DENVER – With only one winning season since 2005, Colorado has turned to a new coach in first-time head coach Mel Tucker. The former Georgia defensive coordinator makes his debut Friday night as the Buffaloes tangle with rival Colorado State at Broncos Stadium at Mile High in Denver.
TV: 10 p.m. ET, ESPN. LINE: Colorado -13
Colorado is coming off back-to-back 5-7 finishes and parted ways with Mike MacIntyre after six seasons late last fall. Enter Tucker, who has spent the last three seasons as Georgia's defensive coordinator and was at Alabama for one season (2015) and served as an NFL assistant in the 10 seasons prior to that. "Pressure, to me, is a privilege. If you're trying to do something important, you put more pressure on yourself," Tucker said of the 2019 expectations for his team. "We put more pressure on ourselves to prepare and get it right than I think anyone can put on us from the outside. If you're not doing anything significant, there's not going to be very much pressure." Further north in the state, there are also increased expectations at Colorado State, which is coming off its first losing season (3-9) in the last six years and is looking to get back on track in head coach Mike Bobo's fifth season.
ABOUT COLORADO (2018: 5-7)
The Buffs have brought up the rear in the Pac-12 South Division in each of the last two seasons and are predicted to finish last again in the preseason conference media poll. Offensively, senior quarterback Steven Montez is back for his third full season as the team's starter and will have one of the nation's best weapons at his disposal in dynamic junior wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr., who caught 86 passes for 1,011 yards, added 115 rushing yards and totaled 11 touchdowns in nine games before his season was cut short by a toe injury. Defensively, Colorado brings back only four starters, highlighted by junior linebacker Nate Landman(123 total tackles in 2018) and junior defensive tackle Mustafa Johnson (73 total tackles, including nine for losses).
ABOUT COLORADO STATE (2018: 3-9)
The Rams are picked to finish fifth for the second straight season in the six-team Mountain Division of the Mountain West Conference. Much better health fortune, though, is expected for Bobo, who last season dealt with foot numbness caused by a peripheral neuropathy, and he'll have a returning quarterback to work with in junior Collin Hill, who took the reins in the second half of last season and will be out to improve on his 7:7 TD-to-interception ratio. Defensively, the Rams return six starters from a unit which ranked second to last in the Mountain West and 117th nationally with 36.8 points allowed per game.
1. Colorado has ruled the series with a 66-22-2 advantage and has won 12 of the last 16 meetings, including four straight.
2. Bobo is 0-4 against Colorado and his Rams have dropped nine straight against chief rivals Colorado, Wyoming and Air Force overall.
3. The game is essentially a must-win for Colorado, which faces one of the nation's toughest schedules with six games against teams ranked in the preseason top 25 (Washington, Oregon, Utah, Washington State, Stanford and Nebraska).
PREDICTION: Colorado 38, Colorado State 14