Colorado is the College Football Playoff contender no one is talking about
Over the last few days, we as a college football community have discussed virtually every playoff scenario that exists (and quite a few that probably don’t).
There has been plenty of conversation about the Big Ten; what would happen if Penn State wins the league? Or Wisconsin? Can the conference get two bids? How would a one-loss Ohio State match up with a one-loss Washington as a Pac-12 champ? What about Oklahoma? And can anyone beat Alabama? Or come close?
For all the scenarios discussed, a new one emerged Saturday that no one is talking about, but does demand attention: What about Colorado? Because as crazy as it sounds, the Buffaloes are absolutely in the thick of the playoff race.
Before we go any further, let’s pause, take a deep breath and let that sink in for a second. Colorado … is in … the playoff mix. Yes, the same Colorado team that hasn’t qualified for a bowl game in a decade. The same Colorado team that hasn’t finished with a winning record since 2005. The same Colorado team that won one Pac-12 game last year, and three in the last four years.
That team could play on college football’s biggest stage.
And if there was any doubt they belonged the Buffaloes proved it with an emphatic 38-24 victory over Washington State at home. That would be the same Wazzu club that was on an eight-game win streak, and arguably the hottest team in college football.
The game was a thing of beauty, the most impressive result for Mike MacIntyre’s club in a season full of them.
On offense the Buffaloes played arguably their most complete game of the season. It all started with quarterback Sefo Liufau, who might be the most underrated player in college football. He threw for a season-high 345 yards, and rushed for three touchdown scores. Get this: he had just three rushing touchdowns all season coming into Saturday. They say big-time players make big plays in big games. That was Liufau against the Cougars.
Alongside him, running back Phillip Lindsay was spectacular, adding 144 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. For Lindsay it was another solid performance in a month-and-a-half full of them, marking the fourth time in the last five games he tallied 100 or more yards on the ground. Not to mention that he also surpassed 1,000 yards on the season, as well. To quote the movie “Old School” that’s “a nice little Saturday.” And Lindsay didn’t have to go to Bed, Bath & Beyond to do it.
Yet as good as the offense was, the defense might have been better. On a day where the Buffs were facing one of college football’s best offenses, they shut them down about as well as anyone has recently. Wazzu came into the game averaging 44.3 points per game, and had averaged more than 60 in the last two games. Colorado contained them to 24. Keep in mind the Cougars scored 14 points in the first few minutes, registering only 10 after the first quarter.
With the win Colorado finds itself at 9-2, going into the final week of the regular season. If the Buffaloes were to defeat Utah in Boulder, they would lock up the Pac-12 South title (they can win it outright on Saturday if UCLA beats USC). Then, can you imagine what would happen if they were to beat Washington in the Pac-12 title game?
At that point, you’d be looking at an 11-2 Pac-12 champion, with solid wins over Washington, Washington State and Utah (all in the final month of the season). Under that hypothetical, the Buffs would be one of the hottest teams in the country, on a seven-game win streak. And their two losses wouldn’t be too shabby, either, coming at Michigan and at USC.
Now, would that resume alone be good enough to get them into the playoff? That remains to be seen.
At the same time, the fact that we’re talking about Colorado being in this position is borderline amazing.
No matter what happens going forward, the Buffaloes remain one of the best stories in college football, not just in this year, but in recent years.
But as good as that story already is, there’s a chance it could get better these next few weeks.