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What we learned from Colorado’s loss to Texas A&M

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This defense gives the Buffs a chance every week

Texas A&M v Colorado Photo by Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images

Colorado was this close to a momentous win over the Texas A&M Aggies. It would have been the Buffs’ first top-5 win since defeating Oklahoma in 2007, but the offense sputtered out and the Aggies eventually scored the inevitable touchdown. It’s too bad the Buffs don’t have a resume win (and a cushy Top 25 ranking on Monday) but we can still take away some mostly positive lessons.

1. This Colorado defense looks elite

For the first 28 minutes of this game, the Aggies had a total of 22 yards and zero (0) first downs. The Buffs are so solid up front — Jalen Sami controlling the line of scrimmage, Terrance Lang penetrating, Nate Landman cleaning up the mess — that they could be stout against the run without having to overcommit. A&M has the talent and the girth to dominate on the ground, but they had nothing going early on.

Zach Calzada looked dreadful — until the final two drives, at least — and missed all kinds of easy throws. Coming in as an injury replacement is tough, but Chris Wilson’s defense didn’t make things easy, and it’s not like Haynes King had an easier time before his injury. Additional credit here should go to the pass rush, as well Christian Gonzalez, Mekhi Blackmon and Nigel Bethel in what could be a really good defensive backfield.

Even though Colorado ultimately conceded the winning touchdown — on a gritty drive that required daring escapes, tough catches and a great throw from Calzada for the final score — the Buffs did everything they could to win this game. 10 points allowed to a national title contender is damn impressive. Imagine what they’re going to do against Cal and Oregon State.

2. There’s reason to believe in the offense, at least in first halves

Darrin Chiaverini has struggled with this offense. He’s an Air Raid coach who is having trouble scheming easy throws for his freshman quarterback. He can be predictable in the rhythms of his playcalling, doesn’t adjust quickly when Plan A stops working, and can get too cute when he changes things up.

But even then, despite all these criticisms, the offense looks moderately decent when Chiv has a full week to prepare for the first few drives of the game. Those slash runs set up play action passes, the middle of the field opens up and the quick tempo keeps the offense in rhythm . . . and it’s all nice before the opponent’s defensive coordinator catches on and makes a few adjustments to blow up the entire gameplan.

Colorado will win some games with their first half offense. There will a game or two when they score 21 quick points, the defense gets some stops and the Buffs can just run the ball the entire second half. There will more than a couple games in which Jarek Broussard runs loose, no matter the playcalling or defensive adjustments, because he’s simply too good.

3. Anyone can win the Pac-12 South (except Arizona)

Most of us assumed that USC would be the class of the south division, but they are a complete disaster and just fired Clay Helton in Week 2 (bad news for the Pac-12). UCLA might be good, but they might be the most unreliable program in the country. Arizona State is good but they’re anxiously waiting for the NCAA to drop the hammer on half their coaching staff. Utah will be good, most likely, but are scuffling right now. Arizona might be the worst team in major college football.

If things break right, and if UCLA does their usual UCLA bit, the Pac-12 South will be wide open. The Buffs need a lot of work on offense — and maybe a certain wake-up call that is three years overdue — but on the right night they could beat anyone in the Pac-12 except Oregon. An elite defense gives you chances in games you shouldn’t be in, even against top-tier outfits like Texas A&M, and gives you a margin for error against lesser teams. Besides that, maybe the offense gets a bit better if and when Brendon Lewis settles into the QB position.