Photo courtesy of Colorado athletics
It is far too early to start having a realistic schedule prediction for the Colorado Buffaloes in 2020.
With that being said, there are still some realistic goals for the first-year Buffs head coach to leave fans and recruits hopeful for the future. Karl Dorrell has a lot of experience within the conference and coaching ranks. On top of that, he has surrounded himself with coaches that compliment his style while matching his experience.
While it is easy to be pessimistic about yet another coaching change after years of mediocrity, there is still a reason for fans to have hope heading into the 2020 season. While these are goals rather than expectations, it should be benchmarks the Dorrell staff can strive for. Achieving these goals would give Dorrell’s staff the best chance at creating a lasting impression.
Here are three goals for Dorrell in his first season leading the Colorado program:
1. Find a footing within the conference
This one seems like a given. But even in Mel Tucker’s promising opening season, Colorado still only managed to go 3-6 within the Pac-12.
While flipping this record is a bit unrealistic, Dorrell has proven to be successful in his previous stint leading a college program. Froom 2003 to2007, he led UCLA to five straight bowl appearances. While his time in Los Angeles was fairly mild with a 35-27 record, he did manage a 10-win season and a top-20 finish.
This is where Colorado needs to set its sights: consistent bowl eligibility with an occasional dominant season. While 2016 treated fans to a 10-win season and bowl game, it marked just the second postseason appearance for the team since 2007. For a program once regarded as a national contender year-after-year, it is a harsh reality that the days of Bill McCartney and Gary Barnett are gone.
With that being said, Karl Dorrell’s staff is far more experienced on paper than the crew surrounding Tucker. It remains to be seen if they can put it together with success on the field, but is still promising to bring fans back to Folsom Field to see the action.
2. Control Folsom Field
Home-field advantage is where Colorado needs to begin its rise back to contending.
Named after one of their first and most successful head coaches, the Buffs have been undefeated at Folsom just nine times since its opening in 1937. Of those, three came under McCartney, including the 1990 national championship season.
Again, an undefeated season at home is a high bar for the first-year head coach, but he can still begin to implement a vision. College programs rarely turn around in just one year, especially with a new hire coaching another man’s players. However, Dorrell can begin building his program while still finding a way to win games at home.
Looking over the last two seasons under Mike McIntyre and Tucker, the Buffs had some heartbreaking losses at home. In 2018, it was blowing a 31-3 lead in the homecoming game against Oregon State. In 2019, it was failing to finish off the game against USC. On both occasions, a win would have given the Buffaloes a bowl birth. Instead, they fell just short at mediocrity.
This is where Dorrell can make a statement.
While some home losses have been tough over the last two seasons, there is still one that stands above the rest: Nebraska. In a second-half comeback that saw tricks plays and fans storming the field, Colorado made a statement win. It was a victory every Buffs fan will remember. This statement home win gave fans a reason to keep coming back.
In 2020, the Buffs will host several high-level programs including Oregon, Arizona State, and Utah.
Now, a win against any of these teams would be huge for this staff and this community. Although Colorado will most likely be underdogs for these games, Dorrell picking up a big win in front of his home fans can help energize the Colorado faithful.
3. Earn a bowl berth
This is the way into Colorado’s hearts.
With just two bowl appearances since 2005, the Buffaloes are severely overdue for a bowl appearance. Obviously, it is important for them to take care of the first two points here to achieve this goal. If they post a winning record at home and in the conference, they should be in business to find a game in December. However, it is a simple task that has been to difficult for previous regimes.
With Steven Montez at the helm these last three seasons, Colorado still could not find its way past a five-win season. With the most decorated passer in school history not able to post a winning record, there is not a lot of reason to expect Dorrell to find the promised land with a first-year starter. But there is still hope.
The defense began to come alive late last season, as the scheme finally began to click and guys were able to play and not think. While the secondary is still one area of concern, the front seven should allow Colorado to generate pressure and contain the run, giving them a great chance to keep games close.
On top of that, the offense is full of talent that is just waiting to be utilized. The wide receiver and running back groups give offensive coordinator Darrin Chiaverini weapons at his disposal to help the first-year starter under center. The offense could sprint out to points before the defense has a chance to blink.
If Dorrell can get all there is out of his guys, there is no doubt that Colorado can compete for a bowl game.