Location: Boulder, Colo.
Coach: Mike MacIntyre (26-38, sixth season).
Record (2017): 5-7 (2-7 Pac-12).
OFFENSIVE RATING: 6
Offensive averages / national rank
45.0 / 35
596.0 / 16
258.0 / 29
338.0 / 21
DEFENSIVE RATING: 5
Defensive averages / national rank
13.0 / 27
284.0 / 34
103.0 / 37
181.0 / 43
SPECIALISTS RATING: 7
Special-teams averages / national rank
31.0 / 18
14.2 / 20
43.3 / 21
Why you may need the Rolaids
1. Colorado’s offense might be legit. Already considered the strength of the team, the Buffs had a 300-yard passer, a 200-yard receiver and a 100-yard rusher for the first time in program history in last week’s 45-13 win over Colorado State. Junior Steven Montez is a tough, veteran, respected quarterback. And 6-foot-2, 220-pound sophomore Laviska Shenault is a big-play threat at receiver after averaging 24 yards per catch last season and grabbing 11 passes for 211 yards last week. Virginia Tech transfer Travon McMillian had 10 carries for 103 yards and a touchdown in his first game for CU.
2. There’s no substitute for playing. So even if Nebraska has had some of its best practices of the season this week, Colorado still has the advantage of having competed in a game — not to mention a game against its hated in-state rival. Even if the Huskers have more talent, it may take some time for that talent to get up to game speed. If CU’s potent offense hits a couple of big plays early, how much panic sets in for a team that saw too many games get out of hand before halftime the past few seasons?
3. The Buffs are confident, and even trotted out former coach Bill McCartney to reminisce about the old days as part of a joint Tuesday news conference with current coach Mike MacIntyre. Colorado long considered Nebraska a rival, even if the Huskers didn’t always return the sentiment. The Huskers aren’t in a position right now to take anyone lightly, much less an old conference foe with designs on ruining Scott Frost’s debut.
Why you might chill
1. Colorado State isn’t very good. The Rams are just OK on offense, and, through two games, horrible on defense, ranking among the five to 10 worst teams in the nation in multiple categories. So while Colorado took care of business, the Buffaloes did it against an opponent that looks to be in for a really long year. Now, Nebraska wasn’t exactly the ’85 Bears last season defensively. But the Huskers should be better than CSU.
2. Speaking of shootouts, a high-scoring touchdown-fest might be more of a reason for Husker fans to need the Rolaids than to chill. But if there is a situation this coaching staff has proved comfortable with, it’s playing in high-scoring games on important stages (see Central Florida’s 49-42 win over South Florida last season, followed by the 62-55 edging of Memphis one week later). Nebraska won’t be afraid of scoring points, and if the Huskers have truly taken on the personality of their coaches, they won’t be worried about giving up a few, either.
3. It’s Nebraska’s season-opener. Again. The juice will be there. The Tunnel Walk against Akron was an electric moment, and figures to only be amplified with one of NU’s chief competitors from the glory days coming to town. While it won’t be a night game, the pent-up frustration from last week — for players, coaches and fans — will be palpable. If the Huskers can make that emotion last through the entire contest, it might be enough to offset any advantage Colorado has from having already played a game.
By the numbers
Yards per play by Colorado last week against Colorado State. It was the first time since 2004 the Buffaloes averaged more than 8 yards per play against an FBS opponent.
Number of wins, matching his old jersey number, Scott Frost has against Colorado as a player and coach. Frost is 7-0 all-time against the Buffaloes, with two wins as a player (17-12 in 1996, 27-24 in 1997) and five wins while an assistant at Oregon from 2011-15.
Colorado outside linebackers and special teams coordinator Ross Els was an assistant at Nebraska from 2011-14 under Bo Pelini. Nebraska offensive coordinator and receivers coach Troy Walters worked under MacIntyre at Colorado from 2013-15 as the Buffs’ receivers coach before joining Frost’s staff at Central Florida.
Brian Howell covers Colorado football for the Boulder Daily Camera.
How much buzz is there around Boulder with the renewal of this rivalry?
The fans around here have been waiting for this game for several years. For decades, Nebraska was the team that CU fans loved to hate and this was the game everyone looked forward to each season. Having it off the schedule has left a big void for many CU fans, because the Buffs don’t have a true rival anymore. I’ve covered Colorado since 2010 (the last year these two teams played), and since the Buffs left the Big 12, there is not a game that has been more anticipated for fans than this one. For the team, they don’t understand the rivalry to its full extent because they didn’t grow up with it, but I know they are feeling the buzz around town.
Are there any major concerns for CU coming out of the Colorado State game?
For most people, I think the concern is whether the Buffs are really any good, or if Colorado State is just awful. I think it’s a combination of both. CU looked really good in that game, but the Rams have been really, really bad in two games. The Buffs dominated in just about every way last week. They did have two turnovers, and that certainly can’t happen against better teams. Both turnovers happened in CSU territory — so the final score could have been much worse. But, really, I think the main concern is that CU fans just don’t really know how good their team is at this point.
On the other hand, what strengths did this team discover about itself?
To me, the most positive aspect of that game was that CU showed improvement in all the areas it talked about being better in this season. They believed they were better on the offensive and defensive lines, and they looked really good there. They believe they have a lot of big-time weapons on offense, and we saw that. They believe they have better overall speed on defense, and that’s certainly the case. It’s just one game, but it was a really good performance for the Buffs; one we haven’t seen out of them in a couple of years.
How big a surprise was Laviska Shenault’s performance? Is that a guy CU is going to lean on this year?
To those of us around the team a lot, it wasn’t a surprise at all. Shenault is a true sophomore with an NFL body right now. He’s 6-2, 220 pounds with exceptional speed, but he also lifts with the linemen because he’s so strong. We would have seen more of this type of success out of Shenault a year ago had the coaches not been so loyal to their trio of senior receivers (who didn’t have a great season). Shenault only caught seven passes last year, but for 168 yards (24.0 average). I don’t expect 200 yards a game from him, but Shenault will be a big, big part of the offense this year. What makes the CU offense so intriguing, though, is that they’ve got several receivers with the capability of having a huge game. KD Nixon and Juwann Winfree are also dynamic receivers that’ll have big games along the way this season.
In your opinion, how much, if at all, does it help CU to have a game under its belt?
I think it helps, to a point. The Buffs have been able to shake off any offseason rust and get used to game speed. That’s not easy to prepare for in practice. They also had a chance, coming off a disappointing season, to gain some confidence with a good performance. On the other hand, they don’t have film of Nebraska, and the Cornhuskers have film of them. So, I think it all balances out.