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Football Notes (Rams, Buffs, Bears and Broncos)

This time last year, I wrote about  all 4 of the football coaches covered closely on The Hull Show being under pressure going into the season. Half of them failed to deliver while the other half merely survived.  Denver moved on from Vance Joseph after a 6 win season and Colorado fired Mike MacIntyre after losing his last 7 games, missing a bowl game for the 5th time in 6 seasons.  Mike Bobo had a disastrous year that went well beyond the football field.  As for the UNC Bears, Earnest Collins Jr. isn’t going anywhere even after another rough year.  The Bears like what he brings to the school, the students and the community.  A winning season for the University of Northern Colorado is considered a bonus at this stage. Will we see more coaches on the chopping block after the 2019 season plays out? Or will we finally see some good  football between (my BIG 4)?  The college football season starts in about a month while the NFL begins regular season play a week after that and there’s still so much to sort out before we open up another exciting football campaign.

Colorado State Rams:  Bowl game or bust?  Not in 2019.  CSU recently released a very touching video about Coach Mike Bobo’s journey with football and what he went through last season both mentally and physically.   Not only did his starting QB, Collin Hill, tear his ACL before the season started, he was starting the year with 2 new coordinators (OC – Dave Johnson and DC – John Jancek).  On top of it all he suffered from peripheral neuropathy: Weakness, numbness, and pain from nerve damage, usually in the hands and feet, to put it mildly. Suffice it to say, the Rams wouldn’t let Bobo’s first bowl-less season force their hand.    In  a 14 minute video, Colorado State, in a round about way,  told their fans that they are behind Coach Bobo and fully support his rebuild/retool process in Fort Collins.  Sure, the details of his 3 year contract extension make it difficult to move on from the coach regardless of what happened in 2018 and what might happen in 2019 as there’s a buyout plan in place;  CSU would have to pay him $5.5 million if they move on from him in the middle of the season while the amount decreases at the end of this season and even more so next.  So Colorado State is betting on the former Georgia quarterback to get this team back into bowl contention, back to beating rivals and ultimately contending for a Mountain West title.   It’s not like Bobo has had a terrible run at Colorado State as he enters his 5th season with the Rams.  In his first 3 years, he went 7-6, 7-6 and 7-6.  Though they lost all 3 bowl games, his teams were at least good enough to go a few games over .500 and stay in the middle of the pack  in the Mountain West Mountain.  The main issue most fans have with their head coach is his record against rivals; Over 4 seasons, Mike Bobo is 2-10 against CU, Wyoming and Air Force (he beat Wyoming and Air Force in his fist year as head coach).  Sure, the heat is on for Bobo and the entire football program but with low expectations heading into 2019 and the buyout plan in place, it would be difficult to dub this the make or break year…..perhaps in 2020.

Colorado Buffaloes:  Mel Tucker enters his first head coaching job with a team that won its first 5 games last year but dropped the last 7, ultimately costing Mike MacIntyre his job.  Even though Tucker is new, I fully expect the Buffs to win at least 6 games with the playmakers they have.   Steven Montez, Laviska Shenault and Nate Landman should lead the Buffs into a much better season than a year ago.   However, the pre-season rankings would strongly disagree.  The poll of media members that cover the Pac 12 has the Buffs picked to finish 6th (or last) in the Pac 12 South.  It is worth noting that the last time Colorado was picked to finish 6th was in 2016, the year they went to the Pac 12 championship.  Are they going exceed expectations like that this season?  Very doubtful as the talent in the Pac 12 South is stacked but thinking this team can win at least 6 isn’t that unrealistic.  The key for CU will be depth.  Colorado Buffzone’s Brian Howell told us on The Hull Show that depth on the defensive line and the secondary will be a concern.  He went on to say that depth as a whole on defense is just not great but the starters are solid.  There will be a lot asked of the 1st unit if they want to get back to bowling.  No, the pressure isn’t really on Coach Tucker this year, but AD Rick George and most Buffs fans expect a bowl season nonetheless.

University of Northern Colorado Bears:  Jacob Knipp.  One player could make or break the bears.  A few weeks ago on The Hull Show, Head Coach Earnest Collins Jr. told us that if Knipp can stay healthy, he fully expects to be playing in the post season; a first for the struggling head coach and for the program since joining the FCS.  The key for even the smallest bit of success? Knipp.  The Voice of the Bears, Troy Coverdale told me that his ability to lead an offense and a team is key, “Knipp’s leadership will help this team,” Coverdale said. “The fact that the offense is transitioning from a pro-style to more of a simplistic one might make all the difference.”  New offensive coordinator Nick Fulton plans to make the Bears offense one that is easy to learn and execute.  All that being said, none of it matters is Knipp can’t stay healthy.  In his last 3 seasons with the Bears, Knipp has only played in 8 games.   It was a bit of a surprise to most that he elected to come back for another year but a VERY pleasant one.  I spoke with long time quarterback coach (both NFL and NCAA) Steve Fairchild and he said the sky’s the limit for the young man, “I don’t know what he’ll decide to do in his football future,” Fairchild said.  “But that kid is play maker.”  So much rides on one player but the fact of the matter is, if Knipp can’t stay healthy, it’s going to be another rough season for UNC…….it could be regardless.

Denver Broncos:  The Vic Fangio/Joe Flacco era has begun and there’s a reserved excitement surrounding the 60 year old first time head coach and the 34 year old quarterback.  After seeing the young, first time head coach Vance Joseph and inexperienced starter Case Keenum fail in Denver, John Elway decided to go the opposite route with a much older coach and a qb with over 10 years as a starter.  The pressure is squarley on the Duke as he has struggled to find consistency in the two areas where it’s most important: in the NFL: Head coach and QB.  Fangio is a no nonsense, old school defensive minded guy that should bring a sense of stability and toughness that was missing over the last 2 years.  Reports out of training camp indicate that the feeling surrounding the Broncos is much more controlled and optomisitc than Joseph’s 2018 Broncos.  Von Miller, for example, has been the first one on the field every day where as last year and years prior he was one of the last.  Fangio made it known early that he expects more from his star linebacker and it seems, for now, that Miller is answering the call.  Defensively, Denver should get back to top 5 defense form as Chris Harris Jr., Bradley Chubb and Miller are 3 of the best in the league at their respective positions.  Newcomers Kareem Jackson and Bryce Callahan bring some much needed support at the second and nickel cornerback position that was missing all of last season.  Offensively it would seem the Broncos upgraded at the Qb with Flacco but after losing his job to Lamar Jackson due to injury and a new direction for Baltimore, skeptics will say he is well past his prime.  I honestly think the pressure is  on the run game.  Phillip Lindsay shocked the NFL last year and was 1 of only 9 running backs to cross over the 1,000 yard mark in rushing yards.  Lindsay, along with Royce Freeman, will be expected to shoulder the load as Flacco gets more comfortable with the offense.  That’s a lot to  put on 2 second year guys but without a strong run game, the Broncos will be forced to rely on an average Qb.  Denver should be much better in 2019 but with a tough AFC West, will a 3 or 4 win improvent be enough to snap a 3 year playoff drought?

 

My predictions:  CSU will win 5 games, just missing a bowl game for the second year in a row.  However, Bobo will get another year to see if he can turn it around.

CU will easily win 6 games, securing a bowl season in Mel Tucker’s first year as head coach.  They will be a surprise contender in the Pac 12 South but                            will fall just short of earning a trip to the conference championship game.

UNC’s Jacob Knipp will lead the Bears to 5 wins in 2019, which wil be a massive improvement over the 2 wins from a year ago.

The Broncos will win 10 games, giving them just enough W’s to launch them back into post season play.

Overall, football from Denver to Fort Collins will be much improved and all 4 head coaches should be safe after 2019.

 

 

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