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A statistical look at how bad it is for the Colorado Buffaloes

Colorado might be the worst team in college football

Washington v Colorado Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

Folks, the Buffs are bad. Really bad. Like, maybe the worst team in college football bad.

If you watched the Colorado Buffaloes in either of their three non-conference games, you should consider doing more fall activities like pumpkin patching or not watching CU play football. If you didn’t watch, I will first present some stats to demonstrate how bad this team is.

The Buffs have been outscored 128-30. It’s the first time in the 132 years of Colorado football that they have opened the season with three straight 25+ point losses. (UCLA opened as 21-point favorites for Saturday and I would probably wager on the Bruins.)

In these blowout losses, the Buffs have been outgained 1,346 to 736. It would probably look worse without a punt return TD by TCU, three fumbles by Air Force (who, by the way, scored 14 points on a not good Wyoming team), and Minnesota putting in the second and third stringers.

The Buffs have allowed 348 rushing yards per game, dead last in the country and 99 yards more than second worst Louisiana Tech. To put it differently, CU opponents have rushed 152 times for 1,044 yards (6.9 yards per carry) and 13 touchdowns. That’s a more efficient version of Chris Brown’s sophomore year — 190 attempts, 946 yards (5.0 ypc) and 16 TDs — and there’s a good chance we will be up to Brown’s junior year stats in a couple weeks.

The CU pass defense has looked alright, but that’s mostly because (1) TCU’s starting QB got injured and his backup threw three passes in the second half, (2) Air Force doesn’t throw, and (3) Minnesota only attempted six passes before the two-minute drill, then in the second half were more interested in going home than putting up yards through the air.

If you think the defense is bad, well, it is. Now let’s do some offensive stats and work our way towards the abyss.

Colorado quarterbacks JT Shrout and Brendon Lewis have completed 47% of their passes for 324 yards for two touchdowns and an interception, plus two fumbled snaps. They are averaging 4.1 yards per attempt, which is in the very bottom of the national leaderboards alongside Joey Yellen of Hawaii and Diego Pavia of New Mexico State (Hawaii vs NMSU this weekend!). Their sub-90 QB ratings are worse than Nick Hirschman’s when he threw 2 TDs and 7 picks for the 2012 Buffs.

After the flashes he showed in the home opener, Shrout has been dreadful. He has no pocket presence, struggles to process the opposing defense and his accuracy has been erratic at best. I’m still confused why he warmed up without gloves before the Air Force game, fumbled the second snap of the game, then put on gloves and proceeded to complete 5 of 21 passes. Maybe it didn’t matter because he was just as bad against Minnesota.

For Lewis, it looks a lot like the early 2021 offense. He has limited arm strength, is mostly told to hand the ball off or run read options, and his passes are usually simple play designs meant to cut the field in half. But the issue is that this style of play only works if the team can run the ball and Lewis can get into a rhythm, neither of which are happening aside from the occasional Deion Smith 8-yard gain. The result is that Lewis looks like he’s not ready for college football, or worse, the coaches are putting him in a position to fail.

By instituting a dual-QB system, Karl Dorrell is not only running two different offensive systems, but he’s breaking up the QBs’ rhythm to ensure they’re equally impotent. It doesn’t seem like he has a plan, probably because he doesn’t have one. And Mike Sanford, who has made every offense he has been a part of worse than it was before he got there, has done exactly that despite taking an offense that ranked 129th of 130 teams in total yards per game. Let me repeat that: Colorado had the second worst offense in college football and somehow got worse.

(It turns out losing all the best players from a 4-8 team does not bode well for the future.)

Let’s take a peak at those 2012 Buffs who are widely considered the worst CU team of the last 60 years, if not ever. Their first three games of the year were a close loss to a garbage Colorado State team, a last second field goal to FCS Sacramento State (the 2022 Rams are also a dumpster fire and play the Hornets on Saturday), and then a not nice 69-14 loss to a Fresno State team starring Derek Carr and Davante Adams.

Those Buffs were outscored by 62 points and outgained by 560 yards. These 2022 Buffs have been outscored by 98 points and outgained by 610 yards.

If you remember the 2012 team, you could offer optimism that their fourth game of the season was a road win against Washington State, thanks to a game-winning touchdown run by Jordan Webb. But after that, the wheels fell off completely and they were outscored 397-120 in their final 8 games. (35 of CU’s points were in the season finale against a bad Utah team.) The team MVP was defensive end Will Pericak, the offensive MVP was fullback-turned-halfback Christian Powell, and the shining bright spot was Nelson Spruce emerging as a true freshman.

The best thing about 2012 was that they were so bad that AD Mike Bohn had no choice but to fire Jon Embree. This time around, there doesn’t seem to be an easy out. Per reports by Brian Howell, the buyout for Karl Dorrell is around $8.7 million, since his 5-year deal is all but guaranteed through the 2024 season. That’s a lot for a program that could barely afford to fire Mike MacIntyre, had to cheap out on assistant coaches (hello, Mitch Rodrigue) and is now losing players partly due to NIL concerns. They probably can’t afford to fire him, not now and maybe not at all.

Dorrell’s contract is a nightmare for the school, thanks to AD Rick George feeling hurt by Mel Tucker leaving for Michigan State. Jack Carlough of BuffaloesWire tweeted that George prioritized language that would penalize Dorrell for leaving for another program, rather than negotiate a more program-friendly buyout clause. It’s also worth reiterating that, more or less, George raised a bunch of money to match Tucker’s Michigan State offer, then offered close to the same money for Dorrell, who had virtually zero interest as a head coach.

(It cannot be forgotten that one of the reasons CU wanted Dorrell was that he had a house in Louisville and hoped to retire in Boulder. This also screams emotional decision making, as the CU administration was more concerned about being left for a bigger program than about having a good football team. Coaches are supposed to be desired by bigger schools!)

George released a statement on Monday morning expressing disappointment in the football team’s performance while also urging fans to be patient with Dorrell. He did well during the Covid-shortened season, but as Eric Christensen pointed out, that was with Tucker’s recruits and he had the least amount of time with the players. Since then, the team has gotten progressively worse, has lost more key players than gained, and recruiting into this mess will be a challenge to say the least.

Colorado can’t afford to fire Dorrell, they can’t afford to not fire him, and they should probably question the athletic director making these deals. But on the bright side, Charlie Offerdahl has some promise.