Here we are on the doorstep of a new era in Colorado football and almost nobody expects the Buffs to reach the postseason in their first year in the Pac-12 Conference and the first season under the direction of a coaching staff led by Jon Embree.


Some say the schedule is too tough. Thirteen consecutive weeks, facing Bowl Championship Series schools in 11 of those games.

Some say there isn't enough speed on the roster.

Some say there isn't enough depth.

Some say the change in schemes from whatever it was Dan Hawkins was doing to a West Coast, pro-style system on offense and a 3-4 scheme on defense will be too big of an adjustment.

Some say a program that hasn't won a road game in more than three seasons can't be expected to produce at least seven wins when eight of its games are played away from Folsom Field.

I'm here to tell you a bowl game is possible this year and it's not so crazy to believe it. That shouldn't be taken as a prediction this team will make it happen. It isn't intended as such. But can the Buffs do it? Of course they can.

Consider this for a moment. The black, silver and gold was just a monumental fourth-quarter collapse at Kansas from winning six games and being bowl eligible last season. Sure, a vitally important core group of players from that team is no longer here, including four NFL draft picks, but a huge chunk of the roster returns.

Embree has added some talented freshmen to the mix and he hired a top-notch coaching staff to guide the players through the journey.

If you haven't been paying attention these past nine months, you've missed players being pretty outspoken at times in how significant the change has been in the coaching they are receiving. It remains to be seen if that translates to wins, but at least the players will believe in the game plan from week to week. That wasn't the case at times over the past five seasons and particularly the past two years.

Believing in who you are and what you're doing is a vital element in achieving success whether you're building a bridge, writing a novel or playing football. The Buffs seem to have that on their side heading into the season opener Saturday night at Hawaii.

CU head coach Jon Embree, background, knows that if the Buffs are going to make a bowl game this season one of the big reasons will be the play of senior
CU head coach Jon Embree, background, knows that if the Buffs are going to make a bowl game this season one of the big reasons will be the play of senior quarterback Tyler Hansen, foreground. ( CLIFF GRASSMICK )

Here is the rest of the recipe for reaching the postseason in 2011:

  • They're going to need some luck. Every good team benefits at some point in the season from a blown call from an official that goes its way, a crucial blunder from an opponent, a ball that bounces its way, gifts from Mother Nature or catching an opponent on a week when it is missing a key player.

    The one area in which they need luck on their side most is health. This team won't thrive if it loses many players to significant injuries.

  • The Buffs need an identity. They must be able to hang their hats on at least one element of the game on both sides of the ball. Preferably, that would be running the ball well and being able to stop the run. But being able to rely on consistent execution in at least one part of the game regardless of who the opponent is will help this team immensely.

  • The defense has to be very opportunistic. These Buffs can't miss many opportunities to sack the quarterback, intercept passes or recover fumbles. They start the season against a Hawaii team that led the nation in turnovers gained in 2010. The Buffs need to be a top-25 team in that statistic this fall.

  • The offense must be equally effective at taking care of the football and not allowing quarterback Tyler Hansen to be sacked. Hansen also must improve with his decision making, including knowing when to throw the ball away and start over again instead of trying to make miracles happen.

  • Let's face it, special teams haven't been a thing of beauty in Boulder for awhile now. This coaching staff has devoted an enormous amount of practice time to addressing that shortcoming in the spring and fall camp. The Buffs must get more accurate place kicking, better punting and some big plays in the kicking game, whether its returns for touchdowns or blocked kicks or both.

  • This team has to be mentally tough. Becoming so should lead to a big reduction in penalties and to more wins on the road. The Buffs have given themselves opportunities to win numerous road games over the past three seasons, but those chances have been lost because of a lack of mental toughness in the form of penalties, missed field goals, other special teams blunders, blown assignments and an inability to rise to the occasion and make a play when one is needed most.

    That isn't an overwhelming list. If the Buffs can get the job done in those areas, they should be in every game this fall, and that would make for an entertaining season, regardless of whether it ends in a bowl game.