The first two years in the Pac-12 Conference have not been good ones for the Colorado Buffaloes. Of course, the past several seasons have not been stellar ones for a program that won a national championship little more than two decades ago. The team has a new coach and different approach as it heads into 2013. However, will a new calendar year change the environment of a once proud football heritage?
Colorado has brought in Mike MacIntyre to help rebuild – again – the school’s football program. MacIntyre did what most didn’t think was possible: make San Jose State Spartans football into a winner, marking the first time that school ever ranked in the BCS Top 25. Mike replaces former head coach Jon Embree who led the team to a meager four wins in two years with a 1-11 mark last season.
The Buffaloes haven’t been to a bowl game in six years and haven’t had a winning season since 2005 when Gary Barnett coached them to a North Division title in the Big 12. The implosion that incurred in ’05 though (source: ESPN) sent the Colorado program down to the depths from which they haven’t been able to recover.
Embree, a Colorado Buffalo alumnus, tried to instill a hard-nose attitude but it never survived in the fast-paced offenses of the Pac-12. In steps MacIntyre, tasked with starting yet another rebuilding year. The Pac-12 is improving every season so the Buffaloes have quite a mountain to climb from their last place standing.
The good news is that most of last year’s starters are back, including almost their entire offense. The bad news is that offense was in the bottom 10 nationally in just about every category. The defense also returns most of their players but they too ranked in the bottom 10. This is a bad team that MacIntyre inherits. Did I mention the Colorado Buffaloes were bad?
The climate in Boulder is at an all-time low and it’s a mess – confidence will be key to whether this squad is as bad as last year or not (oops, there’s that bad word again). The offense will have to find some way of cobbling together enough points to keep their defense off the field against the high-octane offenses of the Pac-12. To gain confidence, the team needs to come out of the box quickly. The schedule offers two games to start with that are winnable. After that, they will be heavy underdogs more or less the rest of the schedule.
Schedule: No breaks
The first two games are against rival Colorado State and Central Arkansas of the FCS. Fresno State comes into Boulder next but the Bulldogs may be a BCS buster in 2013 – they’re that good. Then the season gets even tougher as the Buffaloes enter Pac-12 play. They head out to Corvallis to play Oregon State and then come back for a Pac-12 home-opener against none other than the Oregon Ducks. A trip to Tempe to take on a good Arizona State Sun Devil team rounds out the first half of the season.
After a bye week, Colorado plays host to the Arizona Wildcats. Afterwards, the Buffs head out on the road, playing the UCLA Bruins and Washington Huskies back-to-back. They’re home a week later against the California Golden Bears and then play their final home contest of the year against the USC Trojans. The following week, the season ends in Salt Lake City against the Utah Utes.
There are likely five games tops on the schedule where the Buffaloes have a shot at winning – and there all in Colorado. The first three games, including against Fresno State, are winnable and I mention the Bulldogs because if the Buffs grab momentum from winning their first two then maybe they’ll start 3-0 … maybe. The other two gridiron battles are Pac-12 home games against Arizona and California. The Wildcats are a bit of a question mark this season, plus the Golden Bears are in a rebuilding stage of their own.
So back to our stories headline question: Can Colorado climb out of the cellar? Short answer for the 2013 season is no. They could win upwards of five games or they may end up 1-11 again.
This program and coach MacIntyre require time to rebuild from the ground up. Ralphie will be the only Buffalo running with abandon this year. For those fans of Colorado football, this team needs at least another year before they make any kind of waves. The lowly Buffs will stay down … at least for now.
Additional sources: Pac-12 Conference, University of Colorado
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