The Buffaloes rank No. 67 in Athlon's Top 130 for 2018
After winning the Pac-12 South in 2016, the Colorado Buffaloes slipped to 5-7 in a rebuilding season last fall. Both sides of the ball were to blame for the decline, but Colorado has to get its defense back on track after giving up 6.1 yards per play in 2017 (up from 4.9 in 2016). The Buffaloes return six starters, but question marks remain about this unit's ability to stop the run, and they must find a replacement for standout cornerback Isaiah Oliver. Quarterback Steven Montez returns after an up-and-down 2017 season to anchor the offense. However, his supporting cast will be revamped, as the Buffaloes lost prolific running back Phillip Lindsay and three key receivers. A favorable home slate -- featuring five Pac-12 games -- could be enough for Colorado to return to the postseason.
Previewing Colorado Football's Offense for 2018
Since joining the Pac-12 in 2011, the Buffaloes have typically been at or near the bottom of the league in scoring, but co-coordinator Darrin Chiaverini is hoping to change that. He takes over play-calling duties after Brian Lindgren left for Oregon State. Chiaverini's desire is for the Buffs to put defenses on their heels with an up-tempo attack.
Much of that will depend on the development of quarterback Steven Montez. His talent has never been questioned, but his decision making, maturity and ability to read defenses have been. Former South Carolina coordinator Kurt Roper -- who mentored Eli Manning at Ole Miss in the early 2000s -- was hired to coach quarterbacks.
The Buffs must replace record-setting running back Phillip Lindsay, but grad transfer Travon McMillian is a nice stop-gap. McMillian rushed for 2,153 yards in his career at Virginia Tech and is likely to be the featured back. Redshirt freshman Alex Fontenot could give the Buffs a solid 1-2 punch on the ground.
Despite losing three of the most productive receivers in program history, the Buffs might be better at the position. Juwann Winfree and Laviska Shenault are big, physical targets with speed. They lead a talented crew that also includes Jay MacIntyre, who has been a reliable weapon in the slot the past two years.
If junior guard/center Tim Lynott is fully recovered -- as expected -- from an Achilles tear and the young talent can grow up quickly, the offensive line has a chance to improve.
Previewing Colorado Football's Defense for 2018
Six starters are back as coordinator D.J. Eliot enters his second season, but the Buffs have to be better on this side of the ball. They ranked 109th against the run (208.0 ypg), 102nd in sacks (1.58 per game) and 105th in takeaways (14).
Coach Mike MacIntyre dipped into the junior college ranks once again to find immediate help. Defensive lineman Mustafa Johnson, Buff back Davion Taylor, outside linebacker Alex Tchangam, cornerback Delrick Abrams and safety Aaron Maddox are all likely to play significant roles, if not start, in their first season at CU. The Buffs are also hoping defensive end Terrance Lang and cornerback Chris Miller, both redshirt freshmen, are ready to take on starring roles.
While the Buffs need several newcomers to come through, they'll also lean on experienced veterans such as inside linebackers Rick Gamboa and Drew Lewis and safety Evan Worthington.
The pass rush should be bolstered by Tchangam, the return of Nu'umotu Falo from a dismissal and the development of Jacob Callier.
Previewing Colorado Football's Specialists for 2018
It's been a while since Colorado has felt so good about its kicking game. Sophomore James Stefanou, a former professional soccer player from Australia, was a Lou Groza Award semifinalist in his first season in Boulder. He made 16 of his first 18 attempts before going 1-of-4 the last two games. Alex Kinney is a fourth-year starter at punter.
After a South Division title in 2016, Colorado entered last season eager to prove it was more than a one-hit wonder. Instead, the Buffs settled into their familiar spot at the bottom of the division. MacIntyre is only one year removed from winning National Coach of the Year honors and signing a contract extension (through 2021), but there's pressure to get the Buffs back to the postseason. There's enough talent and hunger to get them there, but not much margin for error.
NATIONAL RANKING: 67
PAC-12 SOUTH PREDICTION: 5