Massachusetts Minutemen vs. Colorado Buffaloes: A Way Too Early Nonconference Preview

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Colorado Buffaloes travel across the country to face off against a Minutemen team that has yet to win in the non-conference slate. Is this their best chance, or will the Buffaloes buffalo the Minutemen?

The Colorado Buffaloes are a team on the upswing, or that's the story they are spinning. Increasing their win totals the past 3 years, they have the look and the energy of a team on the upswing, but key losses on both sides of the ball make it questionable if this will be the fourth year they see an increase to the win column. Regardless, Colorado is one of two teams to convert a 5th down (Cornell would be the other, trivia buffs), and that alone makes them dangerous.

University of Colorado Boulder Buffaloes 2013 Rewind:

The Buffaloes have totaled eight wins the past three years, but half of those wins came in 2013. The Passing attack of the Buffaloes was Top 50, but the rushing attack was one of the worst in football. Combined with a leaky defense which was 115th in points against, the Buffaloes couldn't hang in the Pac-12, compiling a 1-8 record in division. Sophomore coach Mike MacIntyre hopes to plug his holes on defense and continue their trend upwards in 2014.

Mascot:

In 1934, the University of Colorado campus newspaper offered a contest to give a nickname to the university. The winner, Andrew Dickson, won $5 with his submission of the Buffaloes. Today, the University of Colorado has both a live bison name Ralphie roaming the sidelines, as well as a human in a mascot named Chip (to this writers knowledge, the Mascot is named Chip, the person in the mascot is not). The biggest concern of the university is keeping Oregon Trail re-enactors away from the stadium.

Conference/Division

Colorado plays in the Pac-12 conference, joining them in 2011 from the Big 12. Their defectors in crime, Utah, helped form a natural rivalry in the Pac-12, and each year they face off for the Rumble in the Rockies. Every year the aim of the Pac-12 is to send a school to the Rose Bowl to face off against the Big Ten.

Last Bowl Appearance:

The Buffaloes are a lucky 7 years removed from their last bowl trip. In 2007, they faced off against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the Independence Bowl, losing by less than a touchdown, 24-30.

Head Coach:

Like the Massachusetts Minutemen's first opponent, Boston College, the Buffaloes are coming into Gillette with a second year head coach. After two disastrous seasons from Jon Embree, resulting in a 4-21 record, Mike MacIntyre took the reins. MacIntyre had just come off a 10-2 season with San Jose State, and the Buffaloes hoped that he would lead them back to relevancy. In his first year, they managed to match their prior two years win total, but there is still a lot of work to be done in Folsom Field.

Five Key Players:

Offense:

After trying an ineffective Connor Wood under center for the first half of the year, the ball was handed to freshman Sefo Liufau, to greater success. Liufau compiled 1,779 yards and 12 touchdowns to 8 interceptions. Despite a rocky year (no pun intended), Liufau showed great competency in the pocket, and looks to improve in his sophomore outing.

Unfortunately for Sefo, his top target, Paul Richardson, was taken by the Seattle Seahawks in the secon round. Paul Richardson accounted for over 1300 of the Buffaloes offense last year, so he has some big shoes to fill. Trying to fill those shoes will be junior Nelson Spruce and senior D.D. Goodson. That duo, combined last year, provided only 950 yards of offense. It's looking like a transition year for the Buffaloes receiving corps.

In the backfield, the Buffaloes rely on the tandem of Christian Powell and Michael Adkins. Adkins is the better runner, compiling a 5.2 yards-per-carry average, while Christian Powell averaged just 3.8 yards per carry. Still, as a tandem they combined for approximately 1,100 yards, as neither broke 600 yards on the ground.

Defense:

There's a reason that the Buffaloes are currently sitting at 100-1 to win the Pac-12, and that's the sieve they call their defense. Not only were they were one of the worst teams in football in points allowed last year, they also gave up 508 yards per game. It wasn't bad luck that they were scored on, this is just a bad defense. If the defense has anything going for it, it's their consistency, as they were 112th against the pass and 114th against the rush.

The two players to watch here are sophomore Addison Gillam and senior Greg Henderson. Gillam compiled 119 tackles from the linebacker position, had 3 sacks and one interception. Greg Henderson is a ball hawking defensive back, nabbing 4 interceptions last year, returning one to the house, as well as being third in tackles with 68.  The Buffaloes will be missing sack leader Chidera Uzo-Diribe, who is now on the Saints.

Special Teams:

Will Oliver returns to the Buffaloes for his senior year, which is a boon for the Buffaloes. Oliver was perfect within 30 yards last season, and missed only one within 40 yards. The Buffaloes also return punter Darragh O'Neill, who averaged 41 yards per punt last season, along with 37 net yards per punt.

Sophomore Ryan Severson is the Buffaloes main kick returner. In 2013, he averaged 22 yards-per-return. He doesn't have breakaway speed, and his long was only 48 yards.

Early Prediction:

Some facts: The Minutemen have yet to win a non-conference game since they joined the MAC. This is despite the fact that they scheduled Maine last year, a FCS school. Colorado is over 1900 miles away from Foxboro. It would take 634 hours walking, 178 hours biking, two days, four hours by train, 29 hours driving, or three hours, 50 minutes by plane. While I expect the Buffaloes to fly out, that's still a long way to go for a four win team that's lost its top receiving threat and top defensive end. I think the Buffaloes show up flat, the Minutemen, backed by an actual quarterback show some fight, and but their first win on the board.

Prediction:

Minutemen-24

Buffaloes-20

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