If you haven’t jumped on the Colorado bandwagon, you should probably do so soon.
Yes, that Colorado.
The one that has a 17-44 record from 2008-2012 and hasn’t been to a bowl game since an Independence Bowl loss in 2007. The one that allowed over 40 points in eight different games in one season. The one where things like this are just expected.
Colorado’s football program reached its lowest point in 2012, when it was toyed with on a week-to-week basis; the Buffaloes finished with a -338 point differential en route to a one-win final campaign for former coach Jon Embree, losing to FCS Sacramento State, Fresno State by 55, allowing 70 to Oregon, etc.
It’s safe to say things changed somewhat dramatically in Mike MacIntyre’s first year as the head coach in Boulder. In fact, the numbers are almost shocking, considering most of the players he fielded were the same from that dismal 2012 product.
There was a major difference between the 2012 and 2013 teams, the latter making an outstanding jump toward the right direction in turning around a program. The Colorado Buffaloes went from getting beat by over 30 points per game to becoming much more competitive, reducing its point differential to -154 and boosting its win/loss record to 4-8.
“Our significant progress really can be attributed to three different areas: First and foremost was that the players bought into what we were doing,” MacIntyre told me during a recent phone interview. “After that, the way we practiced with repetition and the way the coaches prepared them for games.
“Attitude and confidence in what you are doing is everything,” he continued. “The culture had to change to where when our guys stepped on the field, that they had to believe that they could beat anybody. By the end of the last season, that change took place.”
Changing the culture isn’t something MacIntyre is unfamiliar with; MacIntyre took over a San Jose State program in 2010 that had won just two games the previous year and was looking for someone to dig it out of its grave, much like the situation at Colorado.
In his first season, the Spartans went 1-11. Then they won five games in year two. Then, in 2012, they went 11-2, losing by three to then-No. 21 Stanford, and WAC rival Utah State. MacIntyre had shifted the direction of the program in three short years, creating an atmosphere that had been lacking for half a decade.
“We talk about the process of continually building in every area – small increases in everything we do and developing in every phase – strength and conditioning, academics, culture, practice habits, studying film, etc. – positive and consistent increases a little bit each day,” said MacIntyre. “We haven’t completely established an identity yet, but we are well on our way. …we need to play with better effort and more consistency and become a team that limits its mistakes – one that people refer to as, ‘they won’t beat themselves.’”
One of the major – and most obvious – differences between MacIntyre’s Colorado and San Jose State teams is the level of competition. Given the difficulty of recruiting against programs like USC, UCLA, Oregon, and Stanford, we can expect there to be a longer period before the Buffaloes are contending for something as challenging as a Pac-12 Conference Championship.
Will Colorado even qualify for a bowl game in 2014? Maybe. Maybe not. But for that to even be a discussion speaks volumes to MacInyre’s ability to lead a program.
“The goal is simple, and that’s to just walk out there every time believing you can win. When you do that, the wins will come, but I’d never state any kind of number as a goal,” MacIntyre said. “Obviously we’d like to get the program back to the point where, at the very minimum, we are playing in a bowl game every season.”
If Colorado can reach the six-win plateau this fall in year two under MacIntyre, there’s no telling where the ceiling will be in the coming years – and you have the opportunity to hop on this bandwagon before Drake does.