs.  I pay $55 for crappy seats in Denver, and have the option to "upgrade" for another $30).  
  • The venue sucks! - Sports Authority Field (formerly Invesco) is a soulless aluminum monstrosity, which does nothing but stifle any semblance of a college gameday experience.  What's more, security is overly omnipresent, and the traffic and parking situations are a mess.  Can anyone deny that the games had a better atmosphere in '04, '05, and '09?
  • The teams are terrible! - The two programs have been pretty lousy over the past decade. They've combined for a 84-137 records since '02 (the last time either program was worth anything).  That's a 38% winning percentage.
Regardless of the individual reasons, fans have stayed away in droves, making me question how much money this game could actually be worth to the people who put it on.  (Someone has to be making money off of this game, right?  The Denver Sports Commission?  Either of the two schools?  Cinch Jeans?  Jerry the parking attendant?  Anybody?)

This series has become a drag on both programs, and needs to stop.  The contract goes for another seven iterations after this one, but there has to be some way to back out of it.  Maybe in future years, when both programs have completed their upgrades and theoretically improved, the state can revisit the idea of CU vs CSU.  For now, however, it's just an ugly boil on the state's football profile that needs to be lanced.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

2012 Season scedule breakdown

Some dude thinks CU is the worst team in BCS football.  ('Cause, you know, I always go to a cigar magazine for my football analysis.)  Apparently, Mr Sheridan was too busy being a singer/song-writer to check out how easy CU's schedule is.  What's that... different Danny Sheridan, you say?
Regardless, while CU is certainly not a top-25 team, the 2012 schedule isn't the 13-game bear that forced the Buffs into a 3-10 record last fall, and the final record this season should be far from reflective of the "worst BCS team."  That schedule (I cringe at my inclination to call it "soft" or "weak," because no BCS conference slate can be truly labeled as such) will help the Buffs avoid the basement once more, keeping pride loosely intact while Embree and crew continue to circle the wagons.

Gone are are the seniors that would've easily formed a bowl-eligible team last year had the '11 and '12 schedules been switched.  That top-level talent, particularly offensive stars Rodney Stewart, Tyler Hansen, Toney Clemons, and Ryan Miller, will be sorely missed.  In their place is a weird Pollock-esque smattering of underclassmen and key elder statesmen.  I actually think the overall talent level of the current team is higher from top-to-bottom than the top-heavy crew which covered up a painfully thin depth chart last fall.  Essentially: what the team loses in experience and reliability, it makes up for in depth and explosiveness.  If the Buffs can find a way to leverage that, the team could do well.

Last year's stated goal was the abrupt end of the painful road losing streak.  After six failures, the team finally acheived that goal, beating "rival" Utah in SLC on the season's final day.  That win ended not only the road losing streak that stretched back 25 games to '07, but also the Ute's hopes of claiming the inaugural Pac-12 South Championship.  It was a win that Buff Nation might look back fondly upon in future years, provided it actually leads to something.  Mission accomplished.
Struttin' Embree likes checking off goals.
Encouraged by the season ending success, Coach Embree has moved the chains further down the field, stating that he wants the team to sneak into a bowl game this season.  All it will take is six wins out of 12 to meet that goal.  The schedule is waiting to accommodate.

Even with the lightened schedule, however, it's not a sure thing... 

Today, I'll be taking a look at what awaits the Buffs over the next three months.  Just like last year, I won't be throwing out any scoring predictions (I'll save those for my individual game previews), but I will be sharing how I feel about each game as we head into the season.  Add it up, and I hope to paint a reasonable picture of how the season may go.

You can find my breakdown of last year's schedule here.

Click below for the schedule breakdown...

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The year of the freshman

It's the year of the freshman in the CU athletic department.  I'm not talking redshirt freshmen, either. I'm talking farm-fresh true freshmen, the kind who still have to ask for directions to find "the Hill."

Over in the basketball program, Josh Scott, Xavier Johnson, and the rest of the Super Six have already started making waves through their play on the court.  Scott, especially, has been impressive, finishing the recent 5-game European exhibition trip as the team's leading scorer.  Yet, even as great as Scott and crew may be for Tad Boyle's defending conference champions, it's the freshmen on the football side that may have the largest athletic impact this school year. 

--

On defense, there's plenty of new faces to use at positions of need as the coaching staff threw a whopping 13 scholarships at both the defensive backfield and line.  The backfield, especially, was in sore need of instant impact from the newcomers, and at least two will see immediate playing time.  4-star corner prospect Kenneth Crawley appears to be the real deal, and will probably be the opening day starter opposite returning vet Gerald Henderson.  Fellow 4-star Yuri Wright seems to be in-line for some nickel/dime work in addition to spelling the two starters.  The pair have turned around what was a gaping hole last year, leading Coach Embree to comment "It's funny, we go out there now and we're getting two or three interceptions a day.  Last year, that would be a month. (Coach Brown's) got those guys playing."   I'd call that impact.
Look for Mr Crawley to make a statement at corner.  From: the BDC
On the line, the big, and I mean big, story appears to be DT Josh Tupou.  Listed at 6-3 325, the mountain-as-freshman has been the talk of practice recently, and figures to get more than a few snaps at the start of the season.  Also on the D-Line, expect to see contributions from players like DT Justin Solis, and DE Samson Kafovalu. 
Tupou is a big, bad dude who could make a difference right away.  From: the BDC
Offensively, the team is looking to replace some major pieces from last year's unit. Offensive line is locked down with returning veterans, and the QB race has been won by veteran transfer Jordan Webb, but skill positions will see plenty of fresh faces.  With P-Rich still sidelined as he recovers from his ACL tear, a player like Gerald Thomas should see some early action at WR.  Coach Embree was quoted at media day saying "he has it," and his speed would be a welcome addition on the edge.  In the backfield, while returning sophomore Tony Jones is the starter, newcomers Donta Abron and Terrance Crowder have both put themselves in a position for outside shots at being his backup.
Gerald Thomas brings needed speed to the edge.  From: The BDC
A primary focus of the offensive coaching staff has been a return to a power-style run game.  To facilitate that, a lot of recruiting focus was paid to improving both the fullback and tight end spots.  Regardless of how the tailback shuffle shakes out, the man clearing the way for them will most likely be a true true freshman.  Christian Powell has been turning heads, even garnering a comparison to the great Lawrence Vickers (which, despite my tongue-in-cheek dismissal, says a lot), and is quickly becoming a fan favorite before having even seen the field.  Competing with Powell for playing time is another newcomer, Colorado native Clay Norgard.  Covering the tackles, the starting TE spot will probably go to senior Nick Kasa, but the freshman trio of Vincent Hobbs, Sean Irwin, and Austin Ray could also be in the mix.  Hobbs, especially, should see plenty of the field early.
Christian Powell is making the fullback position one to watch once again.  From: the BDC
With the special teams, a unit where you usually see immediate contributions from first-year players, there will be plenty of freshmen running around on opening day.  The return game has seen a steady decline in recent years, with slow, under-sized walk-ons getting preferred roles under the old coaching regime.  Hoping to change that are speedy newcomers like Kenneth Crawley, Jeffrey Hall and Marques Mosley, and Gerald Thomas.  Mosley seems a shoe-in for plenty of action, as he returned a kickoff for a 100-yard score in a recent scrimmage.  In addition to their roles at regular positions, their presence in the kicking game could give the Buffs an edge in the field position battle for the first time in years.

--

It's not every year that a program can have this many freshman come in and make serious bids for "impact" status before they've even taken their first class.  Hell, to even have one per class is a sign that you're grabbing quality.  It's both a testament to recruiting improvement, and of how desperate the personnel situation in Boulder had become that we're seeing this many kids make honest bids to not only play right away, but be relied upon in their first collegiate minutes.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Quick Post: EuroTrip ends on a high note






The BasketBuffs wrapped up their exhibition schedule with a 96-57 victory over the Rotterdam Challengers yesterday afternoon.  Buoyed but yet another dominating night on the glass (55-29 rebound advantage), the result was never really in doubt, as the team enjoyed a 23-point advantage at halftime.

Josh Scott lead the way, yet again, scoring 19 points.  In the five games of the trip, he averaged 17.4 ppg, and lead the team in scoring four times.  While stats from these games are essentially meaningless, it's still very encouraging to see the freshman take on an offensive leadership role so quickly. 

Andre Roberson and Xavier Johnson each notched a double-double.  The 18/14 performance from 'Dre was his third in four attempts on the trip.  Sabatino Chen also had a big night, filling his stat line with 11 points, six rebounds, six assists, and six steals.

Much like the win from Saturday, I get the feeling that the Rotterdam Challengers weren't even close to the quality of the team in France.  Over the course of the two games, the Buffs out-rebounded Optima Ghent and the Challengers 105-48 (!!!!!).  Those are the kind of numbers you see when heavyweights are playing bad teams from the SWAC. 

Hell, even that French team, anchored by NBA big man Kevin Seraphin, got pounded on the glass 41-27 in the second game alone.  I'm starting to think European big mean are a little soft (big shock).  While I think CU will be very strong on the boards this season (the front-line additions of Scott, Johnson, and Wesley Gordon are a big boost), we'll have to wait and see what the rebound exchange rate is when the Buffs hit the court for real later this year.

With the win the Buffs improve their trip record to 2-3.  In a perfect world, that mark would've finished in the black, but the experience gained from the extra practices and in-game scenarios will be invaluable as this young team readies itself to take the floor in November.  Start the countdown clock: the team now has 80 days to rest up and prepare for Wofford on opening night. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

Monday Grab Bag: EuroTrip wraps up

Two weeks from today, I'll be wrapping up what will hopefully be the Buffs first win of the 2012 season.  It's scary to think how close the start of football is.  With the European trip wrapping up this afternoon in Holland, I'll be diving into 100% football talk by the end of the week.

Today in the bag, I'm talking the BasketBuffs double-dip in Belgium, the closing bell on the EuroTrip, and the recently completed football scrimmage.

Click below for the bag...

Friday, August 17, 2012

0-for-2 in Paris


Game two in Paris started much better for the Buffs.  A quick 11-2 lead gave Buff Nation hope of revenge against the AMW France Elite ''Pro A'' All-Stars.  It was not to be, however, as the French side would play +18 ball the rest of the first half, before putting the pedal down in the third quarter via 11-14 shooting.  Honestly, after that strong start, the Buffs were never really in the game as the French side poured on 58% shooting from the field.  The final read 91-74, making it back-to-back double-digit losses in the City of Light.

(Please remember that this trip is more about the extra practice time and in-game experience (and sightseeing!) than the final outcomes.  The individual box scores are not all that meaningful.)

Highlighting the performance for CU was freshman Josh Scott (nicknamed the "World's Only Chocolate Jellyfish" by the French radio crew) who notched his first double-double in a CU uniform with a 13/10 effort.  Andre Roberson barely missed his second double-double in as many nights, as he finished with 13/9.  Fueled by the pair of big men, the Buffs actually out-rebounded AMW 41-27.

Also for the Buffs, freshman Xavier Johnson chipped in 12 points.  XJ will come away from Paris having learned a painful lesson, however, as he watched a weak lay-up attempt get rocketed out of the arena by an AMW defender:

This was the final game in Paris, and only three games remain on the season-opening exhibition trip.  Leaving Paris behind is actually a sad moment, as it forces all of us in Buff Nation to say au revoir to the fantastic crew at 7pm Production who brought us the action from the Stade Pierre de Coubertin.  Nicolas and Francois followed up their strong Wednesday performance with even more nicknames, jokes, and brutally honest commentary during the second game.  They even did Buff Nation the honor of singing the fight song.
Nicolas (left) and Francois (right) were a lifeline of awesome during the Paris leg of the trip.
Buff Nation wasn't the only group impressed, either.  Virginia, who played in Paris Monday and Tuesday, also got the 7pm treatment, and Cavalier fans were equally happy with the crew's efforts.  A big thank you to both Nicolas and Francois for making the two CU games of the EuroJam the most entertaining games of basketball I've never seen.

From Paris, the team now travels to Belgium for a pair of games with local pro squads. The next game is scheduled for Saturday at noon MT against Optima Ghent.  Unfortunately, I don't think there will be any streaming coverage of the games, be it video or audio, the rest of the trip, so it's all on Andy Green and the CU SID office to relay information to those of us back home.  Get to it, Andy!

Go Buffs!  Beat Optima Ghent!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Quick Post: Christian Powell is no Lawrence Vickers

All apologies to Coach EmbreeBieniemy, but I think he has lost his damn mind. There has been, and ever will be, only one LV.  I say without reservation that he was the greatest fullback in the history of the world.  In fact, the original V-back was more god than man, capable of winning football games and destroying whole planets with the slightest flex of his biceps.  Before there was the Honey Badger, there was Lawrence.  He took what he wanted while still giving a shit.

Let me ask you coach, has young Mr Powell shown capable of karate kicking punters in the face?

Is he willing to destroy a man's soul in the pursuit of a touchdown?

Is he capable of leaving fool defenders in his tracks, as if they weren't even there in the first place?


I didn't think so.

Christian Powell may be great someday, hell he may even be great today, but he can never approach the legacy of the great Lawrence Vickers.

I rest my damn case.

Buffs fall 86-73 in first game of European swing



Shortly before Coach Embree went and named a starter, the BasketBuffs tipped their preseason off against French professional side AMW France Elite ''Pro A'' All-Stars. After staying close for much of the game, the Buffs fell behind in the 4th quarter (playing by international rules, the Buffs have to deal with four 10-minute quarters, and a 24-second shot clock) before losing 86-73. A muted start to the season.

The loss, however, isn't as bad as it sounds. That French side is pretty good, having taken three their previous four exhibition games again collegiate competition (sweeping KU, and splitting with Virginia). They also feature bulky NBA power forward Kevin Seraphin. Throw in the fact that the game was being played on truly foreign soil, and an exhibition to boot, and I wouldn't read too much into the loss.
Scene of the crime.  From: Beau Gamble
Not surprisingly, Seraphin had a big game for the home team, dropping 24 points, and recording a few big blocks. For the Buffs, the losing effort was highlighted by Andre Roberson's 20 rebounds (along with 11 points for his first double-double of 2012-13), who seems more than willing to pick up where he left off in March. Spencer Dinwiddie and Askia Booker also chipped in 13 points a piece. Budding freshmen superstars Josh Scott and Xavier Johnson had strong collegiate debuts, dropping 12 and 9 points, respectively.

The biggest story to come out of the game, however, was the upsurge in Franco-American relations.

America and France have a long and storied friendship.  Going back to the founding of our country, France has not only been integral to our creation, but in our continuance as a free society as well.  They've given us many gifts over the years - Lafayette, money, and guns in the Revolution; the Statue of Liberty; a sporting stage to dominate other nations; the bikini - and in turn we've saved them from Ze Germans... twice!

The bonds of friendship between these two great countries were only strengthened yesterday afternoon, as the french radio broadcast of the CU/AMW France game brought down the house.  Over the course of two hours, Francois and Nicolas shared their world with a tiny, but dedicated, band of Buffs.  They were fantastic, coining nicknames ("Jelly" Scott, "Moumoute" or "hairy" Booker, "Mayor of Buffaloes" Dinwiddie, and "the Wonderful" Stalzer ), cracking jokes, describing the game in an honest manner, and even telling the world that "Kansas sucks."  Couldn't have been any better (Replay available here and here, first link starts in french).
Francois (?) interviewing Seraphin after a recent game.  From: 7pm Production
The Buffs have one final game in Paris this afternoon before heading to Belgium.  If you have the chance, clear out some time this afternoon to listen to Francois and Nicolas, it's well worth your time. You can check it out here.  Tip-off is set for 12:30 MT.

Go Buffs, beat the AMW France Elite ''Pro A'' All-Stars!

Webb is the QB

Remember last week when the coaching staff teased the possibility that the open QB competition could bleed into the first few games of the season?  Well... about that...
Before I even got home from work, Coach Embree had sent out that tweet, cryptically signaling that the coaching staff had named their starter, and that it was Kansas transfer Jordan Webb. I commented yesterday that Buff Nation would know more after the upcoming weekend's scrimmage, but Coach Embree didn't even bother to wait for that live-fire test.  So much for a long, protracted battle.
Anoint him with oils, he's been chosen.  From: the BDC
Of course, it's not like this wasn't expected.  Recent comments by the coaching staff had made it very clear who they were favoring.  It was only a matter of whether the coaching staff would afford Wood the remaining time before the season to try and close the gap.

So, with a week and a half to go before the RMS, CU has their QB.  But that doesn't mean everyone in Buff Nation is happy with the result.  While the news was still digesting, noted Buff commentator Tyler Ziskin raised a few salient points.



Not exactly the stuff of legend, is it?  His point, and it's a fair one, is that the staff put far too much importance on Webb's last two years as a starter.

Of course, I've been on the Connor Wood bandwagon since his arrival last fall, so I'm predisposed to agree with TZisk.  I've always been enamored with Wood's measurables, and I just don't hold Webb's "experience" in high regard, having come in a program reeling through their own calamitous coaching era.  While it's true that Wood had yet to see any of a collegiate field, his career, at least, isn't lousy with losing.

However, the decision has been made, and I'm nothing if not a CU homer.  I for one welcome our new Jayhawk overlord, and wish him luck garroting the lambs on Sept 1st.


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Quick Post: 2012-13's first gameday


Today, at 12:30 MT, the Buffs will tip-off their first game of the Europe trip.  Information on whether the game will feature streamed coverage is a little sketchy, but I'm more hopeful than I was a few days ago.  If anything else develops, I'll be sure to post it.

Also worth checking out, walk-on guard Beau Gamble has a tumblr account set-up, and is posting pictures and thoughts from the trip.  You may want to check it out.

Quick Post: Has a front-runner in the QB battle been established?

QB competitions are always rife with speculation and innuendo.  Throw in a blanket media ban on attending practices, and the guess-a-thon goes into hyper-active.

As the full-time battle between Connor Wood, Jordan Webb, and Nick Hirschman winds through it's 2nd week, the general assumption amongst the media is that a front-runner has been established, if not named.  It's long been the fan consensus that, while Hirschman was the primary backup last year, and even grabbed a few snaps last year, the in-program QB was not really an option.  It's transfers Webb and Wood that are considered "serious candidates for the job," and recent quotes may have hinted that the coaching staff is leaning towards one over the other.

The first quote came from QB coach Rip Scherer: "It's easier to make up 15 days of spring practice than it is 19 starts." The second, and probably the more eye-opening, was from Coach Embree in regards to Wood: "We need him to be more consistent in his decision making.  He needs to continue to work his accuracy.  He's sometimes erratic with his throws." 

The coaching staff seems to be hinting that, not only are they swayed by Webb's in-game experience, but that Wood is not nearly impressive enough to overcome his playing-time deficiency.  This feeds into a general narrative.  It seems that every time that Coach Embree and crew discuss the QBs, they rave about Webb, using words like "experience."  When discussing Wood, it's almost as if they're looking for reasons to doubt, adding qualifiers to his attributes.  He's got the "big arm," and "has a good grasp of the offense," but he's "sometimes erratic."   

Football coaches love intangibles.  When one guy is being praised with words like "experience," "presence," "leadership" (not to mention being compared favorably to CU legend Koy Detmer), while the other is mentioned for his skill, but has his "consistency" questioned, it's easy to assume who has the lead.

The good news continues to be that this is a honestly open QB competition.  During the Hawk years, the QB race was one in name only.  The thankfully departed former coach would leave the race "open" more as a disinformation tactic than genuine search for a starter.  Coach Embree and crew seem to be open minded about the race, and are leaving it open as a result of healthy competition.  I don't see that indecision in August as a problem unless it begins to overshadow performance in September.

There's been plenty of talk that the competition may bleed over into the season, but I'm starting to feel that might not be necessary.  Embree himself said that he's looking to this Saturday's scrimmage as an important milestone on the timetable.  Buff Nation should know much more after the weekend.


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Quick Post: Defensive backfield on the road to recovery

If I had the ability to travel through time and magically fix one thing about the 2011 Colorado Buffaloes, I'd immediately change the federal disaster area that was the defensive backfield.  Of all the things wrong with the team that barely escaped the Pac-12 basement, that one factor, more than any other, became the team's Achilles heel.  Through injuries, suspensions, and last minute position switches, the Buffs took the field against some of the best passing offenses in the nation with what amounted to a Division-2 defensive backfield.

Mercifully, that painful situation has been addressed.

Injuries have healed, suspensions have been lifted, and, most importantly, reinforcements have arrived.  One of the primary recruiting efforts last season was finding immediate contributors on the edge, and that effort has proven successful.  Coach Embree and staff hauled in a total of five DB's, with the expectation that many of them would see plentiful, and immediate, playing time.

Enter the quartet of Kenneth Crawley, Yuri Wright, Jeffrey Hall, and Marques Mosley.  They bring with them an infusion of skill and athleticism that was sorely lacking last fall.  What's more, they arrived in Boulder with a predisposition to play the position at a high level:
"There are different ways you are going to play man, different ways you are going to play cover two, different zone pressures - these guys all get it. I hate using coach clich├ęs but they get it. From the jump, it all makes sense to them. It’s all natural for them. [...] For Coach Brown, that’s great because he can focus on technique and that says a lot." -link
It's both a combination of skill and need that these freshmen will be thrown into the fire so quickly.  Expect Crawley and/or Wright to start opening day, they're that impressive.  Hell, expect all four to play big minutes throughout the season.  If not for an injury, a fifth signee, John Walker, would also see plenty of the field. 

Combined with returning veterans Ray Polk, Parker Orms and Greg Henderson, the defensive backfield suddenly looks to be a strength.  While youthful mistakes will surely be abundant, having multiple scholarhsip athletes healthy and eligible at a position of need is a massive step in the right direction.  I expect exciting plays, both positive and negative, from this crew.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Monday Grab Bag: Tad Boyle's European Vacation


The big news this week is two-fold.  Not only is the football program finishing up fall practice with its second full week, but the BasketBuffs are embarking on their long anticipated trip to Europe.  Apologies to the football program, but my focus is on Coach Boyle's European Vacation.

Today in the bag, I'll be talking trip details, recapping my recent visit practice, and touch on the half-way point of fall football camp.

Click below for the bag...


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...

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Quick Post: The finals go on without Jenny Barringer

Buff Nation's best hope for an Olympic medal crashed out before even reaching the final.  Jenny Barringer Simpson, one of the best runners in CU's storied history, struggled in her semi-final run of the 1,500m yesterday, and ended up finishing last in the heat.  She was the defending world champion in the event, and her early exit was almost as big of a shock as her winning run last year was.

For her sake, she doesn't take any opportunity to place blame, saying "I have no excuse. [...] I have nothing. I'm in great shape and I feel good. You just have to earn every single step, and I think I thought about the final before I had earned it."  

Warning bells were already going off in my head Monday during her qualifying heat.  She was behind the lead pack for almost the whole race, and had to essentially sprint the final lap to even sneak into the semi's. A friend of mine who follows these things blamed tactics, but it's always worrying to see that kind of performance in the opening round.

It's a shame for Jenny, but she'll be back.  Her win at the 2011 World Championships makes her a national figure, and her career has plenty of races left in it.  I'm sure sometime over the next four years she'll run a race or two that will make everyone forget about London.

The recruiting of Jabari Bird

Allow me a brief respite from football talk to delve into some basketball recruiting...

It's no secret that CU is now a hoops name to be reckoned with.  Every aspect of the program is on the rise, from on-court production, to the recruiting trail.  It's a perfect storm of the right coach seizing upon a conference switch and an upsurge in talent, money, and facilities.  Recruits who, in past years, wouldn't have given the program the time of day, are suddenly returning phone calls, and scheduling visits.

Case-in-point, next month Coach Boyle and staff will be hosting 5-star super prospect Jabari Bird.  The 6-6 swing guard from NorCal is everything that you look for in an ideal swing-man: height, speed, scoring ability.  He "may have the most upside of any wing-type out west," and has emerged as one of the premier recruits on the Left Coast

To even be in the running (reportedly in his final 4) for such a high-profile talent is a testament to how far the program has come over the past few years.  Bird would certainly be a difference maker the second he slips on the Black and Gold.

The reported pitch is, "... he (Bird) is the missing piece to the puzzle and potentially the program's next lottery pick."   I think the biggest key to that pitch is that it's referencing the "next" lottery pick, rather than the first in a generation.  With the NBA matriculation of Alec Burks, and the future prospects of players like Andre Roberson and Josh Scott, Coach Boyle can easily point to a pipeline carrying talent from Boulder to the NBA.  Come here, and you too can land in the Association.
Could Bird be the next CU superstar? From: Rivals.com
Unfortunately, I don't think it will work.

Tad Boyle, it pains me to say, is not perfect.  Even in the magical 2012 recruiting class he had some high-profile misses, as he failed to secure a signature from 4-star point guards Ty Wallace, and stopped pursuing Dominic Artis.  In the end, I doubt this recruiting war will end in anything other than similar disappointment for Buff Nation.  Cal (again, fucking Cal) is the presumed front-runner for his services, and I'd put a lot of money on them winning this battle.

Still, it's pretty cool to say that a 5-star hoops recruit is checking out campus.  Get a kid to Boulder, and he might just find something he likes...

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Colorado Football: When keeping it real goes wrong

Thankfully, the offseason has been blissfully quiet.  Other than a few injury concerns, the news reports emanating from the program have all been performance related.  Very little if anything on the disciplinary front... wait, what's that noise?

Oh no, it's a herd of hyperventilating media members... this is never good for anyone living in Boulder County.  This is probably about that noise complaint that drew cops to practice.  Fine, what do you guys have for us today?

Hrmmmm.... an incident resulting in no charges, where a couple of over-excited college kids mouthed off at some cops.  (Like that doesn't happen eight times every weekend night up on The Hill.)  Exciting (I fucking hate this small town crap).  Certainly firing air soft guns between cars is pretty stupid, but it seems like a smack-upside-the-head level incident.

Wait, what, CU is suspending two, and kicking off another?

Really?  I mean, sure, they shouldn't have lipped off to the cops (Very bad form. Also, never sarcastically demand that a cop shoot you), but the BPD brought five patrol cars, and drew weapons, over an air soft pistol.  I'm assuming that would've raised everyone's blood pressure significantly to the point that nerves were strained.

Hey, I don't know everything involved, and maybe these guys all carried previous in-house disciplinary issues, but this seems like an overreaction by the coaching staff.  There has to be much more to the Jermaine Clark result, especially.  There's no way this incident warrants dismissal/departure from the team.

From a football standpoint, this isn't all that impactful.  Thornton and Thomas weren't first choices at their respective positions.  CU can live without them for two games against low-level opponents.  Clark, while ticketed for limited playing time this fall, is replaceable.  Still, a quick, sad end to his CU career.

Can we please try to get through camp without any more bullshit?

Quick Post: ... and then there were three

The 4-way battle for the #1 QB slot on the CU depth chart didn't even last a day.

Freshman Shane Dillon is still recovering from his February surgery to repair a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder.  While cleared to practice, he's still very limited.  In that light, Coach Embree announced yesterday that Dillon will likely redshirt, and is therefore out of the QB competition.  The race is, be default, down to three.

This was not always a part of the plan. Many had, prior to the surgery, thought Dillon to be a dark horse contender for the QB crown.  However, logic would dictate that, even when healthy, it'd take a pretty special kid to supplant a seasoned veteran (Webb), a high-profile transfer with plenty of practice time (Wood), or a returning in-program backup (Hirschman).  I'm not saying that it was impossible, but, had a healthy Dillon won the job, I'd have been floored.
Hirschman and the QB corps are battling it out this fall. From: the BDC
As it stands, three quality options remain for Embree and crew to choose from.  With practices closed, progress reports will be slow to emerge, and even then tainted with a twinge of PR spin. (Case-in-point, the quote of the day from Coach Embree is that each of the three QB's "had their moments... this competition, I guess, is going to have to go at least two days."  That's some deep shit right there.)  Even with the media blackout, expect plenty of rumored developments to hit the waves over the next two weeks.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Monday Grab Bag: Fall camp is open for business

Football is back.  Officially.  I'm serious, just look:

Today is the first full day of fall camp, and the CU Video team was kind enough to put together that nice short to pump everyone up.  The video states "Believe and love what we are doing.  Success will come."  The coaching staff has stated that that success is a bowl trip.  All that's left is for the team to live up to that guarantee, because that success train is long past-due.

Today in the bag, I'll be looking at the five storylines I'll be following as camp unfolds, talking the un-official start of basketball season, and running through some Olympics notes.

Click below for the bag...