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Klaus: Colorado proves impressive in transformation of program

| Friday, November 11, 2016

This week’s College Football Playoff poll had no surprises at the very top.

Alabama decisively held onto its top spot, while Clemson once again stayed close behind in second. In fact, of the top five teams, No. 4 Washington is the only distinguished playoff contender that should surprise anyone who has followed college football since the beginning of the season. The Huskies, who were ranked as high as 14th in the preseason, have surged to a top-4 spot on the coattails of an impressive 9-0 start.

While Washington has been undeniably impressive and at least a little unexpected, they encourage a closer look at the Pac-12 holistically, which has produced a number of surprises and undergone an interesting change of the guard at the top of its standings. While Stanford, USC and Oregon have dominated the league for the last number of years, this year it is the Huskies and No. 12 Colorado that are leading the conference’s North and South Divisions, respectively. Yes, college football fans, you read that correctly. 75% of the way into the season, the Colorado Buffaloes are leading a division cohabited by USC, Utah, Arizona, Arizona State and UCLA.

After unintentionally making this double-take worthy observation earlier in the week, I felt a necessary obligation to openly give credit to Colorado. No matter how it finishes its season, the Buffaloes have now manufactured a noteworthy turnaround from their prolonged woeful state as a football program.

It is, of course, easy to forget that Colorado was a legitimate force in college football in the late 1980s and early 1990s, highlighted by its 1990 national championship title. In fact, the Buffaloes were consistently appearing in bowl games even into the mid 2000s — albeit very few premier ones. However, over the last decade, Colorado football has been brutal enough to make most casual fans forget of any of these successes. Just last year, Colorado was 4-9 with a miserable 1-8 conference record.

Given this recent history of futility, it is remarkable that fourth-year head coach Mike MacIntyre has been able to guide Colorado to a 7-2 start that includes a 5-1 conference record. In addition to victories over UCLA, Stanford and Oregon, the Buffaloes’ only two losses have been competitive road defeats at the hands of No. 3 Michigan and No. 20 USC — hardly anything to be ashamed about.

Of course, it remains to be seen whether Colorado’s trend of resurgence will persist throughout the end of the season and result in sustained success for the program. Nevertheless, it is undeniably both impressive and interesting to watch the 12th-ranked Buffaloes ascend the weekly College Football Playoff rankings and so quickly transform a program that has been forgotten for the better part of the last decade.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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