Sunday, February 19, 2017

Farewell to 2016: Colorado Buffaloes

It was a season of highs and lows in the PAC-12 in 2016. The Washington Huskies turned a major corner, making it to the national semifinal before getting smothered by Alabama. The Huskies were one of four teams that won 10 games or more. On the flip side, half of the teams in the conference finished under .500, including two major surprise teams in Oregon and UCLA. The conference's prize QB, Josh Rosen, was injured for most of the season, and under performed when he was available, and Jake Browning became the new star QB of the conference until being upstaged by Sam Darnold at USC. The biggest story was the emergence of the Colorado Buffaloes, who shocked everyone by winning the South. Here is our farewell to the 2016 season, team by team, in the PAC-12...

Colorado Buffaloes
10-4 (8-1)

2016 Schedule
Beat Colorado State 44-7
Beat Idaho State 56-7
Lost to Michigan 45-28
Beat Oregon 41-38
Beat Oregon State 47-6
Lost to USC 21-17
Beat Arizona State 40-16
Beat Stanford 10-5
Beat UCLA 20-10
Beat Arizona 49-24
Beat Washington State 38-24
Beat Utah 27-22
Lost to Washington 41-10 (PAC-12 Title game)
Lost to Oklahoma State 38-8 (Alamo Bowl)

MVP Offense: RB Phillip Lindsay
The run game was one of the two major strengths for the Buffs in 2016, and that was led by the play of Lindsay, a junior. Lindsay rushed for 1252 yards on the season, averaging 5.13 yards per carry off of an average of 17.43 carries per game. Even more impressive were the 16 rushing TDs that Lindsay scored on the season. He rushed for 219 yards in a win over Arizona State, and scored 3 TDs in two games (ASU, Arizona). He did slow significantly at the end of the season, with his high yards total in the final 3 games reaching just 63 yards in the bowl loss to Oklahoma State. 
MVP Defense: LB Kenneth Olugbode, LB Jimmie Gilbert, DB Chidobe Awuzie
Senior LB Olugbode was the tea leader in tackles, where he racked up 115 (8.21 per game) on the season. He finished with 6 TFLs, 2.5 sacks, 2 PBUs, and 4 QB hurries. 
LB Gilbert was the heart and soul of the unit. He finished with 62 tackles, but was a force in the backfield, as he led the team with 14 TFLs. Gilbert also reached 10 sacks on the year, forced 6 fumbles, created 7 QB hurries, and collected 3 PBUs. 
Awuzie was the leader in the secondary, as he broke up 14 passes on the season. He finished with 65 tackles, 6 TFLs, 4 sacks, 3 QB hurries, and forced 2 fumbles.  Others of Note 
Colorado averaged 31.1 points per game and claimed their first ever PAC-12 South title. They allowed just 21.7 points per game, good for 20th nationally. 
Sefu Liufau had a strong campaign, but missed the Oregon and Oregon State wins with injury, and missed most of the USC loss as well. He passed for 2366 yards, but managed only 11 TD passes to 6 INTs. He chipped in 494 yards rushing and another 8 scores. 
Shay Fields was the most efficient receiver for the Buffaloes, as he posted a line of 56-883-9. He averaged 15.77 yards per reception. Devin Ross led the team with 69 receptions for 11.41 yards per catch and 5 scores. 
Colorado needed just 64.93 tackles per game, while forcing opponents to collect 77.71 per game, a difference of 12 plays per game that the defense did not have to make. 
Colorado offense allowed 80 TFLs on the season, or 5.71 per game. Not a great number at all. 
Buffs defense collected 2.57 sacks per game, while the offense allowed 2.21.
Tedric Thompson was terrific in the secondary, as he collected 7 INTs on the year. 
Colorado QBs were hurried 43 times in 2016.
The Colorado defense forced 19 fumbles, while they had 13 forced against them. 
Best Win: Stanford 10-5, Washington State 38-24
After previously falling to USC, the Buffs needed to beat Stanford to show that they were not going to shrink into the sunset against upper level PAC-12 opponents. While the offense struggled against a very strong Stanford defense, the Colorado defense led the day and stifled the Cardinal, and rode that wave on to a South title. The Buffs also showed that their defense could stand up to a strong, unrelenting offense in Washington State by holding the Cougars to just 24 points in a win against the North runner up. A win against Utah a week later wrapped up the division.  Worst Loss: Washington 41-10, Oklahoma State 38-8
The loss in the PAC-12 title game to Washington showed that the Buffs were not yet the cream of the crop in the conference. The Buffs got nothing from their offense, and the defense had no answers. 
The loss in the bowl to Oklahoma State was in part disappointment from the Washington loss, part the loss of Jim Leavitt as DC, and part disappointment from getting bounced from the Rose Bowl, despite finishing ahead of USC in the conference race.  2017 Non Conference Schedule: 9/1 Colorado State @ Denver, 9/9 Texas State, 9/16 Northern Colorado
The Buffaloes have enough pieces returning to be able to handle Colorado State once again in the opener. The Buffs should then roll in games against Texas State and Northern Colorado. 

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