Miller: Is Colorado still ‘living a lie’?
Jake Miller | Friday, September 15, 2023
While I don’t totally understand it, I love the hype around Deion Sanders’ Colorado Buffaloes. The Buffaloes have won eight or fewer games in 19 of the past 20 years, with the average coming out to around 4.5 wins per season. Since 2000, no Power Five program has seen less success on the gridiron than Boulder. Colorado’s athletic department continuously struggled to sell season tickets. But this year, they sold out in April. All of this wouldn’t be possible without the antics of Coach Prime. If you follow Sanders’ YouTube (don’t call him Deion), you’ll quickly see that he records his motivational speeches, ends practice with games and brings in many different hall-of-fame players. Coach Prime’s not impressing people with on-field strategy.
All eyes on Boulder so far
So far, Colorado looks like a strong team. Shedeur Sanders and Travis Hunter are both All-American caliber players at their positions. Keep in mind, though, that Colorado has played two teams — TCU and Nebraska — that may not make a bowl game. Too much of TCU’s roster changed over, and Nebraska’s situation at quarterback is an absolute mess — Jeff Sims may struggle to find a starting job at any FBS school. Nevertheless, Sanders and Hunter played well in both games. But even with their flashes so far, no one really cares about the Xs and Os. The focus is on Prime.
This week, ESPN’s College Gameday heads to Boulder for their first visit since 1996. Fox’s Big Noon Kickoff pregame show also visits Colorado, even though their Big Noon game is actually in Champaign, Illinois.
On Saturday, the Buffs play a really bad Colorado State team from the Mountain West. Nobody cares about the game itself, but the hype around it is massive. The question becomes: what will happen if Colorado keeps winning?
A tough road ahead
As a whole, the sport needs Coach Prime. The College Football Playoff is salivating at the possibility of hosting the Buffaloes in one of the three playoff games. Yet, Colorado is a shell of a team with a brutal offensive line and not much of a run game. Colorado will play most of the Pac-12’s strongest teams: USC, Oregon, Utah, UCLA, Oregon State and Washington State.
Colorado will be tested, and personally, I don’t think they’ll hold up. Vegas doesn’t seem to think so either: the line on Colorado’s total season wins sits at 6.5. Gameday and Big Noon Kickoff can’t follow Boulder every week. Two of Colorado’s games are on Friday nights, neither of which are Black Friday. This is significant, as the Friday night window is typically reserved for worse games or as a way for teams to get national exposure. This comes at a cost, as TV viewership is lower because many fans are at high school matchups.
Role of the College Football Playoff
Yet the question remains — what would the College Football Playoff committee actually do if the Buffs end the season with two losses? ESPN would surely see a huge ratings bump if the Buffaloes were in the Playoff. The very first line of the CFP Committee Selection Protocol states that “ranking football teams is an art, not a science.” Of course, the protocol gives several clear criteria, but at the end of the day, is the role of the committee to be as fair as possible? Or to grow the game?
In 1989, Lou Holtz (then-Notre Dame coach) referred to Colorado as a team “living a lie.” Holtz believed that Colorado hadn’t faced any real competition in the Big Eight — what grew to the Big 12. Notre Dame ended up de-crowning No. 1 Colorado in the Orange Bowl, 21-6. This season, Colorado is definitely living something, but until they lose, it’s not a lie. It’s a beautifully intricate, sophisticated and purposeful plan to engage fans, challenge recruiting tactics and personify a game of Xs and Os. Even if Colorado turns out to be a fraud on the field, the newly-embraced culture and openness with their now-national fanbase are “true” as can be. If Coach Prime can sustain the structure he’s built, Colorado may begin a dynasty living as college football’s crown jewel.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.