This season has been nothing short of marvelous. These Colorado Buffaloes have surpassed and blown by all preseason expectations. They have dominated five lesser teams, won difficult conference games on the road, and nearly beat two historical powers. By all means, this CU team has been the most impressive team we’ve seen in Boulder since the halcyon days of the early aughts.
Colorado is currently ranked No. 21 in the AP Poll and No. 20 in the Coaches Poll. Impressive, yes, but advanced metrics show that the Buffs are drastically underrated in the polls. For that underrated aspect, let’s blame the coverage on the Buffs, as they’ve only had one nationally televised game (Colorado State) all season. Voters don’t push teams up unless they’ve seen them play, but that will change now that CU’s next two games (UCLA, at Arizona) will both be on Fox Sports 1. (Speaking of UCLA, you should buy our blackout-themed shirts.)
Fortunately for the Buffs, numbers don’t discriminate by media coverage. The advanced stats absolutely adore the Buffs. Bill Connelly’s S&P+ and ESPN’s FPI have Colorado as the 12th and 13th best team in the country, respectively. That puts them up with the likes of Texas A&M, Florida State and Oklahoma. S&P+ has them ahead of everyone in the Pac-12 besides Washington. FPI has them one spot behind USC, which is simultaneously comforting (CU nearly beat them in L.A.) and threatening (USC may be CU’s chief contender in the Pac-12 South).
S&P+ and FPI both provide probability of records, as they project teams’ against their remaining schedules. S&P+ projects 10-2 as the most likely record (44%) for the Buffs moving forward, which means the Buffs — now 6-2 — would win out and win the Pac-12 South. Even if a 10-2 regular season is simply too difficult for you to believe, the Buffs still have an 85% chance of finishing at least 9-3. FPI gives the Buffs a humbler projection, giving Colorado only a 31% chance of finishing the regular season 10-2.
Looking at the rest of the schedule, CU faces big names but are still heavy favorites in each game, according to both projection systems. By S&P+, Colorado has at least a 77% of winning in each of their final four games. In order of their games, the Buffs have a 79% chance against UCLA, 88% at Arizona, 82% against Washington State and 77% against Utah. FPI has tempered expectations, as they have CU’s closest game at 69% against Washington State, which is still nice.
Both systems love Colorado, so the main difference between S&P+ and FPI, it seems, is their respective opinions of their opponents. S&P+, for example, rates Washington State as the 53rd best team in the country and FPI has them 22nd. In fact, S&P+ rates every further opponent substantially worse than its counterpart.
CU is likely to win out and finish with double-digit regular season wins, something nobody (except one prophetic writer) predicted. This is a fun year.