October 6, 2008 3:20 PM
The heart of the matter
So CU comes out of non-conference play 3-1, loses big in its Big 12 Conference opener (38-14 to No. 5 Texas) and now heads off to play top 25 teams (No. 16 Kansas, No. 3 Missouri) in two of its next three games. And on the road at that.
Be honest: Isn't 3-2 about what you expected? It's what I predicted in August in the Rocky's College Football Preview, although I misfired on one win and one loss. West Virginia was more one-dimensional than I thought, while Texas was stronger across the board and quarterback Colt McCoy came to Boulder on a roll that maybe no one outside of Austin anticipated.
Now, the Buffs head into the heart of a Big 12 schedule that can be successfully negotiated if . . .
The O-line backups who have stepped up due to injuries continue to develop.
Quarterback play becomes more consistent -- which, of course, is tied to protection from that retooled O-line.
The defense tackles better as a whole (it's imperative against spread offenses) and the secondary continues to improve.
Kicker Aric Goodman works his way out of his current funk. He'll be needed down the road, and in a big way.
In August, I predicted CU would finish 7-5, and I still think getting those four additional wins is very doable. But take a backward glance at those big ``ifs.''
The Buffs emerged from last season's 19-14 loss against the Jayhawks in Boulder believing they'd let a big game get away. Of course, the Jayhawks left thinking they'd won despite not delivering their best effort, and based on their finish (12-1), you'd have to listen to their argument.
If CU loses in Lawrence, it will be the first three-game losing streak under Dan Hawkins since his debut season (2006). The Buffs' three-game winning streak to open this season -- and a similar run in late September, early October of 2007 -- are Hawkins' high points thus far.