Finish. It’s the word on every Colorado players, coaches, and fans minds as camp kicks off and the 2016 campaign begins. It’s no secret that the University of Colorado hasn’t been to a bowl game since 2007, and it’s not a secret that they’ve struggled to find any type of success in their transition to the PAC-12 Conference. There are a couple of crucial things that have to occur if CU is going to participate in the postseason for the first time since they lost 27-24 to Alabama in the Independence Bowl.
After missing the last part of the season in 2015, the health of 3 year starting quarterback Sefo Liufau and his return from the Lisfranc injury that sidelined him is the biggest storyline to watch if Colorado is going to make a bowl game. With no backup quarterbacks that have any real experience, an unhealthy Liufau or the potential for an unproven Steven Montez to have to start at quarterback could really hurt the Buffs with their tough schedule.
The biggest question mark of the team for 2016 is the offensive line. Last year, the line was ravaged with injury, allowing 41 quarterback sacks. Colorado gets starting left tackle Jeromy Irwin back after missing 10 games last year to a torn ACL, which should help shore up the holes and slow down the revolving door that was the offensive line last year.
CU looks to continue to improve on the defensive side of the ball in their second year under defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt. The Buffaloes return nine starters on a defense that gave up 27.5 points per game in 2015, a significant improvement from the 39 points they gave up per game in the 2014 campaign. Corner Chidobe Awuzie may be the most underrated defensive back in the PAC-12, and for CU to take the next step he will have to play a huge role.
To make it to a bowl game, CU will need to start fast this season. Last year, the loss in the opener to Hawaii demoralized the team. Playing rival Colorado State in the opener is a tough game, but a win could be huge in propelling Colorado to the next level. With a trip to Michigan in the Big House looming in Week Three, a 2-0 start is a must.
Lastly, the Buffs need to protect Folsom Field. Their most winnable games are at home, and to go to a bowl game they’ll have to beat CSU in Denver, Idaho State, Oregon State, Arizona State, and win two of the three games against UCLA, Washington State, and Utah. This would put them at 5 wins, with a winnable game at Arizona left on the schedule.
Colorado has a senior laden team, and in what is the most important season in coach Mike McIntyre’s tenure in Boulder, it’s bowl or bust for the Buffaloes and their coach.