Oddsmakers have the win total for Colorado at 7.5 wins. The Buffaloes were one of last season's biggest surprises nationally. But this year, they will be missing too many crucial play-makers in order to exceed the win total.
Colorado's 2016 season was magical. The Buffs won 3 out of 4 one-touchdown games and went from last place to first in the Pac-12 South within the span of a year. Despite a miserable conclusion to the season, where they got smashed by Washington and Oklahoma State, the Buffaloes earned their first winning campaign since 2005.
The Buffaloes in 2017 will be missing most of the players who were largely responsible for their amazing turnaround. Quarterback and Captain Sefo Liufau was the team's offensive leader who owns 99 school records including total offense and passing yards. You may have seen him on HBO's "Hard Knocks" trying to make the Tampa Bay Bucs.
In terms of defensive losses, 8 crucial playmakers plus the coordinator will be missing. Between linebacker Jimmie Gilbert and defensive end Jordan Carrell, the Buffaloes lose their two sack leaders, who combined for 15 of 36 of their sacks. The biggest individual loss, though, likely will be cornerback Chidobe Awuzie. The second-round draft pick easily led the secondary with 4 sacks and 12 passes broken up, among other categories. Tedric Thompson actually led the Buffaloes with 7 interceptions but he's gone, too.
The Buffaloes do bring back some talent and a respectable recruiting class. Steve Montez replaces Liufau. He lacks Liufau's experience, but he has displayed some impressive performances. He did very well against Oregon, Oregon State and USC. But, of those teams, only Oregon State was in the top 50 in terms of passing yards allowed -- the Beavers were 44th despite a pretty soft schedule. Against Michigan and Oklahoma State, Montez flopped.
Also returning is running back Phillip Lindsay. The rising junior is third on Colorado's list of career all-purpose yards. He did benefit from playing with a quarterback who, unlike Montez, proved himself to be a threat whom every defensive coordinator had to account for. Also, Lindsay did fade towards the end of season, thus indicating potential issues with durability. The Buffs do bring back an experienced offensive line, which can only help Lindsay and Montez.
On defense, Leo Jackson III will anchor a line in which he played a meaningful role in two seasons ago. In 2015, his first season with the team, he made an immediate impact in 10 starts. He was rewarded by his coaches for his toughness and he looks the part of an impact player with imposing size and strength and considerable speed. At linebacker, Rick Gamboa tries to compensate for his lack of athleticism with a high football IQ that allows him to make reads on the offense, direct the defense and see plays happen in advance. Drew Lewis, who has yet to play a snap for Colorado, also should start. In terms of speed, strength, and spring, he is an athletic freak of nature. Derek McCartney is a senior and captain of the defense. He has some of Gamboa's intelligence and Lewis' athletic ability, although he is most known for his physical prowess. The secondary still has experience. Isaiah Oliver is a rising junior who is most known for sealing Colorado's 10-5 win vs Stanford with an interception.5Dimes