Skip to content

CU Buffs view Pac-12 opener as fresh start

After ugly loss to Minnesota, Buffs start conference play with road test at ASU

BOULDER, CO - Sept. 18, 2021: ...
University of Colorado Boulder’s head coach, Karl Dorrell, during the Colorado-Minnesota NCAA football game on September 18, 2021. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

In the course of three hours last Saturday, the perception of the Colorado football team changed dramatically.

Going into the Buffaloes’ home matchup with Minnesota on Sept. 18, they were viewed as a solid contender for bowl eligibility and maybe even a dark horse in a Pac-12 South division that has looked mediocre at best to this point in the season.

Since the end of the 30-0 loss to Gophers, some have wondered if the Buffs (1-2) will win another game. In fact, ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI), which a week ago gave CU a 56.9% chance of bowl eligibility (six wins), now puts that likelihood at 9.4%. The FPI, for what it’s worth, has CU favored in just one game the rest of the year – on Oct. 16 against winless Arizona.

Some fans are just as down on the Buffs after that embarrassing loss on the Folsom Field turf.

“Fans are gonna do what they do,” CU cornerback Mekhi Blackmon said this week. “If I was a fan, I would do the same thing, so I can’t be mad at them.”

Players and coaches, however, are doing their best to fight off the negativity as they prepare to face Arizona State (2-1) on Saturday night in Tempe, Ariz.

“Being on the team, you can’t lose your confidence,” Blackmon said. “You lose your confidence, you’re going to listen to the comments and everything. You can’t listen to that type of criticism. We’ve only got who’s inside this building. That’s what we’ve been preaching. So I think everybody believes in that and we’ll be good.”

As ugly as last Saturday was for the Buffs, they are viewing the matchup with the Sun Devils as a fresh start. They are 0-0 in the conference, just like ASU and three other teams in the South. Southern Cal is 1-1.

What the Buffs have done to this point may be a strong indicator of how they’ll do going forward, but the results of the previous games have no impact on the conference race.

“That’s exactly right and that’s how we have to look at it,” head coach Karl Dorrell said. “The (non-conference schedule), we didn’t do so well. So now that that’s over, we start our conference season this week. There’s only one undefeated team in our conference (Oregon), so there’s a lot of work that can be overcome. There’s a lot of things still to look forward to and work for as we move forward, and we will.”

Arizona State is preaching the same narrative, although the Sun Devils don’t have nearly as far to climb as the Buffs.

ASU rolled to wins against Southern Utah and UNLV to start the year but didn’t look great in either game. Then, they piled up numerous mistakes in a 27-17 loss to BYU. Although that was against a ranked opponent on the road, it was still one that ASU, ranked No. 19 before the loss, is trying to rebound from as it eyes a South title.

“We’ve been so up and down,” ASU head coach Herm Edwards said. “You’d love for everything to go right … That is your dream as a coach, that everything is functioning together and you feel good about that. Then all it takes is a loss and then you’re searching for something else. That’s what is so great about the game. When you go through these peaks and valleys, you’ve got to figure out how to get back to the peaks. We’re in a little bit of a slump.”

ASU may be in a slump, but the Buffs, at least offensively, appear to be in a much deeper valley than the Sun Devils. Dorrell is confident his team can bounce back, though.

“Our guys, they’re resilient; I know that they’re resilient,” Dorrell said. “And believe me, they don’t want to disappoint anybody, but sometimes it takes something like that to get that wake-up call that you need to get your motivation and the mentality of a program back on track.”

An in-season turnaround won’t be easy, but it can be done. CU rallied from a 1-2 start in 2007 to finish the regular season 6-6 and earn a trip to the Independence Bowl. The 2002 Buffs started 1-2, including an embarrassing Week 3 loss to USC, but won five straight after that and won the Big 12 North. In 1986, CU started 0-4 and then went 6-1 to reach the Bluebonnet Bowl.

Going into Tempe, the Buffs are clinging to the same type of hope those previous CU teams had.

“That’s the thing, it’s a clean slate (in the conference),” outside linebacker Guy Thomas said. “We want to go and win the Pac-12 South, so that’s what we focus on right now.”

Game at a Glance

Matchup: Colorado Buffaloes (1-2) at Arizona State Sun Devils (2-1)

Kickoff: 8:32 p.m. MST

Where: Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Ariz. Playing surface: Grass


Radio: KOA (850 AM & 94.1 FM)

Odds: ASU by 14.5

Series: ASU leads 8-3