But coming off a 3-8 season, only a select few thought the Buffs could turn their fortunes around like they did. One of the select few was Head Coach Gary Barnett, who took several CU players to Texas Stadium, site of the Big 12 Championship, before the season.
Barnett told his players that they would make a return trip to the Lone Star state and play in the conference championship.
Who would of thought the coach could predict the future?
Not many. Especially when the Buffs were upset in Boulder by Fresno state in the first game of the season. Many in the media mocked Barnett for his brash statements and his theme of RTD (return to dominance) he has used since being hired by Colorado.
But the Big 12 Coach of the Year did not let his critics get to him or his team. Colorado went on to win 10 out of 11 games and earn a trip back to Texas.
The Buffs 10-3 finish and first Big 12 Championship was one of the biggest turn-arounds in college football.
Yes, their dissappointing loss to the Oregon Ducks in the Fiesta Bowl has left a bitter taste in the mouths of CU fans and coaches alike, but any CU fan at the beginning of the season would have gladly taken a 10-3 record, #9 final ranking and a huge win over Nebraska this season.
Here are the highs and lows of the University of Colorado football season in 2001.
After two heart-breaking losses against the Big Red the past two seasons, Colorado took out their frustration by scoring the most points ever on Nebraska. RB Chris Brown scored a record six touchdowns and CU humiliated the corn and won their first North Division title. Many fans are still celebrating in Boulder to this day.
2) Big 12 Champions
The Nebraska victory earned CU their first ever trip to the Big 12 Championship game against the South Division Champion and #3 ranked Texas Longhorns. The Buffs rattled QB Chris Simms and hung onto beat UT 39-37. The win not only gave CU thier first conference championship but also knocked Texas out of the Rose Bowl. Colorado beat the #1 (NU) and #3 (UT) teams in the nation in consecutive weeks. 3) CU players stepping up After injuries knocked out WR John Minardi, LB Jayshon Sykes and QB Craig Ochs, several Buffs found themselves in the spotlight. CU never missed a beat, as back-ups like QB Bobby Pesavento and LB Joey Johnson became stars.
4) Finishing the season ranked #9 Yes the Buffs had a shot at a co-national championship but no one expected the Buffs to be this successful. Come on, be honest.
5) Return to the running game After several seasons as the pass-happy Buffs under Rick Neuheisel; Gary Barnett brought the running game back to CU. Lead by surprise RB Chris Brown (946 yds 16 TDs), Bobby Purify (916 yds 5 TDEs), Sr. Cortlan Johnson and one of the most dominating offensive lines in college football, the Buffs ground attck ran over opponents. Ask Nebraska.
1) Alleged Sexual Assult A CU student alleges that she was gang-raped by football players at a football party and the investigation goes on. The party was attended by some CU football players and recruits and is without a doubt the ugliest event of this season.
2) Fiesta Bowl Loss After weeks of hearing they were the hottest team in college football and they should be playing in the Rose Bowl for the National Championship, the Buffs forgot to play in the Fiesta Bowl. Oregon scored 38 unanswered points as the Buffs suffered their worst post-season defeat in history.
3) Marcus Houston Soap-Opera When super-star running back Marcus Houston ended up number four on the depth chart, the rumors started flying. Reports of Houston faking injuries and RB Coach Eric Bieniemy referring to him as "Markeisha", the story was the talk of all sports talk programs in Colorado. It got so ugly, Bill McCartney got involved and pleaded with the media to back-off.
4) Fresno State loss When QB Craig Ochs threw an interception in the endzone with five minutes remaining, CU's rally from 21-7 fell short. The critics were so upset they called for the firing of Gary Barnett. Looking back at CU's season, if they didn't have that loss and only lost to Texas, they would have earned a trip to the Rose Bowl.
5) Closed Practices Although I understand that most college football programs have closed their practices to the media, I still don't agree with the Buffs doing it. It is hard to follow and report on the program when the media is allowed to only see five minutes of practice.