Few times have we seen the kind of meteoric rise in a single game (and offseason) that we’ve seen happen with Colorado this past week — if ever.
After going 1-11 last year, the Buffaloes of Colorado brought in Deion Sanders as their newest head coach this past December. The former smooth-talking NFL cornerback who oozed confidence and cockiness came into Boulder — he was brash and he told the returning players that they better get ready to hit the portal because he was there to win.
He got a lot of flack for how he treated the returning players, but he made it well known that he was looking to turn the Colorado roster over in a hurry. To start the season, Colorado only had 10 scholarship players from the 2022 roster. The Buffs have brought in 86 new players, including 53 as transfers. And with how the transfer rules have changed, the quick turnover was made possible.
So, the Buffaloes shocked the world this past weekend in beating No. 17 TCU 45-42 on the road. Quarterback (and Deion’s son) Shedeur Sanders came with his dad from Jackson State and had the most prolific game through the air in Colorado history — 38-of-47 for 510 yards, four touchdowns and no picks. Four Colorado players went over 100 yards receiving.
Then there was DB/WR Travis Hunter (another player Sanders brought with him from Jackson State), the early-season Heisman darling after playing 129 snaps on both sides of the ball against the Horned Frogs. As a receiver, Hunter brought in 11 passes for 119 yards. On defense, the star corner had three tackles, an interception and a pass breakup. Deion’s other son Shilo Sanders is a safety and led the team with nine tackles.
Now, many people don’t like Coach Prime — especially here. In fact, many people didn’t like his attitude when he was roaming secondaries for the Falcons, 49ers and Cowboys. He goes against the grain and challenges the cultural norms of college football as a coach. Like his philosophy on team captains (see below), his confidence and swagger seems to have only trickled down to his players. And he’s right, a lot of people aren’t happy to see him have instant success doing it.
Coach Prime doesn't use the term captain. The L on Shedeur and Cokes' jerseys are for Leaders. The D on Feely and Travis are for Dawgs. Those four were out for the coin toss. #GoBuffs— Curtis Snyder (@CurtisCSnyder) September 2, 2023
I say all of this to express one point: Nebraska has the opportunity of a lifetime here. The amount of hype and excitement around this Colorado team is super rare. Buffalo stock is booming, and everyone seems to want in on the action.
Nebraska, after a gut-wrenching loss at Minnesota, will be heading into a hornets nest on Saturday morning in Boulder. How much better could it get than to derail the Deion train at the peak of its momentum? With tickets sold out?
Obviously, there’s not much love lost between these two programs and fan bases. Let’s face it, they hate each other. Not only is seeing a hated foe stumble a great feeling, but to be the one responsible for their demise? Yes, please.
So, how can Nebraska pull it off?
Now, I won’t say that beating Colorado will be easy. It won’t be, but let’s not pretend the TCU team they just beat was the same one in last year’s national championship team. They were replacing the majority of their starters.
I see this Colorado team as beatable for Nebraska, but I certainly wouldn’t put my money on the moneyline. This Husker team is much too flawed and prone to shooting itself in the foot to be confident in them, and until they prove otherwise, any optimism I have will be very tempered.
But there were still some things that stood out to me about Colorado’s win over TCU, things I think this Husker team can take advantage of. First of all, the running game will be critical for Nebraska. Colorado was having trouble stopping the run on defense and couldn’t establish a ground game on offense. If it wasn’t for their 500-yard passer, the Buffaloes would have been in trouble.
In fact, Colorado only had 55 yards rushing on 34 carries (1.6 yards per carry). On the flip side, the Buffalo defense gave up 262 yards on the ground at 7.1 yards a clip. They gave up 541 total yards. In my estimation, this Colorado team will need to win shootouts all year long with a defense giving up those kinds of numbers.
Against Minnesota, a team that fielded one of the best defenses in the country last year, Nebraska put up 181 rushing yards but failed to punch one in for a score (unless you count the play that was clearly a touchdown but was ruled short after a booth review). Quarterback Jeff Sims ran for 91 yards, while Gabe Ervin went for 55 yards on seven carries. Anthony Grant ran for 27 yards on nine carries but coughed up a fumble at the most inopportune time. If Nebraska can get Ervin going on the ground behind Nebraska’s enormous offensive line, the Huskers could absolutely win this game.
And much like in a sport like boxing or MMA, facing a surging opponent that nobody thinks you’ll beat offers only upside. If you lose, well you were meant to. If you win, that guy’s momentum becomes yours.
And wouldn’t stealing all the steam out of this Colorado team be the greatest feeling for every Husker fan?