Colorado Buffaloes head coach Mike MacIntyre stood in front of the faithful alumni at the homecoming parade Friday night and turned his yearly address to the crowd into an impromptu Joe Namath promise. When talking about the game with the Arizona Wildcats he said, "I guarantee you we're going to win tomorrow night." The brazen statement has left doubt on the table and begs for more questions. What was he thinking? Why would a coach who only has one conference win in the past two and half years say that out loud? What does he know that the rest of us don't?
The timing of the guarantee is very curious. Two straight losses to the Oregon Ducks and Arizona State Sun Devils has Buffs fans glancing at the rest of the schedule trying find a win. It's defeating hanging your hat on losses week after week, especially in a top-tier conference and Arizona is no cake-walk game. What MacIntyre said was motivating and should give the Buffs players confidence that their coach believes they can "Fly the W" against a team that played for a Pac-12 championship last season. Let's say hypothetically that MacIntyre's prediction is spot on and the Buffs get their first signature conference win in seven years. The critics would give him a little more cushion and his seat would cool off a bit; but what if he's wrong? Could we be seeing the start of the demise of the Coach Mac era in Boulder?
People who don't understand what it takes to rebuild a football program are already grumbling to athletic director Rick George for MacIntyre's job. It doesn't make sense why Mac would hand his defectors the keys to the truck. In a different season or set of circumstances, I would agree with Coach Mac's guaranteed assessment of the game against Arizona. This season, however, nothing has proven to be easy.
Sure, Arizona is one of the four Pac-12 foes that CU has beaten since joining the conference in 2011 and holding a 13-4 advantage all-time over the Wildcats is nice, but that's all history. Even though the Buffs have kept games close this season and not suffered a blowout (although ASU is pretty damn close), almost doesn't count in the win column. The losses have increased the pressure on MacIntyre and the team of mostly underclassmen to find the wins. Which has many people thinking - what does coach see about Arizona that the rest of us don't? Would it revolve around running back Nick Wilson being out with injury for the Wildcats? Or maybe Rich Rodriguez's scheme is breakable? Whatever the case may be, I hope MacIntyre is right.
The coach does have the program headed in the right direction and is highly regarded by supporters and media alike, but making guarantees this early could be disastrous for Mac's future. The CU faithful can't afford empty promises or hope that never materializes. That was the systematic problem that occurred with coaches the past ten years. Multiple errors have resulted in years of destruction of CU's football program, whether that was Jon Embree's lack of leadership and determination or Dan Hawkins desecration of most school traditions. The steady foundation that Coach MacIntyre and his staff have built could start to crumble if CU doesn't keep the game close tonight.
On paper the Wildcats have offensive firepower with quarterback Anu Solomon as a dual-threat option averaging 530.2 total yards per game. If Wilson is ruled out that would be a significant blow for Arizona's ground game that ranks fourth in the nation in yards per carry with a 6.54 average. MacIntyre has a coaching bloodline passed down from his father. He knows nothing is a given in the world of college football and something tells me he sees something that we've missed. Could it be that Mac knows Arizona has 12-10 (.545) record in Pac-12 play since 2013? Or could Arizona's stacked offense be an outlier against Colorado's stealth defense? Did he just lose himself in the heat of the moment or does he feel like he had to do something big and different. Most believe MacIntyre is going all-in without face cards and waiting to see who folds.
After tonight will we be praising him for his coaching ability and looking forward to Oregon State? Or will the calls to George's office become louder and louder? So many questions about the future of CU football could be answered after tonight. The observations will begin with Colorado and Arizona kicking off from Folsom at 7 p.m.