Others pay more attention to CU now
LOS ANGELES» Mike MacIntyre tells the story as a joke, but like plenty of things that make us laugh, the tale is tinged in some truth.
The fifth-year University of Colorado football coach sat beneath a patio umbrella Wednesday at the Hollywood and Highland Center for Pac-12 media days, and when discussing the recent evolution of Buffaloes football, he related The Rise to his morning runs back home down Boulder Creek. More specifically, to the local community with which he shares the trail.
“They used to try to run over me with their bicycles,” MacIntyre said, and then he smiled. “Now, they say hi to me.”
However, CU’s meteoric surge from the Pac-12 cellar to conference championship runner-up in 2016 has done more than rejuvenate a proud fan base. It also produced a theme echoed throughout the Buffs’ podium time at the league’s annual media summit: Expectations.
“Before, we just set them,” MacIntyre said. “Now, everybody else kind of sets them.”
Can CU maintain its place as a Pac-12 heavyweight in 2017? Depends on whom you ask.
The preseason media poll released early Wednesday slotted the Buffaloes at No. 4 in the South Division with just one of 52 voters picking CU to win it. Despite 10 victories in 2016, the Buffaloes were predicted to finish just behind UCLA — a team that notched four total wins last fall.
“Our kids have seen it since the
season was over, different articles and different things that have been said to them,” MacIntyre said. “‘Was that just a dream season? Was the Pac-12 really that good?’ ”
The detractors, on paper, can make a strong case. CU is without four-year starting quarterback Sefo Liufau. Eight defensive starters are gone, too, with a litany of newcomers now under the direction of three new assistants — defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot, secondary coach ShaDon Brown and outside linebackers coach Ross Els.
Senior running back Phillip Lindsay was fiery in his defense of CU’s chances to reach the Pac-12 title game in consecutive seasons, often thumping his chest or the table with a closed fist to reinforce his own personal expectations.
“We know we can,” Lindsay said. “They put pads on just like we do. They hurt just like we do. If you think you’re not the best, you shouldn’t play. We think we’re the best.”
Over and over again in Hollywood, the Buffs were asked to state their case for another magical season.
“You start to repeat yourself a lot, but it’s OK,” CU senior linebacker Derek McCartney said. “I believe what I’m saying, so I don’t mind saying it.”
MacIntyre was more diplomatic in his assessment, acknowledging the challenges, while also embracing the Buffs’ strengths. CU returns a roster with a collected 320 games started — a mark that ranks fourthmost in school history.
“We won’t be as salty early on defense as we were last year, but as the season goes on, we will,” MacIntyre said. “I think we’ll be excellent on offense. We have our best offensive line that we’ve had. We have an exceptional receiver corps and a great running back. We have young quarterbacks that we feel are very talented. … About every two years, you’re going to have turnover. You’ll have good players go to the pros. So as a program, you always have to be prepared for that. You’re going to have coaches leave and go. That’s part of it.”
Washington coach Chris Petersen has evaluated the Buffs since he joined the Pac-12 ranks in 2013 and claims he wasn’t all that surprised by their turnaround. Petersen is also well aware of what it takes to maintain college football success. That is something he accomplished at Boise State and now strives for with the Huskies after a College Football Playoff appearance.
“Is it harder to get there, or is it harder to stay? I think it’s probably harder to stay,” Petersen said. “Most people can’t do these really hard things over and over and over for a long period of time. It’s probably easier to do the hard things over and over for a shorter period of time. Can we do it again next year? That’s hard.”
CU’s bid for a repeat division title begins Friday when players report to campus. MacIntyre will have about a month through fall camp before opening against Colorado State on Sept. 1 to further identify his team’s chances.
So he has plenty to ponder on those long runs down Boulder Creek with one question looming above the others. How do you make people believe in the Buffs?
“The only way to do that is to put back-to-back-toback (winning seasons) together,” MacIntyre said. “That’s what we plan on doing.”
Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre expects his inexperienced defense to improve as the season progresses.