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#41 Colorado Buffaloes Preview
Spring practices are in the books and fall camps will be here before you know it, so that means an early jump on the 2006 NCAA football season. Knowing the teams now will save you time in August, and Matt Fargo is here to help you figure out what to expect next year. We go from worst to first in this 2006 college football preview.
#41 – Colorado Buffaloes 7-6 SU; 6-7 ATS
Fargo’s Take Scandals have tarnished a once-proud Colorado program, and the Buffaloes are hoping all of that negativity will go away for good. The latest to leave was head coach Gary Barnett, who has been involved in more than one unpleasant issue surrounding the team. Former Boise Saint coach Dan Hawkins is taking over and he has promised to turn this team around both on and off the field. The Buffaloes made it to a bowl game last year, but it wasn’t because of tough play down the stretch. They were outscored 100-6 in their final two games, but won the Big XII North thanks to other teams going down. Colorado will implement new systems on both sides of the ball, and if it can pick things up quickly, there’s potential for a repeat in the North. Still, the schedule is tough and there are plenty of question marks, including the offense, that need to be answered before it can get back to the postseason.
Returning starters on offense – 5 Boise St.’s offense has thrived under Hawkins, and he hopes the new wideout scheme will cause problems for the Big XII’s unknown defense. In order for the offense to be successful, a quarterback must be found. Juniors Brian White and Bernard Jackson are in line to replace Joel Klatt, and the battle likely won’t be resolved until late fall camp. Hawkins relies on balance in both the passing game and the running game, and the latter will be in good shape with running back Hue Charles. Charles rushed for 842 yards last season, and he could have a breakout season under the new offense. The offensive line is strong on the right side, with three returning starters, but the left side is manned by newcomers. Veteran receivers are positioned to make the quarterback transition easier.
Returning starters on defense – 8 Colorado had one of the best rushing defenses in the country a season ago, ranking 11th in the country, but it will be hard to repeat that ranking in 2006. The defensive line will have to replace three starters and the youth will show up. throughout. Three of the four linebackers are back, so any linebacking deficiencies in the middle will be addressed. It lost second baseman Gerrett Berle to suspension, but it does return Terrence Wheatley, who spent all of last season with an injury. The pass defense was a disappointing 87th in the nation last season, so the pressure on the quarterback, something promised by new defensive coordinator Ron Collins, will have to come. It’s likely up to the unit to carry the team early in the year as far as the offense goes, and the new quarterback can get his head around the new scheme.
The schedule in the Big XII North gives the Buffaloes the easiest schedule of all, but it’s still incredibly demanding. Colorado will host Montana St. in its opener before taking on rival Colorado St. in a neutral site game in Denver. Ending the non-conference slate with a home game against Arizona St. before traveling to Georgia is tough. If the Buffaloes can get out of this division with a 2-2 record, it will be considered a success. The Big XII schedule opens with a two-game sweep against Missouri and Baylor, but then is solidified with a home game against Texas Tech and a road contest at Oklahoma. The end of the season will probably determine the victories of the North as the Buffaloes host Iowa St. before traveling to Nebraska in its season finale.
You can bet… Colorado’s program is headed in the right direction, but it won’t be an overnight success. Hawkins is a perfect fit for the head coaching job as he has had success wherever he has coached and takes pride in the character of his team which is most important at this point. The first three games of the season are against non-conference teams, and the Buffaloes are just 10-22 since 1996 in those situations. Colorado hasn’t had a profitable season since 2002, but that could change this year if the Buffaloes can improve on their 1-5 ATS record on the road from a single season. Good things are happening in Boulder, but it may take a while.
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