Dorrell, Colorado feeling the pressure after 0-3 start

TCU v Colorado
Getty Images
0 Comments

BOULDER, Colo. – Colorado coach Karl Dorrell put it no other way than the obvious: His team needs to play better.

At this point, it’s really all he could offer, other than to share in the disappointment of the Buffaloes starting 0-3 for the first time since 2012.

Outscored by a 128-30 margin, the program has tumbled to the depths where director of athletics Rick George felt it necessary to acknowledge in a statement that the Buffaloes have been disappointing to watch this fall. That, indeed, “all of you deserve better results,” he said.

The heat has steadily intensified for Dorrell, who is in his third season after taking over when Mel Tucker bolted for Michigan State in early 2020. But Dorrell kept stressing the same mantra Monday – need to start better (two straight weeks the offense fumbled to open the game). Need to tackle better. Need to learn how to win.

“We have to play better football,” Dorrell said as the Buffaloes prepare to host UCLA (3-0) this weekend at Folsom Field. “We’re capable of playing better football. We can be the type of team that we all envision ourselves to be. But we need to get things addressed and fixed.”

Since last season, Dorrell has seen around two dozen players leave through the transfer portal. That included receiver Brenden Rice – son of Hall of Famer Jerry Rice – who went to Southern California.

In the wake of the exodus, which included several starters, the Buffaloes have struggled with a challenging nonconference schedule. They fell 38-13 at home to TCU in the opener, followed by road losses at Air Force (41-10) and Minnesota (49-7). It’s the first time in program history the Buffaloes opened a season with three straight losses of 25 or more points, according to Pac-12 research.

Waiting ahead, a Pac-12 schedule where Colorado doesn’t figure to be favored in one game.

The numbers indicate why: they’re currently ranked 127th in the country in scoring defense (42.7 points per game) and tied for 129th in scoring offense (10). They’re near the bottom in total offense and defense, too.

“We’re not where we want to be, and that’s obvious, but I will say that we feel like a brotherhood, no matter what happens,” senior safety Isaiah Lewis said. “We’re not going to dwell.”

On Sunday night, George issued a statement regarding the state of the program, which has reached more than five wins just once (10 in 2016) since joining the Pac-12 in 2011.

“I recognize and understand your disappointment and frustration and perhaps, even anger,” George said. “We have not come close to meeting our expectations this season and we own that. I know that coach Dorrell, our coaching and support staff, and our student-athletes are working hard to get us on track, and with conference play starting this Saturday, we hope we all will enjoy a home victory over UCLA.”

The disenchantment may be heard Saturday through boos – should the Buffaloes start slow against a Bruins team favored by 21 points. Maybe even through no-shows.

“We’re all we got,” Lewis said. “We need the support, and we appreciate the support but if it’s not there, that’s all right. We’re going to rely on ourselves and rely on our brothers.”

Dorrell tried to revamp the offense following a 4-8 season by adding several new coaches, including offensive coordinator Mike Sanford. But it hasn’t helped shake the team out of its offensive rut.

Brendon Lewis, the starter last season, was under center for the opener against TCU. But he struggled, opening the door for transfer J.T. Shrout, who hasn’t been able to consistently ignite the offense, either.

Enter Owen McCown, the son of longtime NFL quarterback Josh McCown. The freshman was sent in late at Minnesota and went 4 of 7 for 52 yards. His brief audition may turn into a bigger role.

“We’re at a point offensively where we’re trying to find that spark,” Dorrell said. “All of them are capable of providing that for us but they haven’t done it yet. So those are the things we’re searching for.”

Dorrell understands the frustration. He’s frustrated, too.

“We’re not trying to do these things,” said Dorrell, who has two years left on his deal. “I know we can get better. I know we will be better.”

Pac-12 looking stronger at top after early-season losses

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

When Oregon got throttled by top-ranked Georgia and Utah lost at Florida, it appeared as though the Pac-12 was headed toward another College Football Playoff miss.

One week into the season and two of the conference’s top teams had already failed big early tests.

Flash forward three weeks and it seems the Pac-12 might be in good shape after all.

The Ducks and Utes bounced back with big wins and the top of the conference looks strong, with four teams in the top 15 for the first time since 2016.

It’s still early, but the Pac-12 is putting itself in position to get a team through to the CFP for the first time since Washington in 2016-17.

A look at how the top of the Pac-12 is stacking up headed into the first weekend of October:

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

The No. 6 Trojans (4-0, 2-0 Pac-12) seem to have quickly returned to glory in their first season under Lincoln Riley. The former Oklahoma coach brought quarterback Caleb Williams with him to Southern California and they have thrived through the first four games.

Williams has thrown for 1,054 yards and nine touchdowns, adding 100 yards and two more scores rushing. USC’s defense has been opportunistic, leading the nation with 11 interceptions while tied for the lead with 14 takeaways.

The Trojans survived a scare against scrappy Oregon State over the weekend to start 4-0 for the first time since 2012. USC has to play at Utah on Oct. 15, but avoids Washington and Oregon this season.

UTAH

The 12th-ranked Utes opened the season with a tough road loss at The Swamp in Florida, but have won three straight lopsided games.

Outside of a costly interception late against the Gators, quarterback Cam Rising has been sharp, throwing for 954 yards and 10 TDs. Utah (3-1, 1-0) has a physical defense and is third in the FBS, allowing 132.8 yards passing per game.

The Utes also have a veteran team that won the Pac-12 championship last season. The bad news: tight end Brant Kuithe, their leading receiver, is out for the season with a knee injury.

Utah plays Oregon State this weekend and has tough games against USC and Oregon still on the schedule.

OREGON

The Ducks’ playoff chances took an immediate hit with a 49-3 loss to reigning national champion Georgia in their opener.

No. 13 Oregon (3-1, 1-0) bounced back with a decisive win over a good BYU team and outlasted previously undefeated Washington State 44-41 last week.

The Ducks were no match for the Bulldogs in any aspect – few teams are – but have averaged 51.6 points the past three games. Oregon’s biggest weakness is its pass defense. The Ducks are allowing 72.5% of passes to be completed, third worst in the country.

Oregon’s biggest tests left in the season will come in back to back games against Washington and Utah.

WASHINGTON

The Huskies have made a quick turnaround in their first season under coach Kalen DeBoer.

Quarterback Michael Penix Jr. has been superb now that he’s healthy, throwing for an FBS-best 1,388 yards and 12 TDs with one interception. No. 15 Washington (4-0, 1-0) picked up a solid home win against Michigan State and has 15 sacks this season, including eight against Stanford last week.

The Huskies play their first road game at undefeated UCLA on Saturday and have to face Oregon on Nov. 12.

UCLA

After winning at Colorado for the first time since 2014 last Saturday, the Bruins (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12) have their longest winning streak since winning the first eight games in 2005.

UCLA had a hard time getting past South Alabama and opened its Pac-12 schedule with a win against the struggling Buffaloes.

The Bruins will find out how good they are over the next three weeks, a brutal stretch that includes home games against Washington and Utah before heading to Eugene to play the Ducks on Oct. 22.

CFP expansion talks head toward October after 7-hour meeting

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

ROSEMONT, Ill. — The conference commissioners who manage the College Football Playoff met for almost seven hours Tuesday to work on expanding the postseason system from four to 12 teams as soon as the 2024 season.

There is still much work to be done.

“We will not wrap up this week,” CFP Executive Director Bill Hancock said.

The CFP management committee, comprised of 10 conference commissioners and Notre Dame’s athletic director, is scheduled to convene again at the Big Ten offices for a few hours Wednesday morning. They are set to meet again in person in Dallas on Oct. 20.

“That’ll be important,” Hancock said.

Expansion talks were revived by the university presidents and chancellors who oversee the College Football Playoff last month.

By adopting a 12-team plan that had been on the table since the spring of 2021, the presidents pushed the commissioners to try to implement a new format before the end of the CFP’s current contract with ESPN. That deal ends after the 2025 season.

Expanding from four to 12 in 2024 and ’25 will require rescheduling semifinals and championship games that already have dates and sites set, plus adding four new first-round games in mid-December to be played on campus sites.

Squeezing it all into about a month and working around the NFL for television will be challenging.

Hancock said the idea of moving up the start of the college football season to the week before Labor Day to create more room at the end for the playoff has been discussed, but more for beyond the 2025 season.

“I think most people view that as a future item. As long-term item and not an immediacy item,” Hancock said. “Remember, there’s so many details.”

Hancock said CFP officials have spoken to bowl partners and hosts cities that are set to hold semifinals and championship games after the 2024 and ’25 seasons, but they have not been presented definitive new dates.

Atlanta already has been chosen as the host city for the championship game to be played following the 2024 season, on Jan. 6, 2025. The game would have to be pushed back about two weeks if the playoff grows from four teams to 12.

“(Atlanta organizers) have some work to do because of other businesses in the community,” Hancock said. “Other meeting-type business, hotel business and Convention Center business there. They’ve been great to work with.”