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Colorado got way better, does anyone care?

The Buffaloes made a ton of progress.

Syndication: Arizona Republic Joe Rondone/The Republic / USA TODAY NETWORK

I want to present a chart to you. According the NCAA statistics, here are the leaders in FBS scoring margin improvement year-over-year. Now, for teams like Jacksonville State and Sam Houston State, the scoring margin improvement is a bit skewed, as they each only played one FBS team in 2022. But I think this does give a pretty good indication of improvement year-over-year:

Scoring Margin 2022 vs 2023 (bad on mobile)

Rank Team 2023 Last 3 Last 1 Home Away 2022 Scoring Margin Improvement
Rank Team 2023 Last 3 Last 1 Home Away 2022 Scoring Margin Improvement
37 Jksnville St 6.2 8.7 -3 9.6 3.3 -37 43.2
97 Sam Hous St -7 4.3 3 -3.3 -9.1 -31 24
94 Colorado -6.7 -17 -6 1.7 -15 -29.1 22.4
7 S Methodist 20.1 24.3 45 34 8.5 1.3 18.8
6 Oklahoma 20.9 23.3 24 30.8 11 2.8 18.1
18 Arizona 11.5 21 36 11.6 11.5 -6.5 18
2 Oregon 25.3 23 24 28.7 21.2 7.7 17.6
33 Miami 7.2 3.7 25 8.5 5.6 -8.6 15.8
74 Rutgers -2.7 -20.3 -18 5.2 -12.2 -18.3 15.6
10 Liberty 18.4 22 14 16.6 21 3.1 15.3
68 Northwestern -1.5 8 2 4 -6 -15.3 13.8
38 N Mex State 6.2 11 3 5.8 6.4 -7.2 13.4
26 UNLV 8.1 6 -6 8.6 7.7 -5.2 13.3
19 Texas A&M 11.5 8.7 -12 25.2 -5 -1.1 12.6
66 Rice -0.8 1.3 3 -0.3 -1.4 -13.2 12.4
20 Missouri 10.5 21.7 34 8.3 13.2 -1.8 12.3
48 VA Tech 4.3 19 38 11.2 -2.5 -8 12.3
26 Miami (OH) 8.1 11.3 2 13.8 4.9 -4 12.1
72 GA Tech -2.5 -6.7 -8 -4.2 -1 -13.9 11.4
46 N Illinois 4.7 10.3 10 6 3.7 -6.6 11.3
9 Notre Dame 19.7 21 33 27.6 13.2 8.8 10.9
61 Bowling Grn 1 17.7 24 -0.5 1.9 -9.7 10.7
87 S Florida -5.7 3.3 34 -1 -9.7 -16.4 10.7
57 Auburn 2.9 4.7 -3 3.5 2.2 -7.5 10.4
85 Boston Col -5.2 -19.7 -25 -7.7 -2.2 -15.6 10.4
40 Kansas 5.7 8.7 33 8.2 2.8 -3.7 9.4
62 W Virginia 0.9 -5 3 11 -7.5 -7.8 8.7
118 Florida Intl -13 -23.7 -13 -15.2 -11.2 -20.4 7.4
69 Texas St -1.5 -15.3 8 4.6 -6.7 -8.8 7.3
65 Nebraska -0.3 -4.3 -3 2.7 -4.4 -7.4 7.1
28 App State 8 19.7 28 14.4 2.7 1 7
58 Wyoming 2.2 16.3 36 10.2 -7.4 -4.8 7
87 Colorado St -5.7 3.3 -3 -5.8 -5.7 -12.2 6.5
8 Florida St 19.9 11 9 27.6 13.5 13.4 6.5
21 Toledo 10 14 15 13.6 7 3.8 6.2
54 Iowa St 3.1 9.7 7 -0.8 6.3 -3 6.1
90 Arkansas St -5.9 8.3 -14 5.8 -15.7 -12 6.1
3 Penn St 23 18 42 23 23 17.5 5.5
14 LSU 14.7 23.7 12 27.7 -0.8 9.2 5.5
16 Kansas St 14.1 10.3 -7 24.7 1.4 8.6 5.5
116 New Mexico -12.7 -7.7 -3 -12.4 -13 -17.8 5.1
11 Texas 17.8 21 50 26 9.7 12.8 5
17 Troy 12.5 18.7 18 12 13 7.5 5
128 U Mass -16.9 -10 -13 -14 -19.3 -21.8 4.9
60 Oklahoma St 1.8 -7.7 6 5 -2 -2.8 4.6
54 Kentucky 3.1 -8 7 5 0.8 -1.3 4.4
115 Hawaii -12.7 -5.3 3 -5.8 -19.5 -17 4.3
41 N Carolina 5.6 -9.3 -19 10.8 -0.6 1.5 4.1
12 Washington 15 4 3 16.9 12.4 11.2 3.8
72 California -2.5 13.7 26 -2.2 -2.7 -6.2 3.7
31 Mississippi 7.6 2.3 10 16.5 -3 3.9 3.7
36 Ohio 6.6 11.7 11 6.2 7 3.2 3.4
78 Old Dominion -3.7 -8 1 1.6 -8.2 -7.1 3.4
82 Utah St -4.3 -5 3 -2 -6.2 -7.3 3
1 Michigan 27.3 7.3 6 26.1 29 24.4 2.9
12 James Mad 15 25.7 42 14.8 15.2 12.1 2.9
29 Memphis 7.8 8.7 24 0.4 14 5.2 2.6
51 NC State 3.8 15.3 19 3.8 3.8 1.3 2.5
111 LA Tech -10.9 -26.7 -39 -4.6 -16.2 -12.9 2
70 GA Southern -1.6 -12 -28 9.6 -11 -3.2 1.6
71 Coastal Car -1.7 -13.7 -42 -1 -2.3 -3.3 1.6
39 Iowa 5.8 9 3 11.3 -1.8 4.4 1.4
114 Indiana -11.5 -3.3 -4 -6.4 -15.8 -12.8 1.3
22 Louisville 9.1 2.3 -7 15.8 1 7.8 1.3
25 S Alabama 8.2 9 -8 14 3.3 7.3 0.9
121 Charlotte -14 -20.3 -34 -15.8 -12.5 -14.8 0.8
50 Wisconsin 3.9 2.3 14 3.3 4.8 3.4 0.5
119 Akron -13.1 -11 -11 -12.8 -13.3 -13.5 0.4
58 Louisiana 2.2 7 31 7.2 -2 2.2 0
76 Florida -2.9 -9.3 -9 8 -12 -2.2 -0.7
22 Oregon St 9.1 6.3 -24 17.2 2.3 9.9 -0.8
49 Maryland 4 4.7 18 4.5 3.4 5 -1
93 Purdue -6.5 5 4 -3.7 -10.4 -5.2 -1.3
102 Central Mich -8.9 -13 -15 0.3 -14.1 -7.5 -1.4
109 W Michigan -10.5 -12.7 -24 -2.3 -15.1 -8.9 -1.6
47 UCF 4.6 18.3 14 18.4 -6.8 6.4 -1.8
5 Ohio St 21.3 21 -6 30 14 23.2 -1.9
53 San Jose St 3.2 13.7 6 1.2 4.8 5.5 -2.3
34 UTSA 7 11.7 -13 13.7 0.3 9.5 -2.5
64 Wash State 0 12 -3 2.6 -2.2 2.8 -2.8
74 S Carolina -2.7 11.7 -9 8.3 -16 0.3 -3
116 Virginia -12.7 -14 -38 -13.4 -12.2 -9.7 -3
29 Tulane 7.8 10.3 13 6.2 9.8 10.8 -3
124 Nevada -15.1 -21 -36 -12.8 -17 -11.9 -3.2
107 Ball St -10.2 10.7 -2 -1.6 -17.3 -6.8 -3.4
130 Stanford -18 -30 -33 -21 -14.4 -14.6 -3.4
45 Boise St 5.2 23.7 8 13.4 -1.7 9 -3.8
91 Middle Tenn -6.1 11.7 -3 4.6 -15 -2.3 -3.8
43 Duke 5.5 2 11 12.2 -2.4 9.3 -3.8
81 North Texas -4.1 -4.7 3 -2.8 -5.2 -0.2 -3.9
4 Georgia 22.3 23.7 8 27 16.6 26.4 -4.1
80 Syracuse -4 3.3 4 6.8 -13 0.1 -4.1
129 Vanderbilt -17.6 -27 -24 -12 -22.3 -13.5 -4.1
43 Fresno St 5.5 -15.7 -15 13.4 -1 9.8 -4.3
52 UCLA 3.6 -6 -26 -0.4 7 7.9 -4.3
79 Fla Atlantic -3.9 -11.3 -3 -12.2 3 0.5 -4.4
132 UL Monroe -20.1 -31.3 -31 -17.2 -22.5 -15.7 -4.4
77 Texas Tech -3.6 -15.3 -50 0.8 -7.3 1.1 -4.7
122 Connecticut -14.3 -27 13 -11 -17 -9.5 -4.8
91 Georgia St -6.1 -23.7 -1 -7.8 -4.7 -1.2 -4.9
35 USC 6.9 -12.3 -18 14 -3 12.1 -5.2
98 Navy -7.5 -3.3 -45 2.6 -17.6 -2 -5.5
32 Air Force 7.4 -8.7 -8 15 3 13.1 -5.7
83 E Michigan -4.9 -3.3 13 1.8 -10.5 0.8 -5.7
41 Clemson 5.6 13.7 9 12 -2 11.5 -5.9
99 San Diego St -7.5 0.3 15 -3.3 -12.6 -1.6 -5.9
125 Arizona St -15.6 -20.7 -36 -17 -13.3 -9.2 -6.4
86 Arkansas -5.4 -16 -34 -6.2 -4.4 1.2 -6.6
63 TX Christian 0.6 -0.7 -24 11 -11.8 7.5 -6.9
15 Alabama 14.4 15 3 14 14.8 22 -7.6
110 TX El Paso -10.6 -8.7 -14 -14.8 -7.2 -2.6 -8
123 Tulsa -14.5 -2.3 2 -14.6 -14.5 -6.1 -8.4
101 Army -8.1 6.7 7 -5.5 -10.2 0.9 -9
87 Marshall -5.7 -3 14 4.2 -14 3.4 -9.1
96 Buffalo -6.8 -12 -13 -7.4 -6.3 2.5 -9.3
131 Temple -18.8 -12.7 -24 -18.5 -19.2 -9.5 -9.3
106 BYU -9.6 -15 -6 -0.8 -17 -0.2 -9.4
56 Utah 3 -8.3 6 11.5 -7.2 13.5 -10.5
100 Houston -7.8 -12.3 -14 -2.4 -15.4 3.9 -11.7
105 E Carolina -9.5 1 -2 -9.4 -9.7 2.6 -12.1
108 UAB -10.3 -6 -3 -2 -17.2 2.6 -12.9
24 Tennessee 8.8 -11 24 18.5 -2.8 21.8 -13
127 Michigan St -16.4 -24.7 -42 -20 -12 -3 -13.4
126 S Mississippi -16.1 -12 -18 -7.4 -23.3 -2.6 -13.5
67 W Kentucky -0.9 3 13 4.2 -5.2 13.2 -14.1
102 Miss State -8.9 -10 -10 -5.7 -14.5 5.2 -14.1
120 Baylor -13.3 -20.7 -3 -13 -13.8 0.8 -14.1
84 Illinois -4.9 -0.3 -2 -3.6 -6.8 9.8 -14.7
104 Wake Forest -9.4 -20.7 -4 -7.8 -10.7 5.6 -15
112 Cincinnati -11.3 -14.7 -33 -13.2 -9 4.9 -16.2
112 Pittsburgh -11.3 -6 -11 -3 -18.2 5.8 -17.1
95 Minnesota -6.8 -22.3 -14 -1.3 -14.4 11.3 -18.1
133 Kent St -24.3 -23.7 -10 -19.5 -27 -5.5 -18.8

You’ll notice that the top two teams on the list are the teams that I mentioned, JSU (Rich Rod still has it) and SHSU (defense, baby). They only played one FBS game last, so their improvement is a little skewed, but make no mistake, those teams got way better this year. However, the next team on the list played 12 FBS teams in both years. And still got 22.4 points better year-over-year. That’s right, it’s your Colorado Buffaloes.

I hope this puts into perspective just how disgustingly bad CU was at points last year. The Buffs’ scoring margin was still -6.7 in 2023, but that is a staggering improvement over the AVERAGE SCORING MARGIN of -29.1 last year. What a gigantic hole to crawl out of. It’s not like this year’s schedule was any easier compared to last year. Sure, TCU took a step back, but there were no cakewalks. You can argue there should have been (Stanford and CSU), but CU played no incompetent teams this year. There were no 2022 Colorado’s on the schedule.

There’s an easy reason why this isn’t discussed more in conversations about the Buffaloes after the season. The Buffs went 1-8 down the stretch in conference play, which is an obvious loss of momentum. They finished 4-8, which was above the expected win total set by Vegas but below many people’s expectations after a 3-0 start, and they got decidedly destroyed by Oregon and Washington State this year. The disappointing end, combined with the weight of unfathomable hype and publicity at the beginning of the year, shifted the tone of the conversation. It became more about “what went wrong?” versus “this team is miles better than last year’s team”.

The other reason I don’t think it’s talked about much is because some of it was partially expected. When you make a splash like Deion Sanders did in December 2022, people expect there to be some large ripples. Only 10 players remain from the team that didn’t win in 2022. Turning over that much of the roster, isn’t massive change EXPECTED?

Well, I am here to say that line of thinking is pure garbage. Nothing can be expected with wholesale change because it has occurred only in extreme cases. I would say that the best comparison to Deion Sanders’ change is Johnny Majors at Pitt in the 70s, and even he had the benefit of not working with scholarship limits. Change like we saw is unheard of in the modern era, so why were some acting like the outcome is right within the lines of normalcy? There was no guarantee any of this would work. Now, Coach Prime, you expect recruiting to be better than it was before. And my God, it was and is true.

500 words in, let me FINALLY get to what I have to say. The University of Colorado got better, faster, than every other P5 team in the country in 2023. The University of Colorado got better, faster, than almost every other team in the country in 2023. It seems that the 4-8 record is fooling some people, but this schedule for the Buffs was BRUTAL. A 5-7 CSU team was arguably the worst team on the schedule, and they were KEYED up for that game (and also happened to injure Travis Hunter in that game). The easiest conference game? A slugfest with similarly rebuilding Arizona State on the road. The next easiest (and easily the worst game CU played this year, in my opinion) was a Stanford matchup on Friday night on a short week in which everything that can go wrong, did go wrong. That game started the Sean Lewis demotion train. After that, this is the conference schedule - @ Oregon, USC @ Home, @ UCLA, OSU @ Home, Arizona @ Home, @ WSU, @ Utah. That is a murderer’s row of opponents for anyone, let alone a brand new team digging out of a massive talent hole. Losing those seven, while disappointing, is not unheard of or even unexpected.

Colorado was a team carried by its stars last year. Shedeur Sanders and Travis Hunter were head and shoulders better than everyone else on the team, and pretty much everyone else on everyone else’s team. It’s hard to build out everything all at once, though they did try. CU did look like a serious Power 5 football team last year. They lined up (mostly 11-on-11, though that was an issue at times), moved when the ball was snapped and didn’t look terrible most of the time. That is a huge improvement. There were players that were average to above-average in every position group this year for the Buffs. The massive improvement reflects that change. Colorado became a serious football team overnight, one that every other team wants to beat so badly because of how loud they are. I wouldn’t have it any other way