The 2017 college football season is nearly upon on, and while most of you are staring at the sun, we here at Ralphie Report are staring at spreadsheets. Football isn’t about accumulating stats, it’s about wins. But as a recovering NCAA Football 14 addict — I have an active 10-season winning streak with Jon Embree as my coach — I live to see the numbers pile up as evidence of dominant play. The 2017 Buffaloes may have one of the best offenses in program history, so there’s a lot to be excited and a lot of numbers to go around.
First, we start off with quarterback Steven Montez. Last year, Montez was electric in his three starts and showed the promise to be an elite QB. If he finds consistency, the Buffs offense could be impossible to defend. The CU defense will likely take a significant step back from last year’s excellence, so expect the Buffs to be in quite a few high-scoring shootouts. If that’s the case, and if Montez is the player he has the potential to be, expect the sophomore to rack up some crazy stats. Montez will have 3,686 passing yards, 27 passing TDs, 11 interceptions, 533 rushing yards and 4 rushing TDs.
If the CU passing attack is as good as we think it will, the opposing defense will open up and Phillip Lindsay will have endless amount of space to go to work. The senior tailback is a dynamo with the ball as he has a lethal combination of elusiveness, power and football IQ. Lindsay will have 1,452 rushing yards, 19 rushing touchdowns, 574 receiving yards and 2 receiving TDs. Those 2,025 yards from scrimmage will break Rodney Stewart’s record for total yards (5,139) and those 19 rushing TDs will put him in a tie with Eric Bienemy for most career rushing TDs (41).
Perhaps the biggest reason why Montez will have a breakout season is that the CU receiving corps might be the best unit in the entire nation. Shay Fields is the #1 guy and he’ll make countless big plays with Montez’s rocket arm. Fields will get 69 catches for 1,125 yards and 10 TDs (which will give him a CU-record 27 TDs). With Fields as the playmaker, Devin Ross will rack up numbers in the intermediate passing game. Ross will have 82 catches for 920 yards and 7 TDs. Bryce Bobo would be the #1 option in most offenses, but with CU as loaded as they are, he’ll have to settle for being an elite third option. Bobo will have 57 catches, 747 yards and 4 TDs. Juwann Winfree is the one of the most physically imposing WRs in the Pac-12 and he’s the most overqualified #4 receiver in the country. Winfree should grab 43 catches for 571 yards and 6 TDs (expect those numbers to double next season). Jay MacIntyre is way too good to be a fifth option, but that’s where we’re at with this ridiculous depth. J-Mac will have 30 catches, 339 yards and 1 TD, plus a passing TD on a trick play because why not. Kabion Ento (Sr.) and Laviska Shenault (Fr.) will hopefully redshirt. K.D. Nixon (Fr.) and Johnny Huntley (So.) could also redshirt, but they will likely make their names on special teams.
Over on defense, the Buffs aren’t going to be as good as they were last year, but if they develop a few breakout players, they could be decent. The Buffs lost all three starters on the defensive line, but Javier Edwards, Timothy Coleman, Frank Umu and Leo Jackson could put together a solid group. The d-line will combine for 132 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss, 12 sacks and 2 forced fumbles, plus “Big Sexy” Edwards will have an interception.
The linebacking corps will be led by Derek McCartney at outside linebacker (77 tackles, 15.5 for loss, 3 pass breakups, 9 sacks and 3 forced fumbles), Ryan Moeller at buff-backer (82 tackles, 6 for loss, 8 breakups, 1 sack and 1 interception) and Rick Gamboa at inside linebacker (106 tackles, 5.5 for loss, 4 breakups, and 1 interception). The Buffs will also have Drew Lewis on the inside (65 tackles, 4 for loss, 3 sacks and 1 interception) and Terran Hasselbach on the outside (33 tackles, 5 for loss, 4.5 sacks and 1 forced fumble).
The secondary could be the Buffs’ saving grace. Isaiah Oliver is primed for a breakout, so expect something like 44 tackles, 12 breakups and 4 interceptions. Kevin George or Trey Udoffia will likely start opposite him, and whichever starts should get 31 tackles, 6 breakups and 2 interceptions. Afolabi Laguda will be the enforcer at safety and he’s in line for some great numbers, something like 81 tackles, 2 for loss, 5 breakups and 1 interception. Nick Fisher will be a solid safety and should have 47 tackles, 3 for loss, 1 sack and 3 breakups.
I would project the kicking game, but I want to keep it positive.