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Coach Prime’s bowl chances hanging by a thread

The Buffs have fallen to 4-4 after a 3-0 start.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 28 Colorado at UCLA Photo by Jevone Moore/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It’s looking more and more like this CU football season, one of the most anticipated in school history, peaked in early September.

It’s sort of wild to think about where everyone’s mind went when Trevor Woods intercepted CSU’s 2OT end zone heave. The Buffs were 3-0 and the Pac-12 title game was almost a certainty. Was Colorado going to have two guys in New York for the Heisman ceremony? Should 60 Minutes just set up shop in Boulder permanently?

Then October showed up, and now everything sucks: they’ve lost four of their last five, which is actually somewhat fortunate considering how they played in that Arizona State win. Shedeur Sanders looks exhausted, Travis Hunter constantly looks in pain, and their locker room got robbed. Thank god for the Nebraska game.

So here we are, starting the final month of the season, wondering if the Buffs are even going to make a bowl game. The good news is that there is some good news. The bad news is that there’s WAY more bad news. So what are the odds they end up playing some early-December bowl game that starts at 2PM and is in a warm city but still somehow 45 degrees and cloudy?

Let’s get the bad news out of the way first: the Buffs’ final month is brutal. That’s been life in the Pac-12 this season, but they have it especially tough over these next four weeks. Up next is their homecoming game against Oregon State, who I’m guessing they didn’t expect to be a Top 25 team when they scheduled them there. The Beavs have been better than the Buffs on both sides of the ball this season, and while they don’t do any one thing spectacularly, they’re quietly still very much in contention for a Pac-12 Championship appearance.

After that, Arizona – who just beat Oregon State last week – comes to Boulder for Senior Night, which could very well end up being a worse scheduling blunder than the Homecoming one. All three of the Wildcats’ losses have been by one score, and two of them came in overtime. They are a tough, well coached team, and will go all out for the win over CU.

The year then wraps up with two historically tough road games in Pullman and Salt Lake City, both against teams that have spent most of the year ranked. The “easiest” game left may be at Washington State, who are still 3-1 at home. (Their one home loss? Arizona!)

This is why the Stanford loss was so brutal: winning one of these games feels extremely possible, almost probable – the Buffs’ aren’t total bums, and can hang with the middle of the Pac-12 as long as Shedeur’s not running for his life every other snap. But they need two more wins, and even if you squint really hard, it’s difficult to see where that second one is. Where’s Cal when you need them?

The good news is, of course, that Shedeur and Hunter exist. Even if you can’t block for shit, and even if you have one of the worst defenses in college football, the two of them are transcendent enough to keep you in most games. And what’s even more encouraging is that the only truly daunting defense the Buffs have left on their schedule is Utah.

Arizona (5th in points allowed), Oregon State (6th) and Washington State (8th) aren’t world-beaters on that side of the ball, and even with some decent pass-defense numbers, should be plenty vulnerable against one of the most explosive passing offenses in the country. We’re not even going to get into how the Buffs could beat them running the ball – that ship sailed weeks ago.

Another silver/grayish lining is that neither Arizona nor Washington State – feasibly the two most-beatable opponents left – don’t have particularly strong pass-rushes; Arizona is tied for seventh (with the Buffs!) in sacks, and Washington State is 10th. At the risk of being overly-simplistic, keeping Sanders upright is how CU makes a bowl game. So the path is there: beat a sneaky-good Arizona team on senior night, and then go win one of the toughest Pac-12 road games on the schedule. Piece of cake.