College Football Week 3 Preview: Is Colorado Legit?

The Buffaloes beat another Power 5 opponent, let's take a step back and see if Deion Sanders' group can keep it up.

Sep 9, 2023; Boulder, Colorado, USA; Colorado Buffaloes cornerback Travis Hunter (12) following the
Sep 9, 2023; Boulder, Colorado, USA; Colorado Buffaloes cornerback Travis Hunter (12) following the / Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The talk of college football is about the Colorado Buffaloes.

The Buffaloes followed up a thrilling 45-42 win over last year's National Championship runners up TCU with a blowout win over Nebraska, 36-14. Led by Deion Sanders' confidence, his son Shedeur's tactical approach at quarterback and two-way star Travis Hunter making big plays, the Buffaloes are taking the sport by storm.

Colorado is 2-0 and seems primed to crush the team's win total of 3.5 and compete for a bowl, if not more. But how legit is this start to the season?

Here are some thoughts on the Buffaloes through two games and what it means for the rest of the season.

Shedeur Sanders is Playing at an Insanely High Level

While Sanders is flying up NFL Draft boards, I do want to start this by shouting out Sean Lewis, the former Kent State head coach, who is now the team's offensive coordinator. Lewis ran the "Flash Fast" offense with his former team which bolstered high level MAC offense with a frenetic tempo.

It's not the same ideals, but its close enough, as the team is hovering around the top 10 in plays per minute and with far more talent at the top compared to Lewis' Kent State teams.

The team wants to score into the mid 30's and 40's with the explosiveness on the field. I think the TCU game wasn't the outlier, it was the preferred method of attack for this Buffaloes offense.

The team is 26th in EPA/Play through two weeks and 40th in success rate, per but a lot of that comes from the passing game. The team is 113th in success rate on the ground, but 13th through the air.

The offensive line for the Buffs is still a work in progress, especially in run protection, and its why Sanders deserves a ton of praise for his ability to extend plays and create outside of the pocket.

Sanders has posted a seven percent big time throw percentage, per Pro Football Focus, up from 3.2% last year with Jackson State and 5% the year prior. Further, he has only posted a 1.8% turnover-worthy play percentage.

The QB is pushing the ball downfield with an average depth of target of over 10 yards, and also not making mistakes.

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The Defense Leaves Questions

Similar to the complexion of the Colorado offense, the team has explosive playmakers in the back seven, but the team is struggling in the trenches.

I expect Colorado to play far more games like the Week 1 matchup against TCU rather than the Nebraska game. TCU had the explosive weapons to play with Colorado and push around the team's suspect defensive line.

In that high scoring affair, TCU had an EPA/Rush of 0.48, 97th percentile when compared to all games in 2022, per Gameonpaper. With high level players at the skill positions, the Horned Frogs found little resistance from the Colorado defense, but some untimely turnovers flipped the game in favor of the Buffs (to be clear, not underrating that win, Colorado deserved it).

Against Nebraska, a team that has far better players on each set of the lines, the Buffs struggled to separate on the box score, receiving a ton of help from Cornhuskers quarterback Jeff Sims. Nebraska averaged a near 43rd percentile yards per play and hit on explosive plays on 11% of offensive snaps (78th percentile). However, Nebraska had five turnovers and eventually let go of the rope in the second half after trailing 13-0 at half.

Colorado Season Long Outlook

So, what's this mean?

When Colorado runs into opponents that have capable quarterback play, as well as talent on both the offensive and defensive line, we may see some diminishing returns for this talented, yet shallow roster.

TCU was able to match Colorado offensively, but couldn't string together stops as the team's rebuilding defense was out of sorts. Meanwhile, Nebraska held Colorado to a national average EPA/Play in the Week 2 loss, but too many turnovers led to the blowout.

With PAC-12 play starting up in two weeks, Colorado will be back to a talent disadvantage down the roster. Sanders, Hunter and the top-end players on the roster may go toe-for-toe with some of the higher end rosters, but the depth will show out in the conference, which is playing at its best in recent memory.

In Week 3, Colorado hosts Colorado State as a three touchdown favorite, but Oregon looms ahead in Week 4, its PAC-12 opener.

Oregon is likely going to outpace the leaky Colorado defense, the team ranked second in success rate last season and scored 81 points against an FCS foe in Week 1 and 38 against Texas Tech on the road.

College Football Week 3 Betting Preview

As for Saturday, my lean sits with the over in this one between two Colorado schools.

Colorado's pace is frenetic and Colorado State will come in off of an early bye week that gives the Rams some extra prep for the Buffs new-look roster. While Colorado State dug itself a 29-3 deficit in the second half, the team pressed in the second half to finish with a score line of 50-24.

The Rams were pushing the ball down the field often in this one, averaging over seven yards per drop back, and not afraid to play with tempo, averaging nearly three plays per minute while playing catch up for most of this game. As a three touchdown-plus underdog, a similar game script may be in store in this one.

I think both teams can hit explosives in this one with a ton of plays, making me bullish that this game can get over the total.

Game odds refresh periodically and are subject to change.

Track Reed's bets here!