No Rocky Mountain Showdown, no trip to College Station and no welcome mat at Folsom Field for the Oregon Ducks.
Colorado’s football schedule isn’t the same slate of the games that the Buffaloes had been preparing to play, but at this point, that doesn’t seem to matter. As the coronavirus pandemic continues to impact the world, the fate of the college football season is unknown.
Last month, the Pac-12 announced a conference-only schedule for football, which scrapped CU’s annual showdown with Colorado State, a visit from Fresno State and the Buffs’ first trip to Texas A&M since 2008. On Friday, the Pac-12 unveiled its revised schedule, a 10-game model with built-in byes for possible rescheduled games.
While the coronavirus could cause more changes, the Buffs, for now, are targeting an Aug. 17 start date for fall camp and a season opener on Sept. 26 at Oregon. Here’s a quick glance at the Buffs’ schedule for the upcoming season (kickoff times will be announced at a later date).
Sept. 26 – at Oregon
The Buffs were originally supposed to host the Ducks on this date for the conference opener. Instead, they’ll return to Eugene, Oregon, for a second consecutive season. The change was made in an effort to give each team five home games. This won’t be an easy trip for the Buffs, who were thumped in Eugene last year, 45-3. The defending Pac-12 champion Ducks (12-2, 8-1 Pac-12 in 2019) lost star quarterback Justin Herbert, but they’re the overwhelming favorite to win the conference again and many national publications have the Ducks in the preseason Top 10. The defense is loaded and Oregon has the most talented, deepest roster in the conference.
Oct. 3 – vs. Utah
After facing the defending league champ, the Buffs have to deal with the two-time defending South division champs. This is somewhat of a rebuild year for the Utes (11-3, 8-1), who lost their quarterback, running back and almost the entire defense. Seven Utes – more than any other team in the conference – were taken in the NFL Draft this spring. Coach Kyle Whittingham has done this before, though. He’s coming into his 17th year with the Utes and he’s led them to nine-plus wins in five of the past six years. Utah has dominated this series the past three years by a combined 109-35 and will still be very good.
Oct. 10 – at Arizona
The best news for CU is that Khalil Tate won’t play. The former Arizona quarterback, who shredded the Buffs the past three years, has graduated. Arizona is rebuilding on offense, although sophomore quarterback Grant Gunnell is ready to step in; he threw for 1,239 yards, nine touchdowns and only one interception filling in for Tate last year. The Wildcats (4-8, 2-7) have missed bowls in coach Kevin Sumlin’s first two years and national expectations are low again. Several starters return to defense, but it’s a unit that’s been one of the Pac-12’s worst for a few years. Arizona comes into the season riding a seven-game losing streak (its last win coming at Folsom Field, 35-30).
Oct. 17 – at Southern California
Widely viewed as the favorite to win the South this year, the Trojans rebounded from 5-7 in 2018 to go 8-4 last year (7-2 Pac-12) and that was despite losing starting quarterback JT Daniels in the opener. True freshman Kedon Slovis stepped in and played so well (3,502 yards, 30 TD, 9 INT) that Daniels is now playing at Georgia. Slovis is one of 18 returning starters for coach Clay Helton. CU is still looking for its first-ever victory against the Trojans (0-14) and it won’t be easy to get it this year.
Oct. 31 – vs. Arizona State
After a bye, the Buffs welcome ASU to Boulder. The Buffs have defeated the Sun Devils (8-5, 4-5) three times in the past four years, including 34-31 in Tempe, Ariz., last year. This should be an improved ASU team, however. In his third season, coach Herm Edwards might have his best team. Quarterback Jayden Daniels threw for 2,943 yards and 17 touchdowns (with two interceptions) as a true freshman last year. They lose key playmakers on offense, but the defense returns seven starters. ASU is a potential Top 25 team coming into the season.
Nov. 6 (Friday) – at Washington
The Huskies (8-5, 4-5) are traditionally a power in the North division, but they are coming off a disappointing season and no longer have head coach Chris Petersen – who resigned. His replacement, former defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake, is highly regarded, but new as a head coach. This is Lake’s seventh season at UW, however, and he’s always had good defenses. The Huskies return seven starters on that side of the ball. There is almost no experience at quarterback, however, after Jacob Eason left early for the NFL Draft. CU snapped a nine-game losing streak to the Huskies last year, 20-14, but haven’t won in Seattle since 1989.
Nov. 14 – vs. UCLA
One of CU’s worst performances of the 2019 season came against the Bruins, a 31-14 loss at the Rose Bowl. UCLA lost its last three, however, sealing another disappointing season. The Bruins (4-8, 4-5) are 7-17 under head coach Chip Kelly and there’s no expectations of a dramatic change this year. Junior quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson returns; he’s talented, but has been inconsistent. Defensively, UCLA has just three starters coming back from a unit that ranked 11th in the Pac-12 in points allowed.
Nov. 21 – at Stanford
Stanford (4-8, 3-6) missed a bowl game for the first time since 2007 and ended a streak of four consecutive years with nine-plus wins. Last season included a 16-13 loss to the Buffs in Boulder. Now in his 10th season, coach David Shaw looks to reestablish the Cardinal as a power. Quarterback KJ Costello is gone, but junior Davis Mills (1,960 yards, 11 TD, 5 INT) played most of the 2019 season anyway, because of Costello injuries. There are a lot of holes in this roster, but 16 starters are slated to return, so the Cardinal should be a better team.
Nov. 28 – vs. Oregon State
OSU was added to the Buffs’ schedule on Friday, and it gives CU a chance to host one of the bottom teams in the North division. The Beavers (5-7, 4-5) can’t be overlooked, however. Third-year coach Jonathan Smith is just 7-17 at OSU, but nearly took the Beavers to bowl eligibility last year. Seeking its first winning season since 2013, OSU must replace quarterbacks Jake Luton and several other starters on offense, but running back Jermar Jefferson is one of the Pac-12’s best playmakers. The Beavers also return several starters on defense.
Dec. 5 – vs. Washington State
Coach Mike Leach is gone (now leading Mississippi State) and the Cougars (6-7, 3-6) need a new quarterback, but first-year coach Nick Rolovich steps into a good situation. After leading Hawaii to 10 wins and a Mountain West division title last year, Rolovich takes over a WSU program that has played in five consecutive bowls. In all, 13 starters are slated to return, including versatile running back Max Borghi, who led the Cougars in rushing and catches last year. This isn’t a top-25 team, but it’s a potentially dangerous opponent.