The Colorado Buffaloes open their 2019 season next Friday against the Colorado State Rams. Apropos of the season being so close [takes deep breathe], it would be helpful to break down the Buffs’ entire schedule. Each game will include CU’s win probability, according to ESPN’s wonky Football Power Index (FPI), as well as my own thoughts on what the game might look like.
Aug 30 — Colorado State Rams (Mile High Stadium)
Win probability: 75.7%
Colorado State is CU’s easiest opponent on the schedule and it’s not particularly close. We saw last season that the Rams just don’t have the speed or physicality to cope with the Buffs. Laviska Shenault, Jr. should run wild again, as should whoever starts at running back. Offensively, CSU has lost a bit of talent from 2018, so this could get ugly [knocks on wood].
Prediction: Colorado 41 (1-0), Colorado State 17
Sept. 7 — #24 Nebraska Cornhuskers
Win probably: 35.7%
Almost immediately, FPI reveals itself as a fraud. The numbers should be able to see past narratives that have over-hyped a team that finished 4-8 with wins over Minnesota, Bethune-Cookman (FCS), Illinois and Michigan State. Even worse with FPI is that the Buffs weren’t even good and they beat the Nubs in Lincoln. Colorado should be better, have scouting reports on Adrian Martinez (he surprised CU in his first career start) and the game is in Boulder.
Prediction: Colorado 34 (2-0), Nebraska 27
Sept. 14 — Air Force Falcons
Win probably: 59.4%
I’m more sketched out by this game than most Buffs fan. This has the makings of a trap game: it follows a major rivalry game, precedes the Pac-12 opener, and Air Force is well coached with a tricky offense that’s difficult to figure out. Mel Tucker is going to have his team focused to take care of business in Week 3.
Prediction: Colorado 28 (3-0), Air Force 23
Sept. 21 — @ Arizona State Sun Devils
Win probably: 22.5%
Another game that is probably more manageable for Colorado than FPI would suggest. The star of the Devils is running back Eno Benjamin. He ran all over the Buffs in the first half of their game in 2018, but CU adjusted by loading up in the box and forcing Manny Wilkins to beat them (he did not, although it didn’t help that N’Keal Harry was injured on a sketchy play). ASU should be better in 2019, even without Harry, but they are starting a true freshman QB who could be a work in progress.
Prediction: Arizona State 24, Colorado 20 (3-1)
Oct. 5 — Arizona Wildcats
Win probably: 52.6%
I swear, Mel Tucker better have an answer for Khalil Tate, because Mike MacIntyre clearly did not. Arizona isn’t good and it’s a home game after a bye week, so this should be fairly simple if Tate is mitigated.
Prediction: Colorado 38 (4-1), Arizona 27
Oct. 11 — @ #11 Oregon Ducks
Win probably: 8.2%
Obviously, an away game at the 11th ranked team in the nation is usually a sure loss. However, Oregon feels overrated — preseason rankings are meaningless, as are my insights — and this feels like a game where CU could maybe contend for an upset. Probably not, but maybe. Steven Montez would have to show out again.
Prediction: Oregon 34, Colorado 20 (4-2)
Oct. 19 — @ Washington State Cougars
Win probably: 20.5%
There’s no way CU is ever going to win a game in Pullman. I can just feel it in my bones.
Prediction: Washington State 30, Colorado 17 (4-3)
Oct. 25 — USC Trojans
Win probably: 31.3%
This needs to be the year that Colorado finally beats USC. This is the worst USC team since, last year? Hm. They have freaks at receiver and CU is unproven in the secondary, so really anything could happen. I’m also afraid of Stephen Carr running around CU like Ronald Jones did. At the same time, JT Daniels is ass until proven otherwise, and their defense looks somewhat soft.
Prediction: Colorado 27 (5-3), USC 24
Nov. 2 — @ UCLA Bruins
Win probably: 14.2%
There’s no way UCLA is this good, right? They were the second worst team in the Pac-12 in 2018 (maybe third worst, depending how you judged CU’s collapse). FPI projects UCLA to be road favorites against both Wazzu and Stanford, which is wack. Chip Kelly didn’t exactly bring in a bunch of five-stars, so I’m guessing UCLA will be closer to the 2018 version of themselves than FPI thinks. If CU steals any away game, it might be this one, unless it’s Arizona State.
Prediction: Colorado 38 (6-3), UCLA 31
Nov. 9 — #25 Stanford Cardinal
Win probably: 34.7%
Last year Stanford had a miserable rushing attack despite having Bryce Love, multiple top-tier lineman and two elite tight ends. Stanford will probably reverse back to their usual selves and run over some poor souls. Colorado doesn’t have the strongest d-line — although it could improve — so this is probably a home loss.
Prediction: Stanford 30, Colorado 21
Nov. 23 — #13 Washington Huskies
Win probably: 23.1%
Washington is loaded up once again. Jake Browning is gone, but moving on to Jacob Eason, a former starter at Georgia, is an upgrade. Maybe losing Byron Murphy, Taylor Rapp and Ben Burr-Kiven hurts their defense, but they have enough talent and size to cause CU problems. The Buffs would have to pull off a legit home upset that do happen — remember that Dan Hawkins beat #3 Oklahoma — but it’s not likely.
Prediction: Washington 26, Colorado 23 (6-5)
Nov. 30 — @ #14 Utah Utes
Win probably: 15.3%
Utah is being hyped as a dark horse Playoff contender, which seems crazy. They’re quite deep, have a scary defensive line, have a superb QB-RB combo in Tyler Huntley and Zack Moss, and even a good receiver in Britain Covey. Their most difficult games are at USC and at Washington, so 12-0 or 11-1 is surprisingly possible for them. Colorado probably won’t beat them on the road, but it’s going to be hard fought with a possibility of an upset bid.
Prediction: Utah 24, Colorado 16 (6-6)
I’m predicting that CU will go 6-6 and make the Cheez-It Bowl (hell yes). The ceiling is probably 8-4 and the floor is pretty low at 3-9 or so (tough schedule). Do keep in mind that compared to others, I’m simultaneously optimistic about CU’s defense and pessimistic about the offense. Also keep in mind that I’m a basketball writer and you should not take football opinions from me.