This article brings an end to the season prediction slate of content that we have here at the Ralphie Report. There’s a wealth of content here to look at for next season, but this one should be the most fun because it’s not just me! To make sure my thoughts aren't completely insane after they come out of my echo chamber, I invited some Ralphie Reporters to tell me I’m crazy and knock down my optimism.
Question 1: Which offensive player (not named Sefo) will have the most impact on the season?
Jack Barsch: Well, you can’t pick the whole offensive line, so I’ll pick Alex Kelley, the 6th year senior, multi-year starter, and protection caller for the OL. He needs to have a good year, especially with the monsters that CU is facing on the defensive line. If Kelley can hold his ground, and even get a little push off the line, this offense will really be cruising. Shorter plays mean more plays, and Kelley needs to be on his game for all of them for this offense to hum all year.
Ted Chalfen: Shay Fields. Sefo has never had to play a game without Nelson Spruce or Paul Richardson as his number one option. If he’s going to improve on last season, he needs Fields to step into the role of being a true #1 wide receiver, which includes drawing double coverage to free up the other guys. Shay has been brilliant as the second option over the past two years, but he’s going to be getting a lot more attention without #22 lining up next to him this year. Staying healthy will be a big part of his equation for success as well.
Sam Metivier: Shay Fields, for all the reasons Ted noted above.
Jeff Hauser: There are two who’ll have a major impact this season, Devin Ross and Phillip Lindsay. Ross should pick up some slack in the slot left by Nelson Spruce and has the ability to be a playmaker. Having Sefo back will help the construction of the entire offense along with providing growth for Fields and Ross. The 2016 campaign should see both receivers breaking out for monster seasons. Lindsay, on the other hand, comes into this season carrying the bulk of the load for the Buffs in the backfield. He led the team last season with 653 rushing yards and 6 touchdowns and is expected to improve his production from last season. No Christian Powell or Patrick Carr leaves Lindsay and Michael Adkins as the two upperclassmen driving CU’s running game.
Jon Woods: I'm going to cheat and say the running backs, inclusive of all of them. The running game has slowly been getting better but it needs to take a big leap this year. The Buffaloes are going to have to have a consistent ground attack to take pressure off of Sefo and the defense and they will have to be counted on to get the short yards when needed, especially in the red zone. Whether it is Lindsay and Adkins or a youngster like Dino Gordon or Beau Bisharat, someone needs to step up in 2016.
Q2: Which defensive player (not named Chidobe) will have the most impact on the season?
Jack: JOSH. TUPOU. CU runs a modified 3-4. The most important part of a 3-4 has always been, and always will be, the nose tackle. Casey Hampton, Jamal Williams, Haloti Ngata. They didn’t put up stats but they drastically changed games. Tupou needs to follow their example and BLOW UP the line of scrimmage. After a year off (basically a redshirt year), Tupou should come back mean and ready to prove his NFL ability. He could be All-Pac if he has a good year. And we better hope he does.
Sam: Whoever plays opposite Awuzie at cornerback will be heavily targeted, and if that player is Isaiah Oliver, he needs to be ready. If Oliver has a rough go as a starting defensive back, the Buffs will get roasted much like they have in seasons past, even with the strong play of safeties Ryan Moeller and Tedric Thompson. If Oliver excels and even exceeds expectations, Colorado should end up having one of the best secondaries in the conference.
Ted: Addison Gillam. Has everyone forgotten what a beast this guy was as a freshman? He looked like he had All-American honors in his immediate future. Then he spent two years dealing with a litany of injury setbacks that derailed his potential. Is that potential still there? Can he be what he was three years ago? How about 75% of it? If the answer to any of those questions is yes, he’d be a huge lift for the defense that people weren’t necessarily counting on.
Jeff: Don’t count out Derek McCartney. The young man plays with nothing but heart and will start turning heads at the defensive end position. His five sacks last season was just a start of things to come in the 3-4 scheme. From a technique standpoint, McCartney plays great as a end and could also play back in coverage, if needed.
Jon: Sam got to it first but I think the corner opposite Awuzie will be super important. Assuming it's Isaiah Oliver, he can create a very strong secondary with above average play. Giving the front seven a few seconds more to get to the quarterback will help this increasingly talented defense immensely.
Q3: Favorite offensive player?
Jack: George Frazier, hands down. No other team has a weapon quite like George. He plays football like Glen Davis plays basketball (LSU version, not NBA version). Balletic feet, huge body, and a mean streak. If Frazier gets 10 or 15 touches a game, he’ll still be underused, but it will be a huge step up. He has all the skills and athleticism needed. CU needs to let him loose and punish people.
Ted: I’ve gotta go with Shay again here. I love watching him run deep routes. He has a certain it factor that makes your eyes want to follow him whenever he’s on the field.
Sam: I’ve always been partial to Michael Adkins and Phillip Lindsay, and never has there been a leader I respect as much as Sefo, but my favorite player on this offense is Shay Fields. Again, just like Ted, I love the way he runs routes and how he goes up for the ball. No player is as aesthetically pleasing to watch as him.
Jeff: I’m rooting for Juwann Winfree. The JUCO transfer from Coffeyville C.C. (Coffeyville, KS) was a four-star recruit at Maryland and has traveled a long road to Boulder. I have watched a lot of game tape on the speedy receiver and I would like to see him become a favorite target for Sefo Liufau.
Jon: I want nothing more than Diego Gonzalez to become a clutch, badass kicker and he certainly has the leg.
Q4: Favorite defensive player?
Jack: I couldn’t answer Chido before, so I sure as hell will now. Chidobe Awuzie is the baddest dude to come through the secondary in a long time. He is the best player on the team, and I don’t think it’s that close. Chido would start for almost anyone in the country, and he will have his name called in the first few days of the draft. There’s nothing I can say about Chido that hasn’t already been said. He will be an absolute joy to watch this year.
Sam: Chido has been my favorite player since the first snap of his first game. He’s quickly catching up to Jordon Dizon and Rodney Stewart as my all-time favorite Buff. Back in May, I jokingly wrote that he would be a dark horse Heisman candidate. It won’t happen, but Awuzie should get looked at for other national awards and recognition.
Ted: Just for the sake of being different, I’ll say Kenneth Olugbode. His interception return against CSU last year was one of my favorite memories as a student.
Jeff: I like Leo Jackson III and would like to see him progress into a strong run stopper. He shows flashes of taking his game to the next level and curious to see what he does as an upperclassmen.
Jon: Tedric Thompson won me over very quickly with his style of play. I expect big things this season.
Q5: Favorite game on the schedule this season?
Jack: Utah, for sure. Because I assume that we will be playing them for bowl eligibility and that will be amazing. I think Buff Nation will come out in force for that game.
Sam: I don’t know why, but I find terrible football simultaneously beautiful and laughable. During the Oregon State game last year in which both teams were trying desperately to lose, I couldn’t stop laughing. As such, the Oregon State game this year will be my favorite. The game I look forward to the most, as an actual fan as opposed to being a schadenfreude addict, will be the UCLA game. If it’s as close and intense as the past few UCLA-CU games, it will be the best game to attend all year. (Edit: I'm registering for classes right now and I eliminated a film class only because it would interfere with my attending the UCLA game.)
Ted: The Thursday night UCLA game immediately jumps off the page as a fun one. The Buffs have been agonizingly close against the Bruins the last two seasons, and this feels like an upset in the making with a (hopefully) packed, blacked-out Folsom atmosphere leading the charge. If the Buffs are at 4 wins or more coming into this game it should be quite lit.
Jeff: The Rocky Mountain Showdown with CSU. I want 2016 to be year that CU takes the Rams to the woodshed. We have been part of enough close games between these two schools and it’s time for the Buffs to have a statement win for the first game of the season.
Jon: Definitely Utah. Those games have always been entertaining, even if CU hasn't quite been able to get over the hump. Hopefully will be a lot on the line this year.
Q6: Alright, honesty time: what are your realistic expectations for this season (wins and losses)?
Jack: Well, I kinda just answered this question in the one above, but I expect that we will be 5-6 going into the last game of the season. Mike MacIntyre knows how much this season means for this team and his job. He knows that a bowl game NEEDS to happen. Now if that does happen? We’ll see. But I see at least 5 likely wins on the schedule. CSU, ISU, OSU, ASU, @Zona should all be wins. UCLA could also be a likely win, given the circumstance around that game, and WSU should be close. But those five are the most likely that I’ve seen, and we might actually be favored for a few of those (!!!). But that Utah game should decide the fate of our season, and that should add some fuel to the rivalry fire.
Sam: 6-7. Losing to Colorado State or Idaho State would be unspeakably awful. Oregon State at home is as close to an automatic win as you’ll find in the conference this season. Assuming those are wins -- I’m tempting the gods here — the Buffs are halfway to bowl eligibility. Arizona State, @Arizona and Washington State are winnable, but I can only see the Buffs beating the Sun Devils; there’s something about the Wildcats and Cougars that make them unbeatable against CU. The Buffs will get their fifth win of the season against UCLA after Chido, Derek McCartney and the student section terrorize Josh Rosen in the #Pac12AfterDark game of the year. At 5-6 and on the verge of bowl eligibility, everything will be at stake and everyone will be as tense as humanly possible, especially and most notably Mike MacIntyre. The Buffs will keep it close for a bit and even have an early lead, but they’ll collapse under pressure. In a Shyamalanian twist, the NCAA will decide to let CU play in a bowl game. With nothing to lose, the Buffs annihilate Nebraska as Ndamukong Suh watches on helplessly.
Ted: 3-9. The reality for the last five or so seasons has been that the Buffs have had the potential to lose every single game they play. OK, maybe not Nicholls last year. But a loss to Idaho State would shock me less than a victory over Michigan or Oregon at this point. I expect them to beat CSU, Idaho State, and Oregon State. They could easily lose two of those games and I wouldn’t bat an eye. Any other wins will pleasantly surprise me. I’ve been high on this team for two years and I’ve been wrong, so hopefully I’m wrong again.
Jeff: I’m going to go out with a bang on this one. The Buffs should go 7-6 with some upset wins. I expect an easy time with CSU, Idaho State, Oregon State and Utah. Oregon could have a down season and CU might catch them at the right time. USC and UCLA could be upset territory depending on the circumstances. Anything is possible especially how close the Buffs played their opponents last season. CU’s average margin of defeat in 2014 was 14 points. Last season it was cut in half to 7 points per game and this season ???? Time will tell starting Sept. 2nd.
Jon: CSU - W, ISU - W, UM - L, UO - L, OSU - W, USC - L, ASU - W, Stan - L, UCLA - W, UA - L, WSU - L, Utah - W. That comes out to 6-6 with the swing game ending up with the Buffs finally besting Todd Graham. Will it mean a Bowl game? Time will tell but the odds look good. Please, please let that happen.