By most any measurements, the Colorado Buffaloes’ first season under head coach Deion Sanders has been a rousing success. The program’s wins have already quadrupled from last year, the team has high-level star power in quarterback Shedeur Sanders and two-way revelation Travis Hunter, and Boulder has taken center stage on national television almost every week, win or lose.

   One of the few people that doesn’t seem to think so also happens to be the head coach. “We’re some happy people around here. We’re ecstatic. We’re blessed. We’re highly favored,” Deion Sanders said earlier in the week. “We’re not where we want to be, but we ain’t where we used to be, and we’re going in the right direction, so we’re good.”

   That said, ‘Coach Prime’ hasn’t been very patient, expressing frustration with the maturity of his players and questioning their love for the sport, has openly derided the personnel quality of his offensive line, and switched out the team’s offensive coordinator… sort of.

   “I’m past that. Let that go, man. Just let it go,” Sanders said, when asked about the unofficial, but clearly reported, changeover from former Kent State head coach Sean Lewis to former NFL head coach Pat Shurmur. “You’re barking up a tree that you ain’t going to get up. Just let it go.” Now, with only three games left in the season and needing two wins to become bowl-eligible, Sanders seems to be yanking on every lever he can, even though the Buffaloes’ long-term plan hasn’t really changed a bit. “I’m truly as impatient as you are, and the young men in that locker room? They’re impatient as well, but they want it,” Sanders said. “I can’t say they don’t want it — they truly do, because they have not given up.”

When the Buffaloes have the ball

   Shedeur Sanders is only 319 passing yards away from setting the Buffaloes new single-season passing record (Sefo Liufau, 3,200 in 2014). There’s an excellent chance that he gets there on Saturday… assuming that he’s healthy enough to finish the game, that is. Sanders has had to take pain-killing injections to complete each of the last two games after his 45 sacks on the season have taken their toll. “He’s hurt, but he’s going to be alright,” Deion Sanders said this week. “You think he’s walking like me for nothing?”

   Protecting Sanders, who’s currently on pace to tie the FBS single-season record for sacks with 60 has become the Buffs prime directive, and the likely reason behind the switch from Lewis to Shurmur. Given that the switch will almost certainly result in the Buffs losing their bright young coordinator at the end of the season, Shurmur had better work up some ways to protect his quarterback to make sacrificing Lewis worth it. To do so, the Buffs will have to vastly improve their ground game, which ranks dead last in the country at 2.3 yards per carry. With diminutive Dylan Edwards as the lead back behind a patchwork, overmatched offensive line, it’s difficult to image how that’s possible. Instead, expect Shedeur Sanders to do what he’s done all season long; extend plays looking for home-run shots to Hunter and fellow receivers Omarion Miller, Jimmy Horn Jr. and Javon Antonio… and taking a ton of hits in the process. Buffs fans may end up watching the rest of the season through their fingers.

When the Wildcats have the ball

   The Buffaloes have played much better defense in their last two losses, keeping things close against UCLA and Oregon State by limiting big plays and generating turnovers. After taking the ball away six times in the last two games, the Buffaloes rank fourth in the nation with 18. “The defense is getting it, they’re understanding the scheme. They understand the expectation and they have constant, consistent energy,” Deion Sanders said. “They’re tough-nosed and tough-minded. And when we get everybody on the same page, it’s going to be extraordinary.”

   The problem is this: UCLA and Oregon State were run-first teams. Arizona, in contrast, prefers to spread opposing defenses out and hit quick routes underneath. That’s been a consistent point of weakness for the Buffaloes all season long, and they’ll be tested by freshman quarterback Noah Fifita, who’s been solid in relief of injured starter Jayden de Laura. Fifita isn’t the runner that de Laura is, but he’s been an even better passer, throwing for 1,521 yards, 14 touchdowns and only four interceptions  in his five starts. He’s even getting better — in their last two wins, Fifita threw six touchdowns (three in each game) and completed a mind-bending 78.1 precent of his passes. Receivers Tetairoa McMillan (753 yards, seven touchdowns) and Jacob Cowing (510 yards, nine touchdowns) are the primary targets, but Jonah Coleman and a plethora of running backs will force defense to play honest. If the Buffaloes’ pass-rushers can’t get to Fifita without blitzing, it could be a long afternoon for Colorado.

What if?

   Arizona is on a three-game win streak — all of them over Top 25-ranked teams. They lost to Washington and USC by a combined nine points in the two weeks prior to that. In other words, the Jedd Fisch-coached Wildcats are very, very good. And the Buffs — losers of five or their last six — are headed in the opposite direction.

   “I wish you could only understand how close we are to being what we want to be and doing what we want to do,” Deion Sanders said on Tuesday. “We have to learn how to win. We’ve got to seize the moments, we’ve got to take advantage of the opportunities presented — and we can’t faint in the midst of adversity. We’ve got to stand tall in the midst of adversity and we’re learning that. That’s the process.”

   The trouble with processes is that, by their very mature, they require patience. And while patience my be a virtue, it might not be one that ‘Prime’ possesses.