Time To Begin A New Trend

The Buff football team is beginning a new tradition Saturday. Before the game, the team will walk to the stadium from near Libby Hall on campus, touch the bronzed buffalo outside Folsom, then make their way to the locker rooms and prepare to play Florida State. While they're at it, Colorado needs to begin a new trend. One where they beat high-profile non-conference opponents.

The Buffs have made a habit of peppering their non-conference schedule with big-time football schools for decades. In recent seasons, fans at Folsom have had the opportunity to see their Buffs take on the likes of Arizona State, Washington State, UCLA, USC and Washington.

West Virginia, Georgia, Cal and LSU will visit Boulder during the next five Septembers. All four of those teams are in this week's AP Top 25 Poll, and three of them are ranked among the top 8 spots.

Before all that, though, Colorado hosts the Florida State Seminoles Saturday night in a game to be nationally televised on ESPN.

Road games over the next five seasons include trips to Florida State, West Virginia, Cal, LSU and Minnesota, as well.

Administrators, coaches and players tell us they enjoy playing the big-time programs. Administrators say they want to provide fans with a great game. Coaches say they're not afraid of anyone, and they get to prove that on Saturdays in September each fall. CU players want to test their skills against the best players in the country.

And then there's recruiting. The Colorado program can use its non-conference schedule as a strong selling point. When Dan Hawkins and Co. sit in a prospect's living room, they can tell the wide-eyed youngster, "Want to play against some of the best teams in the country? Come to Colorado."

That's no slick sales pitch. It's the plain ‘ol, fact-based truth.

But there's a catch. There's something sort of left out of the equation. I mean, if you play some the best teams in the country each September, but you make a habit of losing, is that really a positive?

Back before the BCS was formed in 1998, Colorado had a pretty good run against the big-time football programs during non-conference play. From 1989 through 1997, CU went 17-7-1 against teams from what would become BCS conferences. In fact, that stretch earned the Buffs consistent national exposure, and their own reputation as a big-time football program.

Since 1998, however, it ain't been pretty. Going into Saturday night's game with Florida State, Colorado has played 13 non-conference games against foes from BCS conferences. The Buffs are 3-10 in the matchups, earning wins twice against UCLA and once against Washington State.

Each of those games have been televised, most nationally. That's a lot of TV exposure. But it's not the kind that impresses the youngsters who run the sub-4.4 40-yard dashes, or bench press their family's cumulative weight.

Let's put it another way. Since 2003 whenever CU has played a BCS opponent, including Big 12 games, on either ABC, ESPN, FSN, TBS or LFS (last year's Georgia game), the Buffs have been outscored 837-462.

Needless to say, this program needs to reverse that trend in a big way. They need to begin a new trend Saturday night when Florida State comes to town.

As many as a dozen recruits are expected to be in Boulder on official visits this weekend. ( Visit List).

Dozens more will be watching on ESPN, as the game will be broadcast coast to coast when most of the day's college football action is over with.

Of course what CU administrators, coaches and players typically don't say when talking about the Buffs' traditionally rigorous non-conference schedule is that the program needs to play it in order to help make ends meet. This isn't Manhattan, Kan. Colorado has trouble selling out for Florida State, they can't afford NOT to bring in the big boys on an annual basis.

But to bring them in and lose — or worse, lose badly — needs to stop.

Of course, the current coaching staff at Colorado isn't responsible for anything that happened before they came to Boulder last season. It's not fair to lay that blame on them. But it's their job to change the direction.

The pressure is on this program to beat some marquee opponents, and Saturday night is the time to start.

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