Colorado’s season didn’t end in a PAC-12 championship. It didn’t end in a bowl victory. In fact, it ended in two disappointing losses in which the Buffaloes were outscored 79-18. After an 8-1 record in conference play, and a 10-4 record overall, there are still questions to be answered moving into the 2017 edition of “The Rise.”
After the last couple of games, people around the country have diminished the season Colorado has had, saying the season was a fluke and they’re poised for a big step backward towards mediocrity again. Before the season, if someone told any Colorado fan that they’d go 10-4, and win the PAC-12 south, they would take it in a heartbeat. The Buffaloes four losses were to top 10 teams in 2016.
With that being said, the last two questions have brought up questions that need to be answered in the offseason if the Buffaloes want to continue their momentum into the future, and continue to be relevant in the PAC-12 South. The loss of Jim Leavitt reared its ugly head on Thursday night, as a Colorado defense that punished opposing offenses all year was exposed by Mason Rudolph and the Oklahoma State offense. Mike McIntyre has a decision to make on whom to replace Leavitt, and assistant Joe Tumpkin didn’t especially shine in his one audition as the interim defensive coordinator. Whoever takes over the play calling duties is going to have to replace almost every impact player on a defense that was a top 20 defense for most of the year.
Offensively there are questions as well. The Buffaloes lose four year starting quarterback and leader Sefo Liufau. His leadership, more than his talent, is something that Colorado will have to replace. Other than that, they return their entire receiving core, as well as running back Phillip Lindsay, which should help stabilize things for new quarterback Steven Montez. The offensive play calling must improve moving forward. This whole season, everyone, fans and media, stressed the importance of a healthy Liufau for Colorado to make a bowl. The offensive scheme proceeded to run him 165 times, mostly between the tackles, subjugating him to unnecessary hits. Coach Lindgren has come under fire for his play calling in the past, but McIntyre needs to take a serious look at their offensive scheme come the offseason.
Colorado has a top 25 recruiting class committed for the 2017 season. The Buffaloes need to finish recruiting strong, and keep most of their commitments. This will continue the momentum of this season, and will help continue to transition The Rise to the New Era. Expect Colorado to continue to compete well in the PAC-12 conference, and while 10 wins next year is a stretch, I can see another bowl bound team in Boulder in 2017,