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Roundtable: Best of the season and where the Buffaloes go from here

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We took some time to reflect and predict during the bye week.

-- Don't forget to buy your Black Out shirts in time for UCLA! --

Question 1: What bowl game has the honor of hosting the Buffs?

Jack Barsch: I’m going to go big and say that the Rose Bowl will host the Buffs this year against the Buckeyes. Washington will go to the playoff, as they are playing lights out this year. That means that the second-highest rated Pac-12 team, according to the CFB Playoff rankings, will get to go to the Rose Bowl. If Colorado performs like expected, that will be the Buffs. Assuming Michigan makes it to the playoff, the second-highest rated Big 10 team will take the Rose Bowl. While Nebraska will make the best story, the Huskers are about to lose five in a row. So hopefully CU can rise above that.

Jeff Hauser: Colorado will be representing the Pac-12 in the Rose Bowl for the first time in school history. The College Football Playoff is likely out of reach for the Buffs with two losses, but things will be interesting.

The playoff committee could look at CU’s season and weigh in all the factors (First half at Michigan, S.O.S., margin of defeat, etc.) and favor them being a runner-up at No. 5 in the final rankings. Michigan could be thanking Colorado when all is said and done, due to a No. 1 overall ranking in the playoff with a dominant second half against the Buffs.

Here’s how things should play out.

Alabama and Michigan will remain undefeated through the regular season. Colorado will beat Washington in the Pac-12 Championship, but be held out of the playoff in favor of one-loss ACC Champion Clemson. Baylor or West Virginia will be rounding out the four-team playoff.

Pasadena, here we come.

Matt Reynolds: I think we should be bowling at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena this year. Being able to play 3 of these last 4 games at home is a huge advantage for the Buffs, and it will ultimately help Colorado emerge as Pac-12 South champions. That would slate us against the Washington in the Pac-12 Championship game in a game that will be close but one I think we lose. So the Buffs will end up playing the number two team from the Big 10, likely Michigan, Ohio State, or Wisconsin, in what should be an awesome game to watch on January 2nd.

Sam Metivier: You’re all aiming too low. Colorado is still going make the College Football Playoff. As SB Nation’s Bill Connelly wrote, this could be the year a two-loss team makes the Playoff. Of those with two losses already, Colorado should be there. They just need a little help.

There hasn’t been much chaos this season but I can feel it my bones, it’s coming soon and it’s coming with reckless abandon. Once Colorado runs the table and upsets undefeated Washington in the Pac-12 Championship, everything will come together.

The undefeated: Western Michigan is good but the committee doesn’t think Fleck is fleek. Baylor and West Virginia are going to lose to each other, somehow. Michigan is going to beat Ohio State (eliminating the Buckeyes) but will lose to undefeated Nebraska in the B1G Championship in their presumed CFP play-in game. Clemson will beat and eliminate two-loss Florida State but will lose to Wake Forest because why not.

The one-loss teams: Ohio State will lose to Michigan. Louisville will lose to Houston in an epic pointsplosion (Lamar Jackson still wins the Heisman). Texas A&M will lose to Ed Orgeron and the inspired LSU Tigers. Auburn still has to play Alabama in the Iron Bowl. Florida/Tennessee/LSU still have to play Alabama in the SEC Championship. Utah will lose to Washington and that’s before they play Colorado.

Of all the two-loss teams, Colorado will have everything going for them — the narrative, the conference championship, the tough schedule, the momentum —- and will secure a spot in the CFP with Alabama, Boise State and Nebraska.

Question 2: Who is the MVP of this team so far?

Jack: I’m not going to use coaches because that seems like a bit of cheating. So I’m going to go with my man Sefo Liufau. He has complete mastery over this offense and the Buffs go fast and furious with him at the helm. Sefo checks to great running plays, makes the right decisions 90% of the time, and HAS YET TO THROW AN INTERCEPTION THIS YEAR. He has completely changed the way he is perceived in this fan base, and has been one of the best quarterbacks in college football this year. There’s a reason our passing offense is a top 5 offense by advanced stats. Hint: It’s Sefo (and Montez). And for all Buff fans who would rather see Montez, like my silly friend Jackson, you are wrong. Montez has potential, Sefo has experience. Experience wins out and Sefo has proven his worth this year.

Sam: My MVP is Davis Webb for choosing Cal. Who knows where the Buffs would be had he not bailed on them in May.

Matt: This one is so hard because so many players have stepped up in a big way this year. Sefo Liufau, any of the three receivers, and pretty much anyone on the defensive side of the ball are all more than deserving of the award; but give me Philipp Lindsay, the conference’s leader in yards from scrimmage and rushing. That man has been a baller all year. He’s improved every aspect of his game this year, and is a legit first team all-conference contender. Lindsay’s contributions to the team go way beyond his on-field production as well. He has that intangible leadership that helps bring out the absolute best in everyone of his teammates. He might be my favorite player on the team because of the chip on his shoulder he has. I cannot wait to see what Phil has in store the rest of the year, and, this may sound crazy, but I think he can be a dark horse Heisman candidate next year.

Question 3: What has to happen for the Buffs to win out?

Jack: They have to play Colorado Football. Fast and tough. CU will be favored in every game the rest of the way (except maybe Utah) and the team most likely to beat them the rest of the way is themselves. UCLA is struggling on the ground and defending the run, WSU is better than UCLA (much more balanced), Arizona is the least talented and most banged-up team in the Pac-12, and Utah lacks their trademark pass rush. They all are more flawed teams than CU. If the Buffs play like they should, we’re looking at a 9-3 or 10-2 team. WOW.

Sam: "Colorado Football" still seems like a pejorative term, but we all have to take time to get used to CU being good at football. And as good as this team is, this team should win it out, at least until they play Washington in the Pac-12 Championship.

I’ve previously written about CU running the table, but it was all tongue-in-cheek and borderline fantastical. That’s not the case anymore. If the Buffs continue to play low-risk, high-reward offense with a dominant defense, all while staying healthy, they should take care of business.

UCLA shouldn’t be overlooked, but they’re not particularly good, especially if Josh Rosen is banged up. Arizona is trash (at least in their extreme injured state), worse than Oregon State. Washington State is dangerous, but it’s hard to imagine their offense doing too much against this secondary. It’s remarkable Utah has hung on this long, considering all their injuries, but they’re going to collapse after Washington destroys them on Saturday.

Jeff: No distractions. Colorado needs to take care of business and play as one unit that’s tough both mentally and physically. The Buffs have overcome injuries, criticism and doubt for the past decade. "Players make plays. Players win game."

I remember going on for an interview with a radio station in Detroit before the Michigan game and the host was critical of CU’s progress. I was asked what was so different about the Buffs this year and my response was, "The players are digging into what Coach MacIntyre’s philosophy and playing as a team." I also explained The Rise and what that meant to the past decade. The host was quick to discredit me, but I found him at halftime in the press box at Michigan Stadium and he was believing in CU then.

Consistency is how CU stays on track.

Matt: Nothing different than they have been doing. This is easier said than done, of course, but as my colleagues have said, "Colorado Football" from here on out will put the Buffs in a good position down the stretch. If the offense keeps up their balanced attack, and the defense keeps making plays as they have been all year, then the Buffs have a real opportunity to win out. UCLA missing Rosen and a beaten up Arizona Wildcats team should both be victories for Colorado. The last two games will pose a more challenging task in Washington State and Utah though. These are two teams that are currently sitting near the top of the conference, but also two teams that are definitely vulnerable. Both matchups are at home, which is incredibly beneficial for the Buffs, and playing the Colorado brand of football will get it done. The last four games will be electric, and relevant CU football in November is going to be a whole lot of fun.

Question 4: Favorite play of the Buffs’ season so far?

Jack: Witherspoon’s interception. Sorry I took that one before anyone else. While Oregon has cratered and collapsed, that game was a huge step forward. A Pac-12 win, on the road at Autzen, against a Conference of Champions power, with a backup quarterback. Sealed with an interception. That whole last drive, I’m sure all CU fans were following my thinking. "Here we go again, another late drive for the win against CU, another game where the Buffs can’t quite finish." Prukop gained chunks of yards, chunks of yards, chunks of yards. Tedric Thompson gets a crucial PI called against him instead of a pick and then drops an INT outright. Another close loss. And then the play that needed to be made was made. The biggest signal yet that the Buffs are back.

Sam: Even considering Witherspoon’s interception and Bryce Bobo’s insane catch, I have to go with Chidobe Awuzie’s strip sack against Michigan.

After the Colorado State and Idaho State games, I thought Colorado had a chance to be OK this year, that they should contend for a bowl game. I thought Michigan would destroy them, but there was I had the slightest bit of hope that the Buffs could pull off a miracle.

Colorado started the game by forcing a near three-and-out. After that, Colorado immediately scored on Michigan’s vaunted defense with a gorgeous pass to Devin Ross. That small hope within grew, but it was minimal. I needed something more to believe in this team.

Three plays after that, Awuzie blitzed from the right side, blew past unsuspecting blockers and demolished quarterback Wilton Speight. This massive hit jarred the ball loose and Derek McCartney picked it up and jogged into the end zone for a 14-0 lead. As the play unfolded, I started screaming and running around my kitchen with my dog freaking out with me. I hadn’t done anything like that since Askia Booker hit that shot against Kansas.

And though the lead didn’t hold, Awuzie’s play was the first time in my life I thought this football team can be special. As the season proves more and more successful, this play will resonate more and more with me. It’s an easy pick for my favorite play of the year.

Jeff: Sefo Liufau’s 70-yard touchdown strike to Shay Fields in the opening series of the 3rd quarter in Michigan, going stride-for-stride with a defender down the field. It was a statement right out of the gate and a great pass from Sefo. The other two that come to mind are the goal line Interception from Akhello Witherspoon to seal the victory against Oregon and Bryce Bobo throwing a TD to Phillip Lindsay in the USC game.

Matt: Witherspoon’s pick was monumental and probably was the biggest play all year, but for the sake of being different I’ll pick Phillip Lindsay’s 3rd touchdown run against ASU. I know his 75 yard run to open up the 2nd half was huge, but to me the last one near the end of the game meant more. Colorado was up big against the Sun Devils, and Coach MacIntyre was not satisfied with running out the clock. So Colorado lined up in a shotgun formation and dared ASU to stop the zone run; they simply could not do it. Lindsay marched the offense down the field, and punched one in from close with under a minute left. All the built up animosity for dirt bag Todd Graham was released on that drive, and the Buffaloes displayed they were legitimate contenders in a dominant fashion. Not to mention, Lindsay put the cherry on top of what was undoubtedly his best game as a Buff. That was a powerful moment at Folsom, and that run showed everyone how real the rise is.

Sefo’s 70 yard pass to Shay Fields while barely being able to stand needs to be mentioned because that play is a microcosm of Sefo Liufau’s warrior mentality. He will go down as an all-time great Buff, in my opinion, and it is so satisfying to see him leading a successful team. Another big time play was Alex Kinney’s 4th quarter punt against Stanford. It might have won them that football game. The punt soared over 60 yards from the line of scrimmage and then stopped on a dime. There was no way Stanford was going to drive the ball 90+ yards against us, and that was a very bright moment for a special teams unit that has been an issue this year.

-- Don't forget to buy your Black Out shirts in time for UCLA! --