Coming off a 4-8 campaign in only their third season as part of the Pac-12 conference, the Colorado Buffaloes have a lot to prove heading into 2014. While they’ve shown some signs of relevance among a sea of talented competition, they have yet to truly prove that they can compete annually in one of college football’s top conferences.
Mike MacIntyre and Co., however, are hoping it will be a different story in 2014.
With that in mind, here’s a look at the offensive, defensive and schedule outlooks for the Buffaloes heading into this season.
In 2014, the offense will revolve around the play of sophomore quarterback Sefo Liufau. Last year, he took over the starting job midway through the season, and showed some promising play for a true freshman, completing nearly 60 percent of his passes for 1,779 yards, 12 touchdowns and eight interceptions. While it certainly wasn’t a standout performance, Liufau displayed enough upside to give Colorado some hope for the future.
Unfortunately, Liufau lost his top target in Paul Richardson, who is now catching balls for the Seattle Seahawks. That means the passing game will be forced to go through Nelson Spruce, Colorado’s top returning receiver, and Bryce Bobo. D.D. Goodson could also be a factor.
If the passing game doesn’t take off, the Buffaloes at least have a solid running game to fall back on. Colorado boasts an impressive one-two punch with Christian Powell, the power runner, and Michael Adkins II, the speed back. Both should help the offense pose somewhat of a threat in 2014.
The offensive line returns three starters, but must count on the young, inexperienced Jeremy Irwin to get the job done at left tackle.
Last season, Colorado’s defense was among the worst in the nation, allowing 468 yards per game to finish 106th overall. In 2014, they’ll be looking to improve significant when the offense is on the sidelines.
It all starts with the defensive line, where the majority of the Buffaloes’ concerns lie. While they do have an outstanding physical presence in Josh Tupou, the rest of the defensive line is either inexperienced or currently dealing with academic issues. If Justin Solis and Samson Kafovalu can’t get their grades straightened out before the regular season, Colorado could be in big trouble up front.
The linebacker unit is led by Addison Gillam, a true sophomore who showed exceptional ability as a freshman in 2013. Woodson Greer and Kenneth Olugbode round out the rest of Colorado’s speedy linebacking corps.
The Buffaloes’ strength on defense lies in the secondary, where they offer plenty of athleticism and experience. Greg Henderson is the leader of the bunch at cornerback, and could be headed for a big season in 2014. Kenneth Crawley and Ahkello Witherspoon will battle it out for the other cornerback job, while Tedric Thompson and Jered Bell man the safety spots.
As it has been for the last three years, Colorado’s schedule isn’t going to give them any breaks in 2014. They face off against in-state rivals Colorado State to start the season, which could easily end in a loss. Apart from their showdown with Massachusetts, it’s going to be a tough road for the Buffaloes.
They only won one of their in-conference games last season, and might not have the talent to do much more damage this season. Apart from an away game against Cal and a season-ending battle against Utah at home, it’s looking like the Buffaloes could be headed for another lackluster season in 2014.
It hasn’t been an easy transition since Colorado joined the Pac-12 in 2011, and it’s not going to get any better this year.