Seems like a number of you enjoyed the WSU preview written over at SBNation.com by Bill Connelly of Football Outsiders/Football Study Hall/Rock M Nation fame, so I think I'm going to pass along each of his Pac-12 previews for you so you don't miss them.
Obviously, the reason this article would be of particular interest to us is that the Buffaloes are going to both be new to the conference this year and one of our non-divisional opponents for the next four years. Probably like many of you, the extent of my contact with Colorado was limited to laughing at Dan Hawkins' follies, so a little education is in order.
Unfortunately, we won't get to witness the glory that is Hawkins firsthand: He is (finally) out and former Bill McCartney tight end Jon Embree is in as the Buffaloes try to reclaim some of their program's glory that is about 20 years in the rear view mirror. Coming with him as offensive coordinator is former running back Eric Bienemy.
As Connelly notes in his preview of the offense, bringing in a new coaching staff makes projecting a team pretty difficult:
So what's in store for 2011? Who the hell knows? We know Bieniemy was a stud running back himself, and he spent last season tutoring Adrian Peterson and the Minnesota Vikings' run game, so the odds are pretty good that establishing the run will be key for this new staff. Of course, it was a key last year, too, and they still couldn't do it very well. A line that included first-round draft pick Nate Solder ranked among the bottom 25 in the country in run-blocking, doing running back Rodney Stewart almost no favors whatsoever. How much can change in one offseason?
The Cougars better hope it's both "a lot" and "not much." WSU featured one of the most porous running defenses in all of the nation last year -- 110th by Football Outsiders' S&P+, an opponent-adjusted efficiency measure -- so here's to hoping WSU's talent is improved in the front seven and that Colorado's issues weren't just a matter of coaching.
On the other side of the ball, there's potentially good news for the Cougs: Colorado was one of the worst pass defenses in the country, ranking 87th in S&P+. Beyond that, the Buffaloes were 95th in allowing "successful" plays via the pass on all downs and 98th in allowing "successful" plays on passing downs. And, by the way, that terrible pass defense featured two starting corners who were just drafted by the NFL.
Connelly largely chalks it up to an inability to consistently rush the passer. If WSU can protect Jeff Tuel better in 2011, this might spell good news for what figures to be a potent Cougar passing attack.
Wrapping up, there was one passage in Connelly's preview that made me laugh.
Trying to predict what will happen when a new coach comes aboard is the ultimate crapshoot. ... When discussing a staff where the head coach has no head coaching experience, the offensive coordinator has no coordinator experience, and the defensive coordinator has one year of co-coordinator experience ... well, good luck.
I just so happen to know a school that did something similar, and it didn't work out so well for the past three years. Here's to hoping Colorado suffers similar results -- at least through the first five weeks of the season.