Our series of Washington opponent previews continues with a look at the Huskies’ visit to Colorado.
WASHINGTON AT COLORADO, Saturday, Nov. 1 (Kickoff time TBA)
STADIUM: Colorado plays on-campus at Folsom Field, which seats 53,613 and opened in 1924. The largest crowd in Folsom Field history was 54,972 for a Sept. 3, 2005 game against Colorado State. The nearby Rocky Mountains provide a pretty spectacular view from inside (and outside) the stadium.
COLORADO LOCATION: Boulder, Colo. (Population 103,166)
ENROLLMENT: 29,325 in fall 2013 (includes graduate and undergraduate students)
MASCOT: The Buffaloes. And Colorado has one of the coolest (and, probably, most terrifying) mascot traditions in college football, using a live Buffalo — Ralphie — to usher the team onto the field prior to home games. You’ve likely seen this before. Here’s video.
2013 RECORD: 4-8 (1-8 in Pac-12). Colorado did take a step forward in its first season under coach Mike MacIntyre, winning each of its nonconference games — against Colorado State, Central Arkansas and Charleston Southern — though the Buffaloes still looked overmatched in many of their Pac-12 games. At least they beat California.
COACH: Mike MacIntyre (4-8 in one season at Colorado; 20-29 in four seasons overall)
RETURNING STARTERS: 17 (7 on offense, 8 on defense, 2 on special teams, according to the Pac-12 prospectus)
KEY RETURNERS: QB Sefo Liufau (So.) (149-for-251 passing for 1,779 yards, 12 TDs, 8 INTs in 2013); RB Christian Powell (Jr.) (147 carries, 562 yards, 3 TDs); RB Michael Adkins II (So.) (103 carries, 535 yards, 6 TDs); WR Nelson Spruce (Jr.) (55 catches, 650 yards, 4 TDs); OL Daniel Munyer (Sr.) (2-year starter); LB Addison Gillam (So.) (119 tackles, 3 sacks, 10 TFL); CB Greg Henderson (Sr.) (68 tackles, 4 INTs); S Jered Bell (Sr.) (67 tackles, 4 TFL, 3 INTs); DT Josh Tupou (Jr.) (38 tackles)
KEY LOSSES: WR Paul Richardson (83 catches, 1,343 yards, 10 TDs); OL Gus Handler (played more snaps than any OL on the team last season) LB Derrick Webb (99 tackles, 7 TFL); DE Chidera Uzo-Diribe (46 tackles, 4 sacks, 11 TFL)
2013 STATISTICAL RANKS: 85th in Scoring Offense (25.4 points per game); 87th in Total Offense (369.9 yards per game); 47th in Passing Offense (249.1 ypg); 108th in Rushing Offense (120.8 ypg); 112th in Scoring Defense (38.3 ppg); 106th in Total Defense (468.0 ypg); 102nd in Passing Yards Allowed (259.5 ypg); 101st in Rushing Defense (208.5 ypg). Here is the full report.
BIGGEST 2014 PRIORITY: Colorado remains a work in progress in pretty much every facet of the game. Liufau, a Bellarmine Prep product, took over the starting quarterback job five weeks into last season and handled himself relatively well for a true freshman thrown into action against a Pac-12 schedule. But he loses his go-to receiving target in Richardson, who was far and away Colorado’s best player last season and the most essential piece of the offense. Spruce put up decent numbers, too, and those should only improve now that he’s the No. 1 option. Colorado also returns three offensive linemen and a pair of running backs who have seen a good bit of game action. Hard not to see the offense improving, though it will be interesting to monitor just how much the Buffaloes are impacted by losing Richardson. They also return quite a bit of starting experience on defense, though you could argue whether that’s a good thing given how many yards and points they allowed last season (and the season before, and the season before …). Generating a better pass rush will be key — Colorado had only 17 sacks in 2013, fewer than any Pac-12 team — and with a veteran defensive line returning, maybe that could be an area of improvement, too. There are also familiar faces in the secondary, though again, that’s a group that struggled pretty much all of last season and will have to be considerably better if the Buffaloes are going to eliminate those ugly, lopsided scores that have defined their brief tenure as Pac-12 members.
SCHEDULE NOTES: Colorado and Washington have one common nonconference opponent: Hawaii, which travels to Boulder on Sept. 20. And that’s actually the Buffaloes’ lone nonconference game at Folsom Field. They play their annual game against Colorado State in Denver, and also make a trip to Massachusetts, a relatively young member of the Football Bowl Subdivision after moving up from FCS status. Colorado’s Pac-12 schedule is somewhat favorable — one of its road games is at California, and the Buffaloes get five conference home games. Trips to USC and Oregon will prove difficult.
WASHINGTON-COLORADO ROSTER TIES: There’s Liufau, a Tacoma native, though he wasn’t offered a scholarship by UW. There’s also Stephane Nembot, a junior offensive lineman who at one time was orally committed to Washington (and before that, he was committed to Washington State). Liufau is the only Washington native on Colorado’s roster. Defensive coordinator Kent Baer is a familiar name for Huskies fans, as he served in the same position under former coach Tyrone Willingham from 2005-07.
UW-COLORADO HISTORY: Washington holds an 8-5-1 record in this series, and has won the last five meetings. Colorado’s last win over the Huskies was a 33-21 victory in the 1996 Holiday Bowl. UW won last year’s meeting, 59-7, at Husky Stadium.
COLORADO’S BEST SEASON: Colorado was voted No. 1 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll at the conclusion of the 1990 season, the school’s lone national championship. The Buffaloes, then members of the Big 12, finished 11-1-1 that year after beating Notre Dame, 10-9, in the Orange Bowl. But the national title didn’t come without controversy. Colorado needed an official’s error to defeat Missouri on Oct. 6 that season, scoring a touchdown on the final play of the game after it was accidentally granted a fifth down following a failed fourth-down conversion attempt.
HOW WAS SPRING BALL?: Here’s a look at how the depth chart shook out once spring was over.
WORTH READING: Colorado did post impressive numbers in at least one statistical category last season: national waste diversion rate. The EPA says so.
NOTABLE NON-FOOTBALL GRADS: Here is a list compiled by the school. Some highlights: Lynne Cheney, wife of former Vice President Dick Cheney; Chris Fowler, ESPN personality and host of College GameDay; Trey Parker and Matt Stone, co-creators of Comedy Central’s South Park.
Christian Caple can be reached at email@example.com. Twitter: @ChristianCaple