clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Hawaii Football: Early Preview of Colorado

New, 2 comments

Both coaches are on the hot seat, and the last thing either team wants is to start the season off with a loss to *that* team.

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Hawaii Rainbow Warriors and the Colorado Buffaloes met for a game during the fourth week of the 2014 college football season.

That's about all you need to know about that game.

UH went through three quarterbacks that day, two of which went down with season-ending injuries, and left the offense with a first-year starter and two freshmen to lead it. Hawaii completed just 36% of their passes for 155 yards against a team that would finish 99th in passing defense, giving up around 256 yards a game. Any semblance of offense came from kicker Tyler Hadden, who hit four field goals in the 21-12 loss to the Buffs.

The good news is that it's a brand new season for coach Norm Chow and the Rainbow Warriors, and this time it comes with a brand new quarterback in Max Wittek, who should take the reins of the offense. The bad news? Well, I've been known to be too high on Hawaii before, so at this point my early thoughts on this game could be summed up with: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯, but let's go a little deeper than that.

Dating Profile: Colorado Buffaloes 

Location: Boulder, Colorado

Stadium: Folsom Field

Mascot: Two of 'em. Chip is the costumed mascot. THEN THIS HUNKING MOTHER NAMED RALPHIE. (MacIntyre should honestly work him in at Defensive Tackle)

Coach: Mike MacIntyre. San Jose State fans should know who he is. MacIntyre was at the helm for SJSU from 2010-2012, going 16-21 in that span. He led the Spartans to their first 10-win season since 1987, which led Colorado to reach out to him about their head coaching vacancy. MacIntyre has gone 6-18 in his first two years in Boulder, finishing in last place in the Pac-12 South each year.

2014 Season: Well, this was a season that happened if you're a Colorado fan.

The Buffs finished 2-10 and went winless in Pac-12 play, the first time since 1915 that CU was denied a conference win since 1915, when their coach was Fred Folsom (The same Folsom in the stadium's name!). Colorado came close on several occasions, with four of their ten losses by seven or fewer points and two of which came in overtime. The Buffs opened the year at 2-2, taking games over UMass and Hawaii (but you knew that) and dropping contests to Colorado State and Arizona State. Colorado then lost their last eight games of the season.

Last Bowl Game: That would be the 2007 Independence Bowl, where coach Dan Hawkins and the Buffs lost to the Nick Saban-led Alabama Crimson Tide, 30-24.

Key Players:

1. Nelson Spruce, senior wide receiver: Spruce could've left after his breakout junior year and he would've been among the top group of receivers taken in the 2015 NFL Draft. Instead, he opted to come back to Boulder for one more year. What he told the Denver Post:

"I didn't have my mind set one way or another," he said. "I just wanted to gather some facts and learn about the process. At the end of the day, it was pretty easy for me to make a decision to come back. I just have some unfinished business I want to take care of individually and as a team."

Spruce returns to CU after a breakout season where he led the Pac-12 in receptions (106) and touchdown catches (12). He finished 2015 with five-100+ yard receiving performances, and four multi-TD games.

2. Sefo Liufau, junior quarterback: As good as Spruce was, the passing offense has to have a consistent quarterback who can deliver on those deep passes. Enter Liufau. The junior had a record-breaking 2014 season, setting school records for total offensive yards (3,336), passing yards in a season (3,200), touchdown passes in a season (28) and TD's in a game (7). You would think with all those numbers CU would've won more than two games last year, right? Even if Liufau continues to improve as a QB, Colorado will have to help him on the defensive end to get a turnaround from last year's 2-10 performance. Speaking of defense...

3. Addison Gillam, junior linebacker: A midseason illness sidelined the then-sophomore near the end of the year, causing a dip in his overall production. Still, Gillam finished second on the team in total tackles (79), tied for first in tackles for loss (3.5), and second in sacks (3.5). The former freshman all-American can still have a huge impact in the middle for the Buffaloes, just one of several weapons for new defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt to tinker with.

4. Phillip Lindsay, sophomore running back/kick returner: So Colorado has several pieces of the offense figured out, such as their quarterback and their number one wide receiver, but they desperately need someone to step up out of the backfield. Lindsay mainly handled special teams duties for the Buffs in 2014, leading the team in kickoff return yards. He also chipped in at RB with 71 carries for 398 yards. Lindsay certainly is no lock to be RB1 out of camp. Senior Christian Powell, Michael Adkins II, and Boise State transfer Aaron Baltazar are all vying for the starting role.

Offensive Overview

Like I said, Colorado's passing attack should be well off this year. Liufau is getting better as a passer and in running the offense, and the return of Nelson Spruce gives him a consistent number one target deep. The offensive line is relatively young, though, and the lack of a true starting running back also merits some concern. Colorado's offense will be among the middle of the pack in production in the Pac-12.

Defensive Overview

Success for Colorado will hinge on how well the defense plays for new DC Jim Leavitt. CU finished ranked 116th in scoring defense last year, just inside the top 100 in passing defense, and 104th in rushing defense. The Buffs defense certainly left a lot to be desired in 2014, but several pieces return to form an interesting group for Leavitt. Gillam holds down the middle, with sophomore defensive end Derrick McCartney coming off the edge, and senior corner Kenneth Crawley in the secondary. No improvement on the defensive side of the ball means a repeat of the 2014 season.

Early Prediction

Oh boy. I don't do well on these early predictions. I said last year's game would be a shootout, (I said Colorado, 44-38, for what it's worth), and it ended up being one of the most offensively frustrating games I watched last year. It'll hopefully -- knock on wood -- be better this year with more experience at quarterback on both sides of the ball. Wittek will be in for one year, along with new coordinator Don Bailey, to guide the offense in 2015. A few pieces in the offense will be helpful in his first year, including 2014's top two receivers in Marcus Kemp and Quinton Pedroza. This should be a better game than the 2014 contest, but the result will be more of the same. Colorado 35, Hawaii 21.