Colorado Football: Looking at Buffs’ 2017 non-conference opponents

Dec 29, 2016; San Antonio, TX, USA; Colorado Buffaloes players huddle in the tunnel prior their game against the Oklahoma State Cowboys at Alamodome. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

The Colorado Buffaloes will go into the 2017 season with a lot of optimism after a terrific 2016 season.

When was the last time CU fans started looking ahead to the next year’s schedule right after New Year’s? Fans are ready for the program to return to power, despite two horrendous losses to close the season.

Looking ahead to Colorado’s tentative schedule for next year, the team will play conference home games against Arizona, California, USC and Washington. The last two games on that list will be difficult as USC will be returning quarterback Sam Darnold, who is an absolute stud, and then the team will have to get over the terrible memories of the last meeting with Washington, a 31-point loss in the Pac-12 Championship Game.

On the road, the team will travel to play games in conference against Arizona State, Oregon State, UCLA, Utah and Washington State. The last two games listed there won’t be easy either, as Utah always plays the Buffs tough and Washington State will get quarterback Luke Falk back.

That said, the non-conference schedule looks quite favorable. These three games are all that the Buffs should win and win handily. That means a strong showing in conference games could put the Buffs in the AP top 10 again next season.

But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. Let’s take a look at those non-conference games.

Sep 2, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Buffaloes defensive back Tedric Thompson (9) tackles Colorado State Rams running back Izzy Matthews (35) in the first quarter against the Colorado State Rams at Sports Authority Field. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

As it has for the last several years, the season will start with the Rocky Mountain Showdown on September 2.

These teams have played each other every year since 1995 and Colorado holds an all-time series record of 64-22-2. The Buffs have also won five of the last seven meetings and two in a row, including a dominant 37-point victory last season.

Colorado won’t have Sefo Liufau under center when the season starts next year, but there’s no reason to believe that the Buffs will have trouble with the Rams in this one. The Buffs have the better team and better players, despite those that are leaving, and Mike MacIntyre will have his group ready to play in this one.

Sep 24, 2016; San Marcos, TX, USA; Houston Cougars running back Duke Catalon (2) dives into the end zone for touchdown against the Texas State Bobcats at Bobcat Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sportsado

Texas State has only been an FBS program since 2012 and is coming off its first year under head coach Everett Withers in which the school compiled a 2-10 record.

The Bobcats actually won their first game this season, a 56-54 shootout victory over Ohio, a team that ended up playing in a bowl game. However, their only other victory all season came over Incarnate Word.

This should be nothing more than a tune up game for the Buffs, much like their game against Idaho State was earlier this past season.

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Expect to see the starters benched by the end of the third quarter in this one. If the Buffs can’t get a massive victory in this one, it could be an indication that the 2017 isn’t as good as they hope to be.

Sep 17, 2016; Fort Collins, CO, USA; Northern Colorado quarterback Kyle Sloter tries to get around the Colorado State Rams defense during a college football game at Hughes Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Austin Humphreys/The Coloradoan via USA TODAY Sports

This game could be an even easier win for Colorado than Texas State.

Northern Colorado is an FCS school that competes in the Big Sky Conference. Though the Bears and Buffs have met on the hardwood in basketball, this will be the first meeting between the teams in football.

The Bears are taking on the big boys in 2017 as they will also travel to the swamp to face Florida, though the school is likely looking for a big pay day there. Still, the Buffs can’t take this team lightly.

Northern Colorado put together a 6-5 record in 2016 and had a chance at qualifying for the FCS playoffs had they defeated Cal Poly in the season finale. Plus, it’s less than a 60-mile trip to Boulder and Folsom Field, so don’t expect this team to be intimidated.

That said, Colorado should win and win big.

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