The 2018-19 season was certainly a memorable one for the University of Colorado Buffaloes, but not for great reasons. It was the year that the Buffs started the season off to a scorching 5-0, but ended up missing a bowl as they then dropped seven straight games to finish out the season.

The Buffs looked destined to make it back to a bowl after missing it in the previous season with an identical 5-7 record as they went 2-7 in conference play. Colorado has not made it to a bowl after being a surprise College Football Playoffs dark-horse in the 2016 season with a 10-4 record. That season ended when they ultimately fell to Washington in the Pac-12 championship.

After beating in-state rivals Colorado State, getting past rival Nebraska, New Hampshire, UCLA and Arizona State to open last season, it appeared as if Colorado were back into contention before flaming out as they season progressed.

The epitome of a rock bottom season was a 31-34 loss in OT to Oregon State as Colorado blew a 31-3 lead which marked their third straight loss. From there, the Buffs continued to lose and ultimately made the decision to fire their 2016 Pac-12 Coach of the Year Mike McIntyre in the middle of his contract therefore beginning this new regime.

Welcome in new Head Coach, Mel Tucker.

Tucker is an accomplished defensive coordinator with nothing but success on his resume. He was a part of the successful Ohio State team in 2002 as well as Alabama’s 2015 championship with Nick Saban.

There was the run he had at Georgia as they won the SEC East (2017-18) and he led a Kirby Smart defensive charge that played for the College Football Playoff Championship.

As if that were not enough, he also has ten years of NFL coaching experience.

Colorado is changing things up a bit as they reached for a defensive guy in a conference full of offensive firepower. The Buffs are getting what has been said by Hall of Fame like coaches such as Smart and Saban as an intelligent and great influencer.

Tucker has a chance to do something special at a university that has not had much success in the last 20 years. He can turn things around for the Buffaloes and solidify his resume in the process as this is a marriage that both sides need each other just as badly.

Let’s take a look at the 2018-19 Colorado Buffaloes.

Offensive Standouts

Typically, when a coach comes into a new program they bring in their guys to help lead the charge. Tucker brought in a few guys but one of his first orders of business was to strengthen the core and doing that meant uplifting one of the pillars at the institution.

In July, Tucker promoted Buffs alumni Darrin Chiaverini as he went from co-offensive coordinator, wide receiver’s coach and recruiting coordinator to assistant head coach.

This decision not only helped with continuity in the program but also allowed Tucker to bring his guy, Jay Johnson as the offensive coordinator and the Buffs offense has some weapons and firepower of their own.

The Buffaloes offense is led by fifth-year senior and returning starter quarterback Steven Montez. Montez is coming off of a season in which he threw for 2,849 yards and recorded 19 touchdowns. He has a rocket arm coupled with experience and is one of the Buffs’ most used weapons on offense which has garnered him attention that has him on the preseason Maxwell Award as well as the Davey O’Brien Award list.

This is a critical year for him before he attempts to head to the NFL.

A positive for Montez is that he comes in with one of the best receiving corps in the nation led by none other than Laviska Shenault Jr.

Shenault Jr. has a preseason award list that includes: Maxwell Award (nation’s top player), Biletnikoff Award (top receiver), Paul Hornung Award (most versatile player) as well as the Walter Camp Award (National player of the year).

Shenault Jr. was one of the bright spots for the Buffs last year as he tallied 86 catches last season for over 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns despite missing multiple games. He comes in healthy and an even hungrier mindset than last season that will open things up for other talented receivers on the team such as K.D Nixon, Tony Brown, Dimitri Stanley, Jaylon Jackson and Daniel Arias.

The passing game should be the strength of the offense, especially with so much uncertainty in the backfield.

Defensive Standouts

A part of a new head coach coming in are those changes on that side of the ball. The Buffaloes will be led by defensive coordinator Tyson Summers.

Summers takes over his first year in Boulder after coming over from the University of Georgia where he was a defensive analyst for quality control. While with the Bulldogs he won two Southeastern Conference East Division titles, the 2017 SEC Championship, College Football Playoff semifinal and was a game away from playing in the National Championship.

While he comes into Boulder without a specific group that will stand out, expect this year to be full of growing pains. Especially with the team having to adapt to new coaches as well as being in an offensive dominant conference. But, the front seven definitely has some star power on it.

The Buffs had two standouts on that side of the ball last season. Sophomore sensations Mustafa Johnson and Nate Landman are both returning for highly anticipated junior seasons with plenty on their plate including both being named to the Bednarik Award watch list, a prestigious award given to the most outstanding defensive players in college football.

Johnson finished up last season with 73 tackles, 8.5 sacks and 18 tackles for loss.

Landman is coming off of a season where he came out of nowhere and had an absurd year as far as stats. He finished with 104 tackles, four sacks, two forced fumbles and also two interceptions.

Johnson was named on the preseason All-Pac-12 First-Team and Landman made the Second-Team.

Both players will help bolster a defense that is not believed to be very strong and will attempt to change that perception and help Colorado get back at least to a bowl despite being voted to finish in last place in the Pac-12 standings.

Ben Cary of has been coming out with betting previews, winning totals and predictions. We got together to discuss the Buffaloes and rest of the Pac-12 South in which he had as follows:

North Division

Conference record, full record

  1. Oregon, 10-2, 7-2
  2. Washington, 10-2, 7-2
  3. Washington State, 8-4, 6-3
  4. Stanford, 7-5, 6-3
  5. Cal, 4-8, 2-7
  6. Oregon State, 2-11, 1-8

South Division

Conference record, full record

  1. Utah, 10-2, 7-2
  2. USC, 8-4, 7-2
  3. Arizona State, 6-6, 4-5
  4. UCLA, 5-7, 4-5
  5. Colorado, 5-7, 2-7
  6. Arizona, 4-8, 2-7

As you can see, Cary does not have Colorado in last place as they are expected to finish the season. He does however have Colorado finishing with five wins, one less of making a bowl.

When discussing why he had the Buffs as a middle of the pack team he said, “The Buffaloes are a difficult team to preview considering they have a ton of talent returning on offense, but have an absolutely brutal schedule. According to ESPN’s Football Power Index, the Buffs have the fifth toughest schedule in all of college football.”

Cary continued, “They have a tough draw having to face the top four teams out of the Pac-12 North this season, including a stretch to end the season against Stanford, Washington, and Utah (see my full Pac-12 Preview here). Six out of their last seven games could very well be all against ranked teams.

“However, Montez seems more focused than ever headed into this season, judging off of post-practice interviews and his demeanor alone,” the writer said. “He seems to have really matured and the reality of his last college season has most likely set in. Conversely, if his play declines throughout the duration of the season, don’t be surprised if you see some of the younger QBs getting playing time in the second half of the season. This isn’t uncommon with a first-year head coach and a team looking to build for the future. Sam Noyer just made the switch from Quarterback to Safety which means the most likely next in line is Tyler Lytle, so don’t be surprised to see him if things do not go as planned.”

Colorado Predictions:

Ben Cary: Currently, Vegas has the win total set for the Buffaloes at four wins, I expect them to hit over on this projection. I have them going 5-7 and falling short of a bowl game. This team would most likely go 6-6 (maybe 7-5) if they had the schedule as they did last year and this would give them a bowl appearance. The Buffs should handle the two in-state foes to start the season and should also beat Arizona (home) and UCLA (road). Boulder is always a tough place to play with the altitude factor, so they could steal a win from a team like USC or Stanford at home.

Ultimately, the talented offense led by Montez, Shenault, and Nixon just won’t be enough to keep the Buffs in most of the games this year. Mel Tucker will have a lot to build off of with a few key players returning from last year, but the schedule will be too tough for the Buff’s to make a bowl game. Hopefully, the Buffs can build some momentum and optimism throughout the duration of the year and bring that into the 2020 season.

Dev Johnson: While the Buffaloes are predicted to only finish with four wins on the season, that this team is far too talented, especially on the offensive end of the ball to not surpass that prediction.

This is a good, if not great team with a very tough schedule this year as the Pac-12 is loaded. Expect another monster season from Shenault Jr. where he continues to garner national attention as long as he stays healthy but with the Buffs not expected to win a ton of games it will not keep him around to win it. Also, expect Montez to have a big year for his final chapter with the program. His time with the Buffaloes has been a great one and he will continue to etch his names in the history books as a Colorado great. If the defense, however, does take a big leap this year with some new names stepping up and assisting Landman and Johnson then Colorado should win an extra game or two.

Unfortunately, the path to six wins does seem improbable unless they get off to another hot start. That means an early win against the preseason ranked No. 24 Cornhuskers which would catapult CU and bring some momentum heading into the season, meaning a 5-0 start is not out of the realm of possibility. However, expect them to also be at about five wins on the season with the Buffs barely missing a bowl, but this is a team that has surprised many before.