Cleat Geeks

2016 Pac 12 Preview: Colorado Buffaloes

For the first time in nearly a decade, the South division looks to crown the Pac-12 champion – and this very well could be the year that they do so. The favorite within the division looks to be the Trojans of USC. Despite moving onto their third head coach in five years, the Trojans enter the season with arguably the highest expectations of any team in the conference, and deservedly so. They have all the pieces to make a legit run at a conference championship, but can Clay Helton lead them to glory in his first full season as the headman in LA? The UCLA pose the biggest threat to USC as they return promising sophomore QB Josh Rosen, a QB with #1 pick potential. His talent alone could lead the Bruins to a conference championship. One of the most underrated teams in the country, the Arizona Wildcats are a sleeper to take the conference this season, but will they be able to overcome the likes of USC and UCLA? Kyle Whittingham leads a strong Utah unit year after year, but will their depleted offense be able to keep up with other high-powered offenses in the country? Arizona State has one of the best RB tandem in the country, but their defense still poses as a liability to giving up the big play; they may be a year or two away as Manny Wilkins needs experience under center. Colorado went 1-8 in conference play last season, but they return 16 starters, and experience goes a long way in the college game.Pac12IntroPhoto

Take a look as we dig deep into the Pac-12 South division. Comment with some predictions of your own for the Colorado Buffaloes and if you think they’re experience can make them a legit competitor in the Pac-12 this season. Follow @JonValencia_WiB for more Pac-12 updates throughout the off-season as we gear up for opening week.

6 – Colorado Buffaloes (5-7, 3-6)

Players to Watch: QB Sefo Liufau, WR Shay Fields, CB Chidobe Awuzie
Key Departures:
 WR Nelson Spruce, CB Ken Crawley

It’s been a rough three years for Mike MacIntyre in Boulder as he’s endured a rough 2-25 record in conference play. Things may be looking up for the Buffaloes this year as they return a whopping 16 starters, the most of any team in the South division. Can their experience make them a player in conference play this season; or will their struggles continue?

Success under center will be paramount for Colorado. Sefu Liufau enters his senior season with high expectations for the Buffaloes. Liufau has dealt with injuries and saw a dip in production last season – returning to top form will be pivotal for the offense this season as they lack a stable running game. The senior has NFL tools which includes a cannon for an arm. Liufau has a pair of dynamic athletes to connect with in Shay Fields and Devin Ross. The pair of juniors need to step up in place of Nelson Spruce who leaves behind over 1,000 yards of production.

ChidobeAwuzieIn the backfield, Phillip Lindsay will get the bulk of the carries after leading the team with 653 rushing yards and 6 TDs last season. Look out for four star recruit Beau Bisharat to emerge as a strong spell back. He offers great size at 6’2”/210 and was recruited as a linebacker by some schools. The former Stanford commit should see an ascending workload as the season goes on. The offensive line will be shuffled around a bit, but will be an overall strong unit lead by four upperclassmen.

Last season the Buffaloes fielded one of the best secondaries in the Pac-12, and should do so again this season. Standout corner Chidobe Awuzie headlines the group – he very well could be the best at the position within the entire conference. There is good depth at the position featuring sophomore Isaiah Oliver who impressed in the Spring, along with last year’s starter Ahkello Witherspoon, who has battled injuries. Both starters at safety return from last year in Tedric Thompson and Ryan Moeller. A unit that allowed only 6.5 yards per attempt last season should be the team’s strength yet again. Up front, the team really struggled against the run last season as they ranked 99th and allowed nearly 200 yards on the ground per game. They return four starters in the front 7 and have solid depth, especially in the LB corps.

While it may be another down year for Mike MacIntyre in Boulder, progress will be made. After winning only two games in conference play during his three year tenure, the Buffaloes could easily amass that total during 2016 alone. They have the experience to compete against conference opponents, but staying healthy will be crucial to their success, along with the play of Sefo Liufau under center.

9/3: vs Colorado State Wcoloradofootballcoloradobuffaloes
9/10: vs Idaho State W
9/17: @ Michigan L
9/24: @ Oregon L
10/1: vs Oregon State W
10/8: @ USC L
10/15: vs Arizona State L
10/22: @ Stanford L
11/3: vs UCLA L
11/12: @ Arizona W
11/19: vs Washington State L
11/26: vs Utah W

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