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The Colorado Buffaloes have started off the season 3-0 and are sitting just outside of the AP top 25 rankings, unofficially at No. 27. But in those first three games, the Buffaloes seemed completely unpredictable.
The three opponents the Buffaloes faced to start the season weren’t necessarily the cream of the crop. A nonconference schedule of Colorado State, Texas State and Northern Colorado would certainly qualify for cupcake status.
But in the first two games the Buffaloes defense only allowed six points total. At first, it seemed like the massive shoes of the “money gang” secondary of 2016 were filled by a young, yet poised group of guys. That same defense allowed 21 points, all through the air, against an FCS opponent last week. Many wondered if this defense was looking ahead toward the Washington game, overlooking Northern Colorado in the process. But whether or not that’s the case, the secondary was beaten in the air by players that are talent-wise a grade below them.
Sophomore quarterback Steven Montez shows signs of unpredictability as well. He had a fairly slow start to the season, only throwing for 202 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions in the first game against Colorado State. But Montez made a great play by scrambling outside of the pocket and throwing away from his body to find senior wideout Shay Fields Jr. in the end zone.
More was expected from Montez the next week, but once again the pistons weren’t firing on all cylinders. Against Texas State, he threw for one touchdown and some of his progressions were poorly executed. The one touchdown he threw in that game went into the hands of senior wide receiver Bryce Bobo, who made an acrobatic play in the lower left corner of the end zone.
On Saturday, Montez would deliver his best performance of the season so far, as he threw for 357 yards and four touchdowns. Montez came out with his gunslinger mentality and delivered the ball to the elusive members of the Colorado receiving corps. It was an impressive performance, but it came against an opponent that was arguably the worst team on this year’s schedule. What’s going to help Montez is his skilled supporting cast of experienced players. If he can utilize what’s around him, he’ll be in great shape, but his spotty performances could be something for the Buffaloes to worry about.
Looking ahead, Colorado will have a much bigger challenge against its first Pac-12 opponents. First, the Buffs play host to a Washington team that simply outclassed them in the Pac-12 Championship Game last December. The Huskies might have lost some key players on defense, but they still have the reigning Pac-12 offensive player of the year in quarterback Jake Browning. The Huskies also possess a dangerous deep threat and kick return specialist in wideout Dante Pettis. Looking at the way Washington started off the season, they’ll be tough to handle.
A week after that, the Buffs will go down to Pasadena and face quarterback Josh Rosen and the UCLA Bruins, a team that overcame true adversity after trailing Texas A&M 44-10 late in the third quarter. The defense may have some soft spots, but Rosen is for real. The Rosen versus “money gang II” matchup is something to keep an eye out come Sept. 30. It will be a great test on the road for the Colorado defense.
Overall, this team is in for a rigorous test down the line. How they handle it depends on which of the first three games showed us the real Colorado football team. Quite frankly, the outlook is dubious.
Montez might be playing the game of his life and yet the defense could give up too many points. Or maybe the defense will carry the load like they did against Colorado State but the offense struggles.
Earlier in the season, I predicted that Colorado will finish second in the Pac-12 South. My confidence in that pick has waned over the last few weeks, not necessarily because I think that Colorado will flunk, but because its hard to predict what they will do.
There is still plenty to figure out with this team, but a lot will be revealed when they take on Washington this Saturday.
Contact CU Independent Sports Staff Writer Drew Sharek at firstname.lastname@example.org.