BOULDER — Here’s what we know for certain in the wake of the Colorado Buffaloes’ 2-0 start:

The nation can’t get enough of Deion “Coach Prime” Sanders, and as an extension, can’t get enough of the Buffs.

Fox, the network that wanted nothing to do with the Pac-12? They’ll be back in Boulder again next week with their Big Noon Kickoff game day show, the third week in a row the Coach Prime’s Buffs have been a major focus of Fox.

ESPN — another network whose interest in the Pac-12 was lukewarm — is sending its’ GameDay crew to Boulder ahead of televising Saturday night’s Colorado-Colorado State game at Folsom Field (8 p.m. kickoff). GameDay hasn’t paid a visit to Boulder since 1996 — seven head  coaches ago.

There’s no doubt Coach Prime’s personality is having an impact. He’s brash, bold and he’s winning.

But beneath all the glitz and glamor — Peggy Coppom is a national icon, Michael Irvin is on the sidelines and social media is afire with praise for Coach Prime — there is a football team that has the attention of every coach in America.

When Sanders was hired, coaches watched with curiosity as Colorado recalibrated its roster from the ground up. Many had an opinion and many weren’t complimentary.

But now those same coaches are watching and taking very careful notes. Their opinions are changing in a hurry.They are seeing that Sanders’ approach is working. Now, the number of programs who will try to emulate what Coach Prime has done in Boulder is sure to grow exponentially.

No doubt, the flash and splash is fun. It has built excitement in the community and the fan base. Sanders knows how to work the spotlight.

But he also knows how to coach, and what serious football folks are watching is this: the Buffs have a football team. A serious, top 25 team that has every coach remaining on their schedule taking a long look.

They now know the Buffs can win with offense — witness their 45-42 shootout victory over TCU.

What did they learn Saturday? Our weekly takeaways after CU’s 36-14 win over Nebraska:

1. The Buffs can take a punch. Nebraska came to Folsom hoping to pound away at Colorado with its run game. The Buffs had trouble stopping the run against TCU and the Huskers were determined to exploit that supposed weakness.

But while they did finish with 222 yards on the ground, 57 of those came on NU’s only big play of the day, a QB draw by Jeff Sims. For the most part, Colorado’s defense proved it could absorb those body blows and keep swinging. CU forced four Nebraska turnovers that produced 16 points, a critical piece of the game.

How did they do that? Glad you asked.

2. D-coordinator Charles Kelly‘s scheme is utilizing the available talent in the best possible manner. A week ago, all the talk was about Colorado’s offense. Coordinator Sean Lewis‘ game plan is tailored perfectly for QB1 Shedeur Sanders and the seemingly endless supply of weapons he has at his disposal.

But Saturday, it was Kelly’s game plan that set the tone and kept the Buffs in the game while Colorado’s offense found its footing.

Kelly has an outstanding secondary, led by lockdown corner Travis Hunter on one side and a very capable Omarion Cooper on the other.

That allows CU to play plenty of man-to-man defense on the outside, which frees up a safety to focus on the run game. When necessary, the Buffs can stack the box against the run and get pressure on the quarterback at the same time with the comfort of knowing they have good coverage on the outside.

Colorado doesn’t have a big, bruising defensive front. But Kelly has compensated for that by bringing pressure from all angles. The Buffs had two sacks and six tackles for loss Saturday, just enough to prevent the Huskers from ever developing anything resembling a rhythm.

Meanwhile, the Buffs have developed a penchant for creating takeaways — six in two games. That is a promising trend.

3. Shedeur Sanders continues to be a magician. Colorado’s quarterback continues to show an almost preternatural ability to extend plays while never taking his eyes away from his downfield receivers. He has a great sense of where the pass rush is coming from, he gives his receivers time to get open and it’s clear he and that group have developed a great chemistry.

Pair those abilities with a strong, accurate arm and a great decision-making process and it is no secret that Sanders has become an elite-level college player.

4. Colorado’s offense took its toll on Nebraska and simply wore the Huskers down. After the Buffs were forced to punt on their first four possessions Saturday, you could hear the questions.

CU answered by scoring on seven of its ensuing eight possessions. The Buffs don’t pound as much as they hit you with lightning-quick jabs — float like a butterfly, sting like a bee? – and they take a defense’s heart away at the same time.

There was no better example Saturday than CU’s answer to Nebraska’s first touchdown, Sims’ long run that cut the Buffs’ lead to 13-7 early in the third quarter.

That play gave NU some temporary hope — and the Buffs crushed that hope with a 10-play, 75-yard scoring drive. Sanders worked his magic with a 41-yard completion to Xavier Weaver on third-and-10 to keep the drive alive, then converted another third down with a 12-yard scoring pass to Weaver for a 20-7 lead.

The Huskers were toast after that.

5. Special teams play improved. CU’s Jace Feely successfully converted all three of his field goal tries and three extra points. The Buffs didn’t give up any long returns and punter Mark Vassett planted two kicks inside the 20.

Those are results every coach will take.

6. Balance and depth. Coach Prime and his staff are quickly showing they aren’t afraid to put new players into the lineup.

Among those getting their first starts Saturday were wide receiver Tar’Varish Dawson (three catches, 41 yards and one touchdown receiving and one rushing); safety Cam’Ron Silmon-Craig (an interception that led to CU’s first touchdown) and linebacker Juwan Mitchell(three tackles, including one for a 12-yard loss).

But it’s more than just new starters. The Buffs had 24 defensive players play at least 10 snaps — fresh faces that kept the pressure on Nebraska.

Meanwhile, CU’s wide receiving corps continues to make a case for being one of the best in the nation. The Buffs have five players with at least six catches in two games and three in double digits. Guaranteed, Weaver was not a primary concern for the Huskers — but he will be for Colorado State next weekend after his 10-catch, 170-yard effort against NU.

At the same time, Jimmy Horn Jr. somehow keeps flying under the radar — even though he has a team-leading 19 catches — and Hunter will always have everyone’s attention.

7. Hunter continues to impact both sides of the ball. Pro Football Focus had Colorado’s star two-way player down for 125 snaps Saturday — 57 on offense and 68 on defense.

He delivered three catches for 73 yards on offense and four tackles and a pass breakup on defense. What is quickly becoming apparent is that teams aren’t going to challenge him on the corner — and with good reason.

8. Solid PFF grades. How good was QB Sanders? He received a 90.4 grade from PFF, the highest of any CU player. Right behind him on offense was tackle Gerad Christian-Lichtenhan, who checked in at 84.0, followed by Weaver at 77.7.

Defensively, LB Marvin Ham II and D-lineman Leonard Payne Jr. had the best grades for the Buffs, both at a very respectable 72.6.

9. Still work to be done. Here’s the scary thing (at least for opponents). The Buffs were still not close to being at their best. As Coach Prime said, “This team hasn’t scratched the surface of what it’s capable of doing.”

Areas that need work? The O-line gave up eight sacks, including seven on Sanders. That’s too many and could be the difference maker in a close game.

CU also committed nine penalties that included too many unforced errors and at some point, the Buffs will need to establish a more consistent ground game. Even while not counting lost yards on sacks, the Buffs still had only 123 yards on the ground on 25 attempts. That’s a number that will need to improve as the season wears on.

10. The Buffs aren’t a secret anymore. Two weeks ago, no one knew what to expect.

Now everybody knows. The Buffs have a dynamic offense, an opportunistic defense — and a belief in themselves that is growing almost exponentially.

That is the kind of combination that has them on everyone’s radar — which is exactly where Coach Prime has planned for them to be all along.


Story by Neill Woelk, Contributing Editor for Content courtesy of the University of Colorado at Boulder.