Stunned. Shocked. Stupefied.
Those are just three ways to describe my initial reaction to seeing that Colorado had been selected to finish 4th in the 2017 Pac-12 football preseason media poll. How could a team that won 10 games for the first time in nearly 10 years, a team that finished 8-1 in conference play, and a team that played for the Pac-12 Championship last season be picked by the media to finish 4th the following year? In their own division no less!
I wasn’t alone in reacting the way I did when I saw the release. Former Sports Illustrated writer and current editor-in-chief of The All-American (a soon-to-be-launched subscription based college football site) was bewildered as well.
Colorado wins 10 games last year and still gets picked behind a UCLA team that went 4-8. https://t.co/G3DDtJSms7— Stewart Mandel (@slmandel) July 26, 2017
Mandel’s point is valid. UCLA and Utah, both picked ahead of CU in this year’s poll, combined for seven conference wins last season. The Buffs had eight, including a 20-10 victory vs. UCLA, and a 27-22 home win over a ranked Utah team. So why were the Buffs ranked 4th? After my initial reactions, I began to dissect the poll further and came to the following three conclusions:
1. Last year’s Jim Leavitt led defense was the strength of the team. This year, Leavitt is gone as are eight starters from the unit, including three extremely talented members of the secondary - Chidobe Awuzie, Ahkello Witherspoon and Tedric Thompson. We really don’t know what to expect from D.J. Eliot and the Buffs defense in 2017.
2. Looking at the preseason poll more closely, the gap between the teams picked to finish second, third and fourth in the Pac-12 South division is a lot closer than you think. A mere 38 points separate Utah, UCLA and Colorado, with the two Arizona schools bringing up the rear.
3. This preseason ranking may be a blessing in disguise for the Buffs. Last year, the college football world was stunned, shocked and stupefied to watch Colorado – a team picked to finish last in their division - take the Pac-12 South title last season.
Bottom line is don’t read too much into these preseason polls.
Senior captain Phillip Lindsay and the 2017 aren’t.