For the third time, the Colorado Buffaloes have a schedule of football games for 2020.
The first two slates were wiped clean by the coronavirus pandemic. Whether the third is played – or how much of it is played – remains to be seen.
As Arizona State head coach Herm Edwards said to local media recently, “We’re fighting two opponents here. … That one I can’t see, he’s hard to fight.”
The opponent nobody can see – COVID-19 – has caused some college football games to be postponed every week, so there’s no guarantee the Buffs will play all seven games, or any of them.
In fact, before the Buffs can even hit the practice field, they have to get approval from Boulder County Public Health, which currently has an order halting all gatherings of 18- to 22-year-olds in the city of Boulder. That order is set to expire Thursday, but BCPH hasn’t decided whether to let it expire or extend it. BCPH told BuffZone last week it will make a decision on Thursday morning.
Despite having the green light from the Pac-12 and state government, CU’s fate is currently in the hands of BCPH. If all goes well for the Buffs, the order will be lifted just in time for preseason camp to start Friday or Saturday.
While the Buffs battle the unseen opponent, they’ve got seven weeks of on-field foes to gear up for over the next month.
Not surprisingly, outsiders don’t expect much from the Buffs in those seven games. On Monday, SportsBetting.ag released its over/under win totals for Pac-12 teams and has CU at 1.5 wins.
CU is just 7-20 in Pac-12 games the past three years and 20-62 since joining the conference in 2011. With only Pac-12 opponents on the schedule this year, the low expectations aren’t a surprise – especially with a first-year head coach (Karl Dorrell) and a hole to fill at quarterback after the graduation of three-year starter Steven Montez.
Dorrell and the Buffs are optimistic, however.
“We’re just excited that now that there’s something in place and we know that there’s something to shoot for, we’re ready to roll,” Dorrell said when the Pac-12 announced its return on Sept. 24.
Here’s a glance at the schedule the Buffs will tackle this season:
Week 1 – Nov. 7 vs. UCLA, at Folsom Field: Dorrell faces his alma mater and former team (his previous head coaching experience came at UCLA, from 2003-07) in the opener. The Bruins enter year No. 3 with coach Chip Kelly and he hasn’t been the savior many hoped he would be. So far, he is 7-17, including a 38-16 loss in Boulder in 2018. Quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson was barely out of high school then, but he’s now a third-year starter. Experience at QB and other talent around him could help the Bruins take a step forward this year, but this is a pivotal season for Kelly.
Week 2 – Nov. 14 vs. Stanford, at Stanford Stadium: It seems like long ago that Andrew Luck and Christian McCaffrey were starring for the Cardinal and making them a national power. Last year, this team went 4-8, including a 16-13 loss to the Buffs in Boulder. That was Stanford’s first losing season since 2008 and only the second time in nine years that coach David Shaw didn’t win at least nine games. Although junior Davis Mills takes over as full-time starter at QB, the Cardinal were hit hard this offseason by graduation and transfers, as well as players opting out.
Week 3 – Nov. 21 vs. Arizona State, at Folsom Field: Remember when pundits laughed at ASU for hiring Edwards? In two years, he’s gone 15-11 with two bowl appearances and this could be his best team yet. Sophomore quarterback Jayden Daniels was exceptional as a true freshman last year and figures to get even better. ASU has holes to fill on offense but has gotten better each year on defense. Edwards is 0-2 against CU, however, and the Sun Devils have lost in their last two trips to Boulder.
Week 4 – Nov. 28 vs. Southern California, at Los Angeles Coliseum: Three of the past five meetings between CU and USC have been decided by four points or less, including last year. The Buffs still haven’t figured out how to beat the Trojans, however. They’ll take a 0-14 all-time mark against USC into this year’s meeting. Most pundits project the Trojans to win the South this year. They might have the best quarterback (sophomore Kedon Slovis) and the best overall talent. Pressure is on coach Clay Helton, though, as his team is 13-12 the past two years.
Week 5 – Dec. 5 vs. Arizona, at Arizona Stadium: The Wildcats were gutted by outgoing transfers, especially on defense. Several top defenders, including leading tackler Colin Schooler (now at Texas Tech) are gone from a unit that wasn’t very good to begin with. The best news for CU, though, is that QB Khalil Tate has graduated. He shredded the Buffs three years in a row. Sophomore Grant Gunnell is expected to take over at QB, but coach Kevin Sumlin has a tough job on his hands. The Wildcats are 9-15 so far in his tenure and this might be his worst team yet.
Week 6 – Dec. 11 vs. Utah, at Folsom Field (Friday): These games used to be close every year, but the Utes have dominated the past three meetings by a combined score of 109-35. The two-time defending South champion Utes won’t be favored to repeat after losing their quarterback, running back and most of their defense to graduation, but it’s a good bet they’ll be in the mix most of the season. Head coach Kyle Whittingham, now in his 16th season, has the most stable program in the South and always produces a team that plays physical in the run game and on defense. Graduate transfer Jake Bentley, from South Carolina, is expected to take over at QB.
Week 7 – Dec. 18 or 19, TBD: The final game will be against a team from the North division, but will be determined at a later time. The first-place teams from the North and South will match up for the conference title, while the rest of the teams will be paired up. It could wind up as second place vs. second place, third vs. third, etc., but the Pac-12 might also try to avoid rematches.