College football officially starts on Friday, meaning this is the industry’s ultimate preview week. It’s also the time of the year everyone is the most optimistic about their teams, even Kansas fans. In the spirit of that optimism, here are the 5 steps for the Colorado Buffaloes to go undefeated and win the National Championship.
1. Steven Montez becomes a Heisman contender
Steven Montez is far and away the most important player on the Buffs. Any chance CU has of being a successful team rely on his improvement under new QB coach Kurt Roper. With ridiculous arm strength, size and athleticism, Montez is arguably the most talented QB we’ve seen since Kordell Stewart. Preseason talk is preseason talk, but maybe Montez has truly improved his field vision and pocket presence. If he becomes a more accurate and consistent thrower, everything on the offense is suddenly boosted. His running will be more effective, the receivers won’t have to work so hard to get open, the line won’t have to hold their blocks for as long, etc. But this is all required for the Buffs to be good, not elite. If the Buffs are going to be elite, they would need Montez to consistently play like he did against Oregon, only with fewer interceptions. If that happened, he would be a Heisman contender and future first round pick. I don’t think that’s possible, but if there’s on person who believes that will happen, it’s Montez.
2. Offensive supporting cast is better than expected
If Montez is going to play at an elite level, he can’t do it on his own. For him to be at his best, he will need the offensive line to be most cohesive and consistent it’s been since they had Nate Solder and Ryan Miller in 2010. The line is young and lacks depth, but they have promise. Aaron Haigler and Tim Lynott are the elder statesmen and should be more than capable of making an impact. Brett Tonz and Colby Pursell are inexperienced, but they should be solid, maybe more, in their first years starting. The most important player on the line will be Jake Moretti, the former Ohio State commit whose breakout has been delayed by injury. He’s just a freshman, but he has all the potential to be Colorado’s best lineman as early as this season. This line will never win games by themselves, but being a reliable group would do wonders for this offense.
Away from the trenches, there is hope that this crop of receivers is better than their highly accomplished predecessors. Juwann Winfree looks like he’s going to be a star. Laviska Shenault may be the most physically gifted receiver Colorado has had since Michael Westbrook. Jay MacIntyre, Kabion Ento and Tony Brown are vastly overqualified to play as rotational receivers. There’s a chance this receiving corps is the best in the Pac-12. There’s also a reason CU cornerback Dante Wigley believes its the best group in all of college football, and that reason isn’t just homerism. The Buffs also have established power back Travon McMillian to balance the offense should opposing defenses focus too much on the pass attack. He’s no Phillip Lindsay, but he can valuable without being a star.
3. Defense has breakout stars, role players surprise
We here at Ralphie Report have absolutely no idea if the Buffaloes defense will be good or not. The only things we know about the defense is that (1) they’re really inexperienced as they could have as many as seven first-time starters, (2) only the safeties and linebackers are proven to be good, and even that’s really just Evan Wothington, Rick Gamboa and Drew Lewis, and (3) the defensive line needs major improvements for the team to be successful.
Experience is always critical on defense — it certainly was in the 2016 Rise — but maybe the Buffs can get away without it. As we learned in Mike MacIntyre’s first season, first-year starters could be the best options simply because they’re more talented than the returning players. Now that the Buffs are actually good at recruiting, these young players are supremely talented. Chris Miller, for example, hasn’t played a game, but Juwann Winfree picked him as his breakout prediction because his athleticism and ball skills are ridiculous. There’s also Terrance Lang and Mustapha Johnson, who despite having no college football experience, already look like the most disruptive defensive linemen on the roster. For the Buffs’ defense to go from awful to average, Lang and Johnson would help immensely, especially if that was combined with gradual improvement from Javier Edwards and Chris Mulumba. Nate Landman is also a freakish linebacker and could be a force if given the playing time. Given the talent coming up, it’s not hard to see these young players holding their own in the Pac-12. Now if players like Drew Lewis and Evan Worthington went from tantalizing talents to world destroyers — which is totally possible, by the way — the Colorado defense could actually be good; maybe not great, but good enough for the offense to win shootouts.
4. Schedule luck
Even with all that happening, the Colorado Buffaloes won’t go undefeated and win the National Championship unless something miraculous happens. The miracle would need to be focused on the Washington Huskies, more specifically, because the Buffs will play Washington in Seattle and presumably again in the Pac-12 Championship. As long as Myles Gaskin is still churning out yards, the Buffs will never have a chance against UW no matter who’s on the defensive line. So perhaps this miracle would mean Gaskin missing the game for undisclosed reasons. Or maybe he could go back in time and declare for the NFL draft. Washington is also starting three blue-chip recruits at receiver, so maybe CU hires someone to soak their receiving gloves in olive oil. Also maybe someone impersonates a doctor and diagnoses Jake Browning with shoulder inflammation. Also the Huskies’ defensive line would tear the Buffs’ offensive line apart, so maybe we could do away with Banning Potoa’e and Greg Gaines. While we’re at it, an upset wouldn’t be possible if we didn’t give the Tonya Harding treatment to Taylor Rapp and Byron Murphy. Then we gotta do all that again for the Pac-12 Championship.
Besides two games against Washington, the only game on CU’s schedule that looks unwinnable is against USC. But the Trojans are also starting a true freshman at QB and have a long history of self-destructing at the first sniff of adversity. Also maybe we could take out Iman Marshall, Cameron Smith and Michael Pittman. And if we’re scared of playing at Arizona, it can’t be that hard to hire someone to hypnotize Khalil Tate to play like Bernard Jackson for a day.
There’s chaos every season, but we need CHAOS. It’s been a long time since 2007, so maybe we’re due. Maybe that would be the key for the Buffs to knock off Washington, USC, Washington again and whoever they play in the College Football Playoff. Maybe Alabama and Clemson never make the Playoff because of losses to Missouri and Wake Forest. Maybe Washington never makes it to the Pac-12 Championship because they lose at Oregon State. Maybe there’s so much chaos that even a one-loss Colorado team is one of four most deserving candidates. If Kansas was #2 in 2007, literally anything can happen.