Welcome to the sixth edition of The Figgis Forum, a fan-driven season preview for each Pac-12 team. Let’s load up the bus and make our way out of Salt Lake City. The next destination? How about we keep heading East on Highway 80 and through Wyoming for a stop in Laramie. After getting light headed at 7,215 feet while stopping for gas, we’ll continue the trek south as we head for Boulder. That’s right, we’re heading to Folsom Field, the third highest stadium in major college football at 5,360 feet. Who has the highest? Wyoming.
All-Time Record: 695-494-36 (.582%)
National Championships: 1
Conference Championships: 26
Bowl Games: 29
Bowl Record: 12-17 (.414%)
Consensus All-Americans: 31
NFL Draft Picks: 270
1st Round Draft Picks: 24
Weeks in AP Poll: 302
Weeks at #1: 7
All-Time Record: 9-12
Longest Win Streak: 3 Games (1967-1978)
Longest Losing Streak: 6 Games (2002-2015)
Largest Margin of Victory: 38-6 (1996)
Largest Margin of Defeat: 14-70 (2012)
Last Meeting: 2016 (W 41-38)
The Colorado Buffalos. A team with arguably the most impressive tradition of taking the field behind a charging buffalo that weighs 1,200 pounds. While it does go smoothly the majority of the time, there have been minor instances of chaos where Ralphie has escaped the handlers.
Colorado has a proud history and has enjoyed a great deal of success as a fairly consistent program through the years. The namesake of the field, Fred G. Folsom, guided the Buffs in the early days of the program in three periods (1895-1899, 1901-1902, 1908-1915) to a combined record of 77-23-2 with ten conference championships. His 77 wins rank second all-time in program history, only behind coach Bill McCartney. His 0.765 win percentage is the best among all Colorado coaches who served more than just one season. After finishing 1-6 in Folsom’s final year, the Buffaloes endured another three losing seasons in four years.
Myron E. Witham took over in 1920 and after 12 years finished with a record of 63-26-7 including an undefeated 9-0 campaign in 1923. After Witham’s departure, Colorado finished the 1930’s with a strong 40-22-3 record. Then came the 1940’s. The 1940 and 1941 seasons were mediocre as the Buffs finished a combined 8-7-2. The next three years were far better as they only lost two games each season. Then, the record got worse each year for the remainder of the decade, culminating with a 3-7 record in 1949.
Through the 1950’s, Colorado amassed a record of 62-33-6 with the worst season being a 5-5 finish in 1959. Interestingly, this is the only decade in the history of Colorado’s football program to not have at least one losing season. In 1960 and 1961, the Buffaloes finished 6-4 and 9-2 respectively before hugely dropping off to 2-8 in 1962. Eddie Crowder took over for the 1963 season and led the team to two more 2-8 seasons before climbing back above 0.500 at 6-2-2 in 1965. After those first two losing seasons, Crowder accumulated a record of 63-33-2 through his final season in 1973. The next coach, Bill Mallory, led Colorado to a 35-21-1 record and a conference championship over his five years.
After three straight losing seasons under coach Chuck Fairbanks, Colorado hired Bill McCartney after the 1981 season. McCartney struggled initially, going 2-8-1, 4-7 and 1-10 in his first three years. In 1985 he guided the Buffs to their first winning season in seven years. The next year, the team slightly dropped off to a 6-6 finish, but beat rival Nebraska for the first time in almost 20 years. From there, Colorado steadily improved to an 11-1 finish in 1989 with the lone loss coming at the hands of Notre Dame in the Orange Bowl. It was McCartney’s first of three 11-win seasons. That success carried over into 1990 as the Buffs finished 11-1-1 and were voted the National Champion by the AP (the Coaches Poll gave the honor to Georgia Tech).
This season did not occur without controversy as many remember the Fifth Down Game. On October 6th, 1990, the Buffaloes were playing at Missouri for a Big Eight showdown. With 31 seconds left in the game, trailing 31-27, Colorado had a first down at Missouri’s three yard line with one timeout remaining. The QB spiked the ball to stop the clock on first down. After Colorado’s second play which was a run stopped just short of the goal line, they called their final timeout and the chain crew failed to correctly mark the down. The Buffs again tried to run the ball but were stopped. With the marker incorrectly showing third down, Colorado hurried to the line and spiked the ball with two seconds left. Then, with the marker showing fourth down, Colorado’s QB kept the ball and scored the winning touchdown as time expired. After a lengthy review, the Fifth Down was upheld since it was an officiating mistake and not Colorado’s.
Over the next three years, the Buffaloes went 8-3-1, 9-2-1 and 8-3-1 under McCartney and in his final season in 1994, Running Back Rashaan Salaam won the Heisman Trophy and Colorado finished 11-1 with a victory over Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl.
Since McCartney’s retirement, Colorado has struggle to maintain success. Rick Neuheisel was promoted from OC to head coach in 1995 and the Buffs went 10-2 in his first two years. They then dropped off to 5-6 and 8-4 the following two years. After the ’98 seaosn, Neuheisel was hired to coach the washington huskies, where he would go on to violate NCAA recruiting rules before even coaching his first game. Gary Barnett took over and coached for six seasons with the highlight being a 10-3 campaign in 2001 that included a particular Fiesta Bowl loss to a particular team. After Barnett came Dan Hawkins, who somehow was allowed to coach for five years despite posting a losing record every single year. With the move to the Pac-12 in 2011, Colorado hired Jon Embree for his first head coaching gig. He only last two seasons, winning just four games.
For the 2013 season, Colorado hired Mike MacIntyre away from San Jose State where he had turned a 2-10 team around into a 10-2 team in three years. Colorado was hoping he could do the same for their struggling program. In his time since taking over, the Buffaloes have gone 4-8, 2-10, 4-9 and 10-4 last year. Last year’s ten-win season marked the first winning season in a decade and the first ten-win season since 2001. However, the season ended on a sour note as they lost the Pac-12 Championship Game and came out completely flat in an ugly 38-8 Alamo Bowl loss to Oklahoma State. It’s safe to say that fans are ready for sustained success in Boulder, but one good season won’t erase the memory of the past ten years. MacIntyre has shown that he can assemble a competitor in Colorado, but now he must show that his teams will be competitive year-in and year-out in a rigorous Pac-12.
Fan Q & A
For the following section, I would like to thank Anthony from the Ralphie Report for taking the time to answer my questions and give his perspective on the upcoming season.
What win total would constitute a successful season? What bowl game?
After the year we had in 2016, anything less than 6 wins/no bowl game would be a failed season in my opinion.
What win total would constitute a failed season? What bowl game?
Repeating another 5-7 season or even worse. Worst bowl game would be no bowl game.
What are you most optimistic about this coming season?
The offense. Last year our defense dominated. This year, expect the Buffs to put a lot of points on the board.
What are you most apprehensive about this season?
Secondary is a big question mark with the loss of three starters to the NFL. But I’m not too apprehensive because we have some players with experience (Isaiah Oliver for example) returning.
What do you expect to be the toughest game?
While most might say at home vs Washington or USC, I’m going with on the road at Washington State (Oct. 21)
What could be a potential trap game?
At Arizona State, the week before we host USC.
Are there any injury or depth concerns heading into the season?
Interested to see how LB Derek McCartney rebounds from a knee injury he suffered at Michigan last season. Depth wise, linebacker could be a concern if McCartney or Gamboa can’t stay healthy.
Who do you think will win each division?
North - Washington; South - USC
Who will come in last in each division?
North - California; South - Arizona
How do you think your in-state rival will finish?
Hate to say it but I think they’ll (Colorado State) finish with a better record than CU, despite the fact that CU will beat them once again.
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