The first College Football Playoff rankings are out. Conference championship races are heating up. Teams around the country are battling for bowl eligibility.
It’s November, which means college football is heating up.
“November is that month you want to start playing your best football,” Colorado head coach Karl Dorrell said earlier this week. “That’s in any circumstance.”
On Saturday, the Buffs (2-6, 1-4 Pac-12) host Oregon State (5-3, 3-2) at Folsom Field. Unfortunately for Dorrell and the Buffs, only one of those teams is nearing bowl eligibility and still has a conference title within reach.
Oregon State could claim the North division title by winning its last four games (and hoping for a Washington State loss). The Beavers are on track to get to a bowl for the first time in eight years.
Technically, CU could still get to the postseason, but that would require a four-game winning streak – something the Buffs have done just once in the previous 18 years.
The goal for this CU team is simply to finish the season on a high note and build some momentum going into 2022.
“Right now we need to play full team football,” safety Isaiah Lewis said. “All three aspects of the game of our team need to be full-go. I know we will execute the way we’re supposed to. Special teams has been dominant all year, defense has been doing really well and then offense I feel like they found their spark so I’m excited to see these next four games and how we come out there and compete.”
Eight games into the season, the Buffs haven’t displayed the ability to put it all together.
As Lewis said, the special teams unit has been somewhat special this season. After a slow start, the kicking game might be the most reliable aspect of the Buffs’ team.
Defensively, there have been good moments, but All-American candidate Nate Landman missed last week’s game with an injury and is likely to miss Saturday’s game against Oregon State. Without him last week, the Buffs looked lost in a 52-29 loss at No. 7 Oregon.
It’s unclear if Landman will return this season, and since he’s a senior, it’s possible that he won’t play for CU again. November is an opportunity for CU’s young defenders to prove they can stop opponents without Landman.
“That was talked about quite a bit (on Monday),” Dorrell said. “They know that one guy doesn’t make a defense.”
He does make a big difference, though, and the Buffs have to use November to develop others for the future.
On offense, it’s a big month for freshman quarterback Brendon Lewis. He played well at Oregon last week but has struggled throughout the season. This month could tell CU coaches a lot about Lewis’ ability to lead the offense in the future.
The November games could also impact the job security of some of CU’s coaches, including offensive coordinator Darrin Chiaverini. It’s a trial run for William Vlachos, too. After Dorrell fired offensive line coach Mitch Rodrigue, he put Vlachos in charge of the line. A strong final month upfront could make Vlachos a top candidate to fill Rodrigue’s shoes full-time.
November also offers one last push to show recruits whether the Buffs are trending up or down. A strong final month could impact December’s signing day and the Buffs’ ability to attract top transfers.
More than anything, though, it’s a big month for the current players, particularly those who plan to return in 2022.
“The job’s not finished,” freshman receiver Brenden Rice said. “We’ve got to finish out the season, set the standard for next season. We still have those four teams (Oregon State, UCLA, Washington and Utah) to go out and play. We’ve still got to finish all the way through.
“All these teams are ready to go and we’ve got to make sure that we’re raising the standard to make sure that we’re gonna go out there and perform the right way.”
The Buffs won’t be in the spotlight through college football’s final month of the regular season, but it holds significant meaning for a program still trying to get rolling.
“The guys understand what’s in front of them,” Dorrell said, “and we’re ready to move forward.”
Game at a Glance
Matchup: Oregon State Beavers (5-3, 3-2 Pac-12) at Colorado Buffaloes (2-6, 1-4)
Kickoff: 5:10 p.m. MST
Where: Folsom Field in Boulder. Playing surface: Grass.
TV: Pac-12 Network
Radio: KOA (850 AM & 94.1 FM)
Odds: Oregon State by 11.5
Series: Oregon State lead 6-5