Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Tuesday Grab Bag: The 'real' football season starts this Saturday

The Athletic Department is getting a little creative for this week's game against Oregon.  For Saturday's 8pm kickoff on ESPN, they're asking those in attendance to either wear black (even numbered sections) or silver/grey (students and odd numbered sections).
Hey, look!  A handy guide!  From:
With crowd numbers already estimated to be well into the high 40,000s and a prime time kickoff, Folsom is sure to be rocking.  If those in the stands can follow the game plan, it'll create a nice backdrop and visual for those night owls tuning in.


Today in the bag, I'm talking the win over Nicholls State, the weekly look forward to the upcoming schedule, and the unofficial start of basketball season.

Click below for the bag...

Buffs feast on the Nicholls State Cream Puffs - 

On a sunny, utterly perfect early fall Saturday in the Valley, the Colorado Buffaloes faced little to no resistance in their efforts against the Nicholls State Colonels.  From the opening kick, it was apparent that there would be no nightmarish visits from the ghosts of FCS past, as the team barely had to dig deep to earn a 48-0 whitewash in their final non-conference action of the year.

Chalk up another solid effort from the running game.  A total of six different Buffs helped run for 358 yards and five scores, headlined by Phillip Lindsay who ground out 113 on 17 carries for two touchdowns.  The running attack was so good overall that the only yardage losses were on the final plays of the game -- a pair of kneel downs in the old victory formation.
Ugly uniforms aside, the Buffs looked beautiful on the ground against Nicholls.
Comparatively, Sefo Liufau and the passing game lagged behind.  The junior, who was limited in practices and faced 'immense' pain when throwing with a bum shoulder, was consistently tossing high over the heads of his targets, and only totaled 227 yards on 21 attempts.  The numbers aren't horrible, but the struggle was real, and it was difficult to watch.  Still, he went another week without an interception or a sack, and otherwise got the job done; not bad for someone fighting through a separated shoulder.

Defensively, the Buffs held the Colonels to only 166 yards of offense, and never came close to allowing points. Hell, Nicholls had more penalty yards than passing yards on the afternoon. CU forced 10 punts, and caused another three turnovers.   Just utter domination; about what you'd expect.

As seductive as all of those number are, however, I implore you to rip them up and throw them away from your mind.  Saturday's game, other than whatever benefits a scrimmage would offer, meant absolutely nothing.  The University got some ticket dollars, and a lot of players who would've otherwise ridden the pine all season saw the field, but very little comparative knowledge was gained.  Nicholls simply does not belong on the same field as an FBS team, meaning this was a glorified Spring Game.
All too easy... a little too easy.  From: the Post.
I'm not even overly concerned with the sloppy play in the passing game or the red zone.  Throw it all out; the good and the bad.  With the utter lack of competition or intensity, there's no reason to take any of that seriously.  After weeks of messing around with the dregs of college football, the real season starts this week with the coming visit of the pissed-off Oregon Ducks.  Pac-12 football is an alien species compared to what we all saw Saturday and the three weeks prior.  Hopefully, the Buffs are ready to see the difficulty cranked up from Varsity to Heisman.

The Bulle(i)t Points - 
  • The program is enjoying their first three game winning streak since the opening weeks of 2008, which culminated in CU's OT winner over West Virginia. Saturday also marked Colorado's first shutout of an opponent since the 24-0 win over Wyoming in 2009.
  • Congratulations go out to Nelson Spruce, who set CU's all-time receiving yardage record Saturday, passing Michael Westbrook with an 11-yard grab early in the action. Already having wrapped up the career grabs mark, the final one on his list is the touchdown total -- with three more this season, he'll have that one all to himself, as well.
  • Five Buffs made the first appearances of their career, helping to bloat the total number of participants to 73.
  • Buffs ran 71 of their 93 plays in enemy territory.  The Colonels only saw the CU side of the field for three snaps -- a run for five yards and two incompletions before a punt from the Colorado 42.  I hope that punt, one of 10 on the day, helped them feel better about themselves.
  • As effusively as the offense flowed for Colorado, they were only 5-9 in the red zone.  Take one of those away due to the victory formation, but still note the Christian Powell fumble, failure on 4th down, and missed field goal that kept the Buffs from racking up even more points.  Missing that many scoring opportunities will only spell defeat going forward.
  • If you could find it, the Buffs were rumored as a 51-point favorite, meaning this would be a non-cover. However, I couldn't find a single site or book that was taking action on this one, which is why I listed this as 'NO LINE' in my preview.  For purposes of performance tracking, I'll count the prediction as a win, but I won't track the ATS number or optimistic/pessimistic metrics. Got it? Good.

Upcoming schedule update - 

The upcoming schedule is brutal, and features what were assumed to be three of the toughest teams in the league.  However, each of the next three teams on the slate took humiliating home losses this weekend, and appear to be far less of a threat than previously thought (only slightly).  That's not to say I expect wins against any of these teams, just that they seem to be more vulnerable than they've looked at any point in the last three years.

Utah 62 - Oregon 20 - 

The Ducks will come to Boulder unranked for the first time since 2009, thanks to their 42-point home loss to the Utah Utes.  UO allowed 42 unanswered points and were owned in the margins throughout.  The Oregon defeat was so total, so dramatic that I immediately likened it to 62-36; at least the Huskers managed to stay within shouting distance that night.
Wait, what?  From SBNation
The Scadenfreude is palpable.  The Ducks had made a habit of rubbing their speed and kitsch in the faces of many a hapless opponent over the last decade; to see them laid low in such a way was delicious.  While facing Utah will be its own challenge Colorado, for one night at least, we were all Utes.  Every score, every hammer blow to the Oregon monolith rang out as a sounding from the Liberty Bell.  Maybe finally, at long last, that paper tiger has been unmasked.  Will they win in Boulder this week?  Sure (#SpoilerAlert), but the larger myth of superiority is gone.  The Pac-12 field has been leveled.

USC 42 - ASU 14 - 

USC took advantage of four ASU turnovers and some awful pass defense to roll up a 35-0 advantage before halftime. Trojan QB Cody Kessler was fantastic, throwing for 375 yards and five scores.  The Sun Devils never had a chance.
The Trojans walked all over the Sun Devils.
If the Oregon/Utah game was an '11' on the 10-point Schadenfreude scale, this one ranked a solid '8.'  Not that I'm a friend of the Trojans, mind you, just that I love seeing Sparky humbled. At this point, I think it's definitive that ASU is just not a very good football team, certainly not what we all assumed they'd be. They've been blown out against their only real competition, and struggled, if briefly, against lesser demons. Maybe that Todd Graham magic is receding... and maybe it's time for him to jump ship, yet again.

UCLA 56 - Arizona 30 -

The Wildcats were unable to capitalize on the juice from a College Gameday visit, and let a prime opportunity to make Pac-12 South gains slip through their fingers.  After scoring the first touchdown of the contest, they allowed the Bruins to score 28-unanswered before the 12 minute mark of the 2nd quarter, all but ending the action.  For UCLA, freshman QB Josh Rosen bounced back from a rough performance last week against BYU to shine throughout the game in Tucson.
Rosen rebounded against the 'Cats in a huge way.
The action in this one was indicative of a weekend that featured a bevy of home defeats in conference action. In total, all five home teams in intra-Pac-12 games lost, with only Washington claiming to have a real shot a victory in the 4th quarter.  I don't really have a reason for it - other than noting differences in QB play - but I think the lack of home field advantage could be something to watch going forward.

Basketball season stats this week - 

I know we're all excited for the CU/Oregon game Saturday night, but let me quickly note that basketball season will unofficially start this week.  No, the Buffs won't be taking the court in anger against anybody, but fall practices will get underway Friday morning, finally ushering in the hoops year, 2015-16.
Soon to feature: Basketball!
Narratives will quickly develop as we get closer and closer to November 13th, and the prospect of the forthcoming 6th edition of the Massive Preview looms heavily on my mind, but, until then, keep an eye on these five quick story lines as camp commences:

  • Who replaces Xavier Johnson? The superlative senior small forward is out for at least the first few months with a torn left Achilles'.  While he still plans on returning for conference play (I remain dubious), the Buffs will, at least for the time being, have to replace his production.  With Dustin Thomas out of the picture, just who in Black and Gold will be stepping into his shoes?  Tre'Shaun Fletcher, certainly, will be expected to feature more heavily, but don't be surprised to hear that George King, freshly off the redshirt line, is making waves out on the wing.
  • Is Josh Scott really, fully healthy? The Young Fundamental missed a huge chunk of last season with a back injury, sitting out eight of CU's first nine conference games.  Even further, he looked out of sorts towards the tail end of non-conference play and his first few games back; the issue consumed three full months of play.  While he played much better in the month of March (Averaged 20/11 over the final seven games of the year), is there any carry over?  CU needs Jelly at 100% to make any noise this winter.
  • Just how good is Josh Fortune?  The transfer from Providence sat patiently on the bench last season, waiting for his forced redshirt year to pass.  Now, finally eligible to play, just how big of an impact can he make?  From a purely scoring standpoint, Colorado will be struggling to replace Askia Booker's 17 points per game -- Fortune needs to be able to eat up a chunk of that immediately.
  • How much playing time can we expect from the other newcomers? I don't think that the fan base is really expecting too much from freshman Thomas Akyazili and sophomore Kenan Guzonjic, but they're here for a reason. Come Pac-12 play, their role needs to be defined, and, for CU's sake, I hope it's not marginalized. Akyazili needs to develop as a second or third tier option at the point and Guzonjic probably needs to fill the spot minutes left open in the paint by the exiting Thomas.  
  • Have lingering leadership issues dissolved? Not coincidentally, there was a tangible undercurrent throughout last year regarding a lack of leadership from the top of the team.  With Scott injured and Askia Booker more of a performer than a huddle-general, a lot of sour actions went unchallenged, and the play of the team, as a whole, suffered.  With Booker gone and Scott back in uniform, the lines of leadership should be clearly defined early on.

Anyways, happy to have hoops back in my life.  It's been too long since the March 23rd loss to Seattle. Welcome back, Buffs!

Happy Tuesday!

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