In the 100 days leading up to the kickoff of the college football season on Saturday, Aug. 25, HERO Sports is ranking the top 100 teams in the FBS. Each day, starting May 17 and ending Aug. 24, a new team is revealed in the HERO Sports Top 100.
No. 75 Colorado
No other Power Five team had a win increase of at least five from 2015 to 2016 followed by a win decrease of at least five from 2016 to 2017.
Colorado is not headed back toward the one- and two-win seasons but the Buffs are entering a critical period as they look to remain relevant in the Pac-12 just one year after winning the South. They'll play a lot of freshmen and transfers this season.
2017 Record: 5-7 (2-7, Pac-12)
Five wins tied for their second-highest win total in the last 12 years but it felt like a huge step back for a program attempting to defend a division title.
While Colorado lost back-to-back games to UCLA and Arizona by a combined seven points, their 5-7 record was an accurate reflection of the season. They were throttled by the Pac-12's top teams, barely beat a terrible Oregon State team and ranked among the nation's worst in several areas, including scoring, yards per rushing attempt (offense and defense) and sacks.
Head Coach: Mike MacIntyre (6th Year, 25-38)
In 12 months' time, Mike MacIntyre played in the Pac-12 Championship, was named National Coach of the Year, signed a contract extension, won five fewer games than the year before and inched toward the hot seat.
Welcome to college football, where you can go from the toast of the town to — though there are no indications Colorado is considering a change, nor should they — being another disappointing season or two away from fighting for your job. MacIntyre has done a remarkable job in five years at CU and is now the victim of his own success.
He made quite a lot of staff changes over the winter, hiring some new position coaches and giving offensive play-calling duties to co-coordinator Darrin Chiaverini.
RB Phillip Lindsay, WR Bryce Bobo, WR Shay Fields, WR Devin Ross, OL Jeromy Irwin, CB Isaiah Oliver
Isaiah Oliver, the Buffs' lone All-Pac-12 First- or Second-Team selection, became the program's fourth defensive back drafted in the last two years when the Falcons selected him in the second round. His 32 pass breakups rank 10th in program history and he'll be missed on a defense that struggled vs. good quarterbacks (and some bad ones, too).
All-purpose running back Phillip Lindsay is gone after an outstanding career that included 39 touchdowns and nearly 5,000 total yards. All-conference honorable mention tackle Jeromy Irwin is also gone, and their top three receivers — Bobo, Fields and Ross — all graduated after combining for 62 percent of the team's receptions in 2017.
Returning Offensive Players
QB Steven Montez, RB Beau Bisharat, RB Kyle Evans WR Juwann Winfree, WR Kabion Ento, WR Jay McIntyre, OT Aaron Haigler, OT Josh Kaiser, G Tim Lynott Jr, K James Stefanou
Nearly all of Colorado's offensive numbers were worse than the previous year.
Completion percentage dipped, as did number of plays, yards per rushing attempt, first downs and red-zone success rate. They failed to score more than 17 points four times, including three games with one or zero touchdowns. They did cut back on turnovers and improved yards per passing attempt, among other things, but the offense wasn't as efficient or explosive despite the return of several skill players.
Steven Montez is the incumbent at quarterback. He's one of the more talented quarterbacks in the entire country but needs to cut back on turnovers, unnecessary scrambles and other mental errors. Following the departure of Brian Lindgren to Oregon State, Montez has a new play-caller in Darrin Chiaverini and quarterbacks coach Kurt Roper and is spending far more time on leadership and film study.
"I break down every single clip that we have of my reps," he said. "I have a notebook and I write: was it a plus or minus on the decision making; what was the coverage; what was the outcome; any corrections on the play; and what the actual play was. "I do that for every play for every practice."
Phillip Lindsay accounted for 90 percent of Colorado's carries by a running back and 94 percent of rushing yards gained by a running back last year. No player will come close to matching those numbers this season; they plan to use a committee that includes new faces (Player Additions, below) and upperclassmen like Beau Bisharat and Kyle Evans, who combined for only 25 touches last year.
None of the returning receivers had more than 30 receptions last year. It's anyone's guess who will lead this team in receiving, though the favorites right now are two seniors, Jay MacIntyre — Mike MacIntyre's son who missed spring ball with a foot injury — or Juwann Winfree.
The offensive line is projected to start only one senior, tackle Josh Kaiser, and could shift around during fall camp. Keep an eye on the continued recovery of guard Tim Lynott from a torn Achilles suffered late last year.
"I do feel a lot better about that group than coming into the spring," head coach Mike MacIntyre said of the line in March. "I thought all of them made some progress. As far as jumps — that's kind of a big word. You can move forward and not jump. I think some of those guys made jumps."
Returning Defensive Players
NT Javier Edwards, DE Chris Mulumba, LB Rick Gamboa, LB Drew Lewis, S Evan Worthington, S Nick Fisher
A year after suffocating opposing passing attacks (49.7 completion percentage, 15 interceptions, 36 sacks, 5.7 yards per attempt) and rushing attacks (4.1 yards per carry, seven rushing first downs per game) under Jim Leavitt, the defense struggled under new coordinator D.J. Eliot vs. both the pass (56 percent, eight interceptions, 19 sacks, 7.2 yards per attempt) and run (5.3 yards per carry, 11 first downs).
"I think our defense is close," an optimistic Eliot said during spring practice. "I think we have good leaders; Rick Gamboa, Nick Fisher, some of those guys have done a good job of bringing the guys together and leading in the right way and leading by example. I'm pleased with our efforts there."
Fisher and Evan Worthington (below) anchor the safety spots that might the strength of the unit. Fisher battled a hamstring injury early last season and didn't hit full stride until late in the year. Worthington (formerly Evan White), had a terrific season after serving a year-long suspension for violating team rules.
"Evan's doing a great job," safeties coach Shadon Brown said in February. "We're honing Evan in right now at safety and not playing him at two and three positions, which I think is really helping his development.
At corner, the bad news is the loss of Isaiah Oliver leaves Colorado without any studs at the position. The good news is that they have better depth, says Brown, who's also defensive passing game coordinator.
"The good thing is I think we have four, five corners that we can put out there and win with in the Pac-12," Brown said in March. "Last year I don't know if we had that."
Up front, they're looking to get stronger and more agile after allowing 5.2 yards per rush, 110th in the FBS, and rarely getting to the quarterback. Senior nose tackle Javier Edwards has dropped 55 pounds since January 2017.
"They definitely have improved. I think it's a little bit like Samson and Josh got better [in 2016] and those guys have gotten better," MacIntyre said in June, referring to improvement from Samson Kafovalu and Josh Tupou before their 10-win 2016 season. "I feel you'll see the same jump in all these guys, because they've been in it a year. They've worked at it, they understand it, they're in better shape."
QB Tyler Lytle, RB Travon McMillian, RB Alex Fontenot, OT Jacob Moretti, C Colby Pursell, DE Terrance Lang, DE Mustafa Johnson
Virginia Tech grad transfer Travon McMillian didn't participate in spring practice but is still expected to get first crack at running back in fall camp. Redshirt freshman Alex Fontenot will get opportunities after impressing during spring ball.
Redshirt freshman Colby Pursell ran with the first team during spring practice and was atop the depth chart entering the summer. And Mike MacIntyre included another redshirt freshman, tackle Jacob Moretti, in the group he believed made "jumps" during spring practice. The 6-foot-4, 280-pounder from nearby Arvada is a former four-star recruit and Ohio State commit.
Also, keep an eye on the development of redshirt freshman quarterback Tyler Lytle. He's third on the depth chart behind Montez and sophomore Sam Noyer but took some snaps with the No. 1 team in the spring.
Defensively, JUCO transfer Mustafa Johnson is slated to the start at defensive end opposite Chris Mulumba, and MacIntyre said redshirt freshman defensive Terrance Lang "flashed" often during the spring.
I still hate that Colorado-CSU is played in Denver. Knock it off and move it back to Boulder and Fort Collins.
Colorado meets Nebraska — in the first half of a home-and-home series — for the first time since both teams left the Big 12. And Pac-12 play opens in Week 4 vs. Chip Kelly and UCLA.
|Friday, Aug. 31||vs. Colorado State|
|Saturday, Sept. 8||at Nebraska|
|Saturday, Sept. 15||vs. New Hampshire|
|Friday, Sept. 28||vs. UCLA|
|Saturday, Oct. 6||vs. Arizona State|
|Saturday, Oct. 13||at USC|
|Saturday, Oct. 20||at Washington|
|Saturday, Oct. 27||vs. Oregon State|
|Friday, Nov. 2||at Arizona|
|Saturday, Nov. 10||vs. Washington State|
|Saturday, Nov. 17||vs. Utah|
|Saturday, Nov. 24||at Cal|