Margin For Error Becoming Increasingly Small Starting with West Virginia

Now that the first quarter of the season is over for the Colorado Buffaloes, it is a good time to look ahead and talk about a few scenarios regarding bowl eligibility, etc. Yes, I realize that many of you just either burst out laughing or had your stomach turn at the thought of a potential bowl game, but while the mathematical possibility is still out there, it is worth the discussion. There is also probably a sect of you who will root for the Buffs every game in 2009 but secretly wouldn't mind a 1 - 11 season so a change will be forced from the top down.

Personally, no matter how much anyone thinks a change is necessary, I don't believe 1 - 11 is the answer to any of our problems. But I don't think 5 - 7 is any better, in fact, it is worse. That is why starting with West Virginia, the Buffs need to be firing on all cylinders and not holding anything back because their is zero room for error the rest of the year.

I didn't realize it until now but looking at the schedule, the Colorado Buffaloes really, really shot themselves in the foot losing the first two against Colorado State and Toledo. They have lost all there wiggle room and leeway for any missteps down the road. The task is now daunting and based on the Buffs inability to break away from the trends of the previous three years in the first three games (i.e. winning on the road, featuring playmakers, beating inferior teams consistently), Colorado will have to be lights out for the remainder of the season. Below is the remaining part of the schedule based on what we think will be the hardest to easiest games for Colorado:

 

Opponent Predicted Favorite
@ Texas Texas
@ Oklahoma St. Oklahoma St
Kansas Kansas
@ West Virgina West Virginia
Nebraska Nebraska
Missouri Missouri
@ Iowa State Push
Texas A&M Push
@ Kansas State Colorado

 

It is likely that the Buffs might be slightly favored or a toss up in only three of the remaining nine games including two on the road. The fact that Dan Hawkins has only won a combined two games on the road his entire career at Colorado should provide enough of a deterrent to thinking nothing is a gimme away from Folsom. Buff fans must also remember that the 2007 bowl qualifying team lost at Iowa State and at Kansas State. For some glimmer of hope, that Buffs team also started 1 - 2 and went on to win five of their next nine to finish 6 - 6. But that team's first two losses were against Arizona State and Florida State, not Toledo and Colorado State. Further, the Buffs had major upsets against Texas Tech and Oklahoma, won a total of two games on the road and outscored Nebraska 65 - 51. So Hawkins & Co. has shown the ability to surprise once in a while. But if we look at this realistically, here is what we come up with and how things might have to play out for Colorado to go bowling this season.

In my book, put @Texas, @Oklahoma State and Kansas in the loss column. Some might say Kansas is at home so the Buffs have a punchers chance but I have seen Todd Reesing and what he has done to the Buffs the last three years. Let's say I have learned not to pick against him. It is hard to put any games in the win column as easy as it was to put games in the loss column. But for argument's sake, give the Buffs a win against Texas A&M at home in a game they should have won last year if they didn't have to play the third quarter and interceptions didn't exist, especially on the goal line.

We are now at 2 - 5 for the year. Only @ West Virginia, @ Iowa State, @ Kansas State, Missouri and Nebraska remain. Two tossup (road) spreads and three underdog games. The magic number is four. Only five games left. Either way you slice it, Dan Hawkins will have to equal his road win total of the previous three years to get into a bowl game, if you agree with the assumptions above. I can't remember the last time Colorado won a game east of the Mississippi but that is what they will have to do next Thursday against an athletic West Virginia team looking for revenge.

It's either that or go to the Big 12 North championship because that is essentially what the Buffs have to do to go to a bowl game if they lose to West Virginia. They will have to go 4 - 1 in the Big 12 North (5-3 overall) and, therefore, they would probably be competing with Kansas to play in the Big 12 championship game, who might have three built in losses just in the South part of their schedule. That is a tough thing to swallow as a realistic expectation based on the first three games of the year but essentially, that is what it will take.

Many of you probably scoffed at the obvious statement I made about how the Buffs shot themselves in the foot the first two weeks of the season but now you really understand my surprise about how big of a hole the team put themselves in when you start talking about the Big 12 championship game. A big win against West Virginia adds a little wiggle room back into play.

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