Finally, the offseason is over. The Colorado Buffaloes begin the 2019 season on Friday when they take on the Colorado State Rams (8:00 p.m., ESPN). Before we discuss the Rocky Mountain Showdown, we should take a step back and discuss the season as a whole.
Do you think the Buffs make a bowl game?
Jack: There is a very possible path to a bowl game, but CU will have to win on the road for that to happen. I’m not betting on that.
Anthony Kazmierczak: No, but I hope I'm wrong. The Buffs schedule is just too tough this year, so unfortunately I believe another 5-7 season lies ahead.
Jon Woods: The possibility is there that they sneak in with six wins but four or five seems more likely.
Sam Metivier: I so badly want 6 wins so that Laviska Shenault gets to a bowl game, but I don’t know how likely it is. That schedule is difficult.
What is the most important game of the season?
Jack: I have looked at that Arizona State game on the road for a long, long time. The Buffs should be 2-1 at worst going into conference play. Heading into a bye, playing a team of similar talent level, can Mel Tucker win in the Pac-12 on the road? Win that game, you’re looking at 3-1 (or 4-0, please God), and a great start at conference play. Lose that game, you’re 2-2, heading into even tougher waters, and I don’t know if I can find four more wins on the schedule.
Anthony: Honestly, it’s Colorado State. Forget Nebraska or looking ahead to Pac-12 play, the Buffs have lost seven straight games. A win in the season-opener could do wonders for the team’s morale. Plus, it’s important for the Mel Tucker era to get off to a good start.
Jon: After seeing what happened in week zero it just might be Arizona. The Buffaloes home schedule this year has to be one of the toughest they’ve ever had (assuming USC doesn’t implode) and it’s very, very easy to see them not winning any conference home games if they can’t beat an Arizona team that’s going to have one of the better offenses Colorado will play this year.
Sam: Jack has a point about Arizona State being the most winnable road game, and if CU is 3-1 or 4-0 after that, a bowl game becomes possible. I think ASU is the most important in terms of scheduling, but Nebraska is still the most important culturally and historically, for obvious reasons. The Nubs may turn Folsom red, but the ultimate retort would be to sweep the home-and-home.
If you could attend any one game during the season, which would it be? (Besides Nebraska)
Jack: I’ll do the one road game I’m going to, which is the game @ UCLA. It should be another close game in an empty, iconic venue.
Anthony: Arizona. I sat next to Sam in the press box in 2017 when Khalil Tate set an FBS record for a quarterback with 327 rushing yards against the Buffaloes. Tate and the Wildcats return to Boulder on October 5th and hopefully the Buffs defense can shut him down this year.
Jon: Stanford. Of all the Pac-12 teams that come to Boulder this season this one seems like it has the best possibility for an upset of a ranked team. The Buffaloes could match up well with the Cardinal and it would be nice to take them down at home.
Sam: USC. The Trojans look weak (as do the Buffs, but whatever), so this looks like the best chance to get that first win over them. I’m hoping it’s a night game with blackout uniforms, although that hasn’t helped CU beat them in the past.
What’s your biggest question about the team overall?
Jack: Can we cover anyone? Depth in the secondary is scary. There are not a lot of proven options back there. If Mel Tucker can coach them up and the talent shows through, the defense could surprise some people.
Anthony: I know it’s only year one, but my answer is Mel Tucker. The pedigree is there and I love his attitude thus far. If the players buy in and play to their potential, a bowl game, while a stretch, is not out of the question.
Jon: Offensive line. We’ve heard over and over again over the last decade that “this” season was the one where the line was finally going to take that big step forward. If the line can truly gel this year and give Montez time to go through his reads and open holes for the Buffaloes young running backs then all of a sudden the outlook for the season looks significantly brighter.
Sam: Defensive depth. Going over the roster, only four defenders are legitimately good. The other 10 or so rotation players are very much unproven. Even more precarious is that beyond the main rotation, there’s a deep cavern where depth should be. There are five scholarship players on the defense line. In the secondary, we’re an injury away from having a Jason Espinoza situation.
Give me one player who needs to break out for the Buffs to reach their potential
Jack: If Terrance Lang can be the terror that he looks like at defensive end, CU suddenly has the best duo on the defensive line in the Pac-12. A shortened play clock makes defense a whole lot easier.
Anthony: K.D. Nixon. With most opponents likely focusing in on his DeSoto H.S. (Tex.) teammate LaViska Shenault, Nixon will have a chance to really breakout his junior season. I wouldn't be surprised to see him finish with 80+ receptions for 800+ yards in 2019.
Jon: Agree with Anthony in saying K.D. Nixon. Giving the offense a true second weapon would create an unsolvable problem for defenses with Laviska on the other side.
Sam: Steven Montez. For the third year in a row, it seems that this offense could be outstanding if he takes the next step. I don’t think that step is going to happen — we would’ve seen it last year — but an improved Montez would mean so much.
Lastly, who is one player casual fans don’t really know about, but should? (Like Viska coming into 2018)
Jack: Carson Wells is about ready to break out. As a full time starter at outside linebacker, he should have plenty of chances to run his sack numbers. He is a freak athlete and a complete package on the edge.
Anthony: Jaren Mangham. Maybe this is a stretch seeing as how he was one of the top recruits from the 2019 class and wowed in the spring game. Per the latest depth chart, sophomore Alex Fontenot will get the nod at tailback to start the season, but the true freshman Mangham will be a household name in Boulder by the end of the season.
Jon: Mangham, but not for the reasons that Anthony lists above. Mangham was the inaugural Ham Champion and if you’re not aware what on earth that is, well educate yourself immediately.
Sam: Jalen Harris. The transfer from Auburn isn’t going to break out like Viska, because no one is, but he’s going to be an NFL talent playing a position that will be emphasized in Jay Johnson’s offense. If the run game gets going, thank the tight ends for clearing away linebackers. If the passing game is balanced, watch for Harris to body people on underneath routes.