We are now through the first two games of the season and aside from high stress levels, it has been a perfect start. The Colorado Buffaloes decimated Colorado State in their season opener with a 45-13 win, during which Steven Montez carved up the Rams’s secondary with the Buffs’ deep receiving corps. In week 2, the Buffs traveled to Lincoln to face the Nebraska Cornhuskers and earned the victory in a crazy game, thanks to a playmaking defense and clutch offensive play from Montez and apparent superstar Laviska Shenault.
It’s too early to tell if this team is as good as their potential suggests — the defense did look shaky against Nebraska’s rushing attack — but two games is plenty to look at everyone’s stats and project them for the rest of the regular season.
2018 stats: 689 passing yards, 8 total touchdowns, 1 interception
12-game pace: 4,134 yards, 48 TDs, 6 interceptions
Montez has been superb thus far. The talk before the season was that not only did Montez improve his footwork and vision, but he matured off the field and was ready to lead the team. Against Nebraska, he faced a constant barrage of a pass rush and stared it in the eyes without flinching. He took 7 sacks — none of which were egregiously his fault — but he was never phased. He knew his offensive line was getting shredded, but he stuck by them and assured them that this was their game to win. Montez also showed his ability in the clutch as he found Shenault with a perfect throw for the game-winning score. If he keeps up this play, it’s going to be a fun season in Boulder.
2018 stats: 21 catches, 388 yards, 3 total TDs
12-game pace: 126 catches, 2,328 yards, 18 TDs
Shenault has emerged as Colorado’s best player, maybe the best CU player in the past 20 years as former head coach Gary Barnett said. After a quiet freshman year where he was wasted on the bench while the offense struggled, he has announced himself to the rest of the college football world with his incredible play in the first two games. He had 211 yards against CSU — a Rocky Mountain Showdown record — on an absurd 8.79 yards per route run, the highest mark in the nation, per Pro Football Focus. As impressive as he was in week 1, Viska was more valuable against the Huskers. With his physical play and ridiculous contested-catch ability, he was everywhere for the Buffs. His superb catch in traffic set up Jay MacIntyre’s opening touchdown. The next drive he was used as a wildcat QB and dragged multiple defenders into the end zone. And on the game-winner, no one except Shenault could have blown past the cornerback and made that difficult catch.
Also worth noting, if Shenault somehow has a season statline resembling his on-pace stats, he’s going to win the Biletnikoff Award, if not more. It also seems that it’s only a matter of time before he’s a first round pick in the NFL Draft.
2018 stats: 11 catches, 151 yards, 1 TD
12-game pace: 66 catches, 906 yards, 6 TDs
Nixon was relatively quiet after running past the CSU defense, but he was still an effective weapon against Nebraska. His speed on fly routes, drag routes and motion sweeps will always draw the defense towards him and open up space elsewhere for his teammates. For someone as dangerous as him, he will always be valuable with or without the ball.
2018 stats: 7 catches, 55 yards, 1 TD
12-game pace: 42 catches, 330 yards, 6 TDs
We were expecting stardom from Winfree as he entered the season as the presumptive number one option, but it seems Shenault is too good not to see 15 touches per game. But Winfree is still an excellent receiver who has value beyond the box score as a terrific blocker and as someone who requires attention on every route. Even in the box score, he had a great catch on his touchdown against CSU and he made two difficult catches to get the Buffs moving late in that game. Watch for his stats to pick up as teams focus more on Shenault.
2018 stats: 9 catches, 55 yards, 2 TDs
12-game pace: 54 catches, 330 yards, 12 TDs
MacIntyre was out there making plays against Nebraska. His first touchdown was a challenging play where Montez rocketed it a bit behind him and J-Mac had to adjust for a flexible catch with a defender on him tight. His second score was the easiest of the day for CU, but even on an open catch in the flat, he still had to make the play. The final key play was something you wish didn’t have to happen. On 3rd-and-24, Montez’s pass to MacIntyre sailed high, but Nebraska’a safety came in with a hit to his head, a clear targeting violation. MacIntyre looked to be fine, luckily, and the play after that automatic first down was the game-winning score.
2018 stats: 18 carries, 128 yards, 1 TDs
12-game pace: 108 carries, 768, 6 TDs
McMillian destroyed the Rams with his vision and burst, but he was mostly quiet against the Nubs. But that’s not on McMillian as much as it is on an offensive line that generated zero push at the line of scrimmage. The transfer from Virginia Tech did have some quality runs in the fourth quarter that helped the Buffs move into scoring position.
2018 stats: 24 carries, 84 yards, 0 TDs
12-game pace: 144 carries, 504 yards, 0 TDs
Evans was also quiet against Nebraska for the same reasons, but he didn’t have any impressive runs to prop up his numbers. But with him, we should look more at his performance against CSU. We didn’t really know what to expect from him this season, but he showed against the Rams that he has great vision and patience, plus enough acceleration to gash the defense should the line hold.
2018 stats: 31 tackles (4 TFL), 2 interceptions, 1 forced fumble
12-game pace: 186 (24 TFL), 12 interceptions, 6 forced fumbles
Landman proved during pre-season practices that he’s too good to keep off the field. The Buffs didn’t need anyone at inside linebacker with seniors Rick Gamboa and Drew Lewis entrenched as starters, but Landman was so good that they had to move Lewis to the outside. Now as a starter, Landman has been CU’s best defender. He flies to the ball and tackles with rare ferocity. Whenever CU has needed a stop, it has been Landman rocketing in to make the play. He’s also made two interceptions, which shows that Landman may not have any weakness.