CU Buffs still in limbo

Regionally, Colorado, CSU and Wyoming all without opponents this week

Colorado defensive lineman Mustafa Johnson
Colorado defensive lineman Mustafa Johnson

If the Colorado Buffaloes are going to play a football game this week, a couple of intriguing options became available on Wednesday.

As of Wednesday, CU (2-0) still didn’t have an opponent lined up for this weekend after Arizona State (0-1) canceled Saturday’s matchup at Folsom Field because of COVID-19 issues within the ASU program.

Currently, that’s the only Pac-12 game canceled for this week, leaving the Buffs as the only healthy team in the conference without a game to play.

The first obstacle to play is getting Pac-12 approval. Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News reported that conference athletic directors have agreed to allow non-conference games, but school presidents and chancellors must approve that.

Without Pac-12 approval, the Buffs are stuck without an opponent, unless another Pac-12 game gets canceled. Then, it’s possible the Buffs could be paired up with another available team from the conference.

If the Pac-12 does give approval for non-conference games, two regional teams could become possible opponents.

On Wednesday, COVID-19 issues at Utah State and UNLV caused the cancellation Utah State at Wyoming and UNLV at Colorado State.

Suddenly, the Cowboys and Rams are available. ESPN’s Kyle Bonagura, however, reported that the Mountain West Conference is more likely to schedule a CSU-Wyoming rematch than lining up non-conference opponents. CSU beat Wyoming, 34-24, on Nov. 5.

Wyoming hasn’t played since that loss to CSU and has had two consecutive games canceled. CSU had played the last three weeks, but this is the Rams’ second canceled game.

Amid the uncertainty, the Buffs continue grinding on the field.

“We’re just taking it day by day,” defensive lineman Mustafa Johnson said. “We’re just waiting to hear something. There’s really not too much uncertainty for us (as players), because we’re still practicing as if we’re gonna have a game. Yeah, the load is a little lighter because it potentially is a bye week, but mentally we’re still preparing and doing everything that we’re going to do as if it’s a game week.”

It is weird, Johnson admitted, that the Buffs don’t know if they have an opponent to play this week, but he said, “We’re still making sure we do everything with our right technique, trying to get better, trying to improve on all levels, all things like that. Those things haven’t changed.”

Despite playing well the first two games of the season and taking momentum into this week, head coach Karl Dorrell said a week off isn’t the worst thing for the Buffs.

“This week’s a good week for us to kind of shore up some of the things that have been plaguing us a little bit,” he said. “I think there’s some things that we can definitely work on, on both sides of the ball, that can help us be a little bit more efficient.

“In a lot of ways, maybe this is a good little break of not playing this week – at least right now as of today – that we’re able to shore up some things.”

CU, of course, is keeping the team ready for a last-minute shift that gives them an opponent for the week. CU’s staff has scouting reports on all the teams in the Pac-12. Considering the Buffs were originally slated to play CSU in the season opener, they’ve likely done some work on the Rams, too.

Dorrell, who spent 11 of the previous 12 years coaching in the NFL, said preparing this late for an opponent could be similar to situations in the NFL where there’s a Thursday night after a Sunday contest.

Whatever time CU gets to prepare for an opponent, the Buffs will make the most of it, he said. That would include taking a look at any games those teams have played to this point.

“We’ll get a chance to peek at those and try to make some quick adjustments as we go and get ready,” he said.