This week we’ll start the Pac-12 Walkabout with the Colorado Buffaloes since they are one of the two new teams joining in to make the Pac-12. Oregon will play Colorado on October 22nd, which falls about mid-way through the season. The Buffaloes couldn’t have been too happy when ESPN listed them as number 11 in the Pac-12 power rankings but coming into a new conference without having won a game outside of the state of Colorado since 2007 doesn’t sit too well for any team’s rankings. Colorado does have a daunting schedule ahead of them this season, going up against both Stanford and Oregon (two Pac-12 powerhouses that newcomer Utah avoids this year) and they have a brutal five-game road stretch mixed in. It is a lot to go up against but Colorado also has a few variables that could prove to be season-changing.
A new head coach can mean a world of difference for any team and Colorado will go into this season with new head coach, Jon Embree. Embree knows the program well as a former player and coach for the Buffs. Lack of experience is a concern for this new staff since Embree, along with coordinators Eric Bieniemy and Greg Brown, do not have the experience of head coach under their belts. It’s a risk for sure, and having such an inexperienced staff could go either way for Colorado, but they may just as well stick with the theme of new and see what happens. One of the nice perks of being ranked low is the chance to prove everyone wrong, and we Duck fans know a little about a new coach coming in and making a splash.
Unfortunately for Colorado their concerns aren’t just the brutal schedule or a brand-new coaching staff, they also have to worry about depth and talent within their program. Let’s take a quick look at these key points.
Colorado does have the advantage of returning a number of seniors and starters but they did lose Jimmy Smith and Jalil Brown, two key cornerback starters, to the NFL draft. They are also short two of their three starting linebackers. Luckily the Buffs have both starters returning at the safety position, experience at this position may be crucial to competing with the likes of Darron Thomas. The Colorado defensive line seems to be their strong point with starters Josh Hartigan, Curtis Cunningham and Will Pericak returning. Senior defensive lineman Conrad Obi’s spring performance has been noticed as well. Good, and questionable are showing up in both offense and defense, but it seems clear that special teams looks like a continuing concern for Colorado with no real talent emerging as of yet.
Lack of depth at some key positions for Colorado could be a big concern. There has not been a clear choice for cornerback so far during the spring, a lack of superior receivers may put the offense out of balance, and for the most part the linebackers are an inexperienced bunch.
A lot is changing for the Buffs, but they need a little change. New is fresh and fresh can be good, and so this season for Colorado is a hard one to predict. As far as Colorado versus Oregon this year it doesn’t feel like Duck fans have a lot to worry about. Colorado does get to play the Ducks on their own turf, but with inexperience in the cornerback position and a possible weakness in pass defense, the Ducks explosive offense could have quite a chance to shine. Also, Colorado’s offense has a high potential of being off-balance this year and that will give Oregon more of a chance to shut them down defensively.
As usual your comments are encouraged – let’s get the discussion going! Next week on the Pac-12 Walkabout AutzenZoo.com will feature Utah – stay tuned.