Deion Sanders isn't backing down from bold Colorado football prediction

After a 4-8 first year on the job, Deion Sanders' expectations for his Colorado team are sky high.

Deion Sanders, Colorado Buffaloes
Deion Sanders, Colorado Buffaloes / Ryan Kang/GettyImages

Before you can get someone to believe in you, you must first believe in yourself. Despite a dismal 4-8 start to his Colorado coaching career last season, Buffaloes head coach Deion Sanders remains very bullish on his team entering 2024. The Colorado Buffaloes shocked the college football world by going 3-0 in non-conference play. However, they only beat Arizona State in their final Pac-12 season.

While appearing on Undisputed earlier in the week, Sanders did not refute Skip Bayless' assertion that Colorado will be good enough to make the College Football Playoff next season. It may be an expanded field, but Colorado is going to a new, but familiar league in the Big 12, a conference losing its two blue-bloods to the SEC in Oklahoma and Texas. That is cool, but Colorado was not very good.

The 16-team Big 12 will get one playoff team in for sure, but anything beyond two might be pushing it. Here is what Sanders had to say to Bayless and his FS1 colleague Keyshawn Johnson on Undisputed.

“Yeah, most definitely. Shoot, I believe, man. I don’t just wear this on my shirt and on my chest. I truly believe that what we have in-house—last year, Key watched all these games. We were seven points away from a multitude of wins, probably seven or eight more wins. We just didn’t know how to win."

Sanders is right that six of their losses could have gone the other way. However, we still remember the total drubbing the Oregon Ducks laid on them to hand CU its first loss of the year in September.

“We got our butts kicked twice. We got our butts really kicked twice. There wasn’t no winning. When we walked in, it was 30 on the scoreboard. But several of those games, we could’ve won those games. We could’ve really been … definitely a bowl team, but we could’ve been someone who made a lot of noise. We made noise, but now, we gonna make some sounds.”

Here is the clip of Sanders reaffirming Bayless' notion that the playoff is a real possibility for the Buffs.

While I expect for Colorado to be much better in year two under Sanders' watch, what are reasonable expectations for this team and where could they end up in their first season back in the new Big 12?

Deion Sanders won't back down on claim Colorado can make the CFP

For even the most diehard of college football fans, we have to reconfigure our brains a bit heading into next season. The Power Five is now the Power Four with the Pac-12 dissolving. Each of the remaining Power Four leagues (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, SEC) will almost certainly get their conference champion into the 12-team field. So will the Group of Five champion, leading us to seven more spots.

If Colorado were to win the Big 12, the Buffaloes are very likely getting in, probably as a top-four seed in that case. Should Colorado finish runner-up to someone like Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State or Utah in Arlington, that may not be enough to get them in as the No. 10 or 11 seed. You have to remember that the new Big Ten and SEC will be getting in at least six or seven teams every year now.

For example, had the 12-team format been implemented this past year, only Texas would have made the playoff out of the Big 12. The Longhorns would have been the No. 3 seed. Your four playoff teams from this past year would have been No. 1 through No. 4 as follows: Michigan, Washington, Texas and Alabama. The ACC and Group of Five would get a team in, leaving the other spots to the new Big Two.

No. 5 through No. 8 would have been Florida State, Georgia, Ohio State and Oregon (ACC, SEC, Big Ten and Pac-12, now Big Ten). No. 9 through No. 11 would have been Missouri, Penn State, Ole Miss and Liberty (SEC, Big Ten, SEC, Group of Five). The next closest team to make the playoff out of the Big 12 would have been Oklahoma, who is now in the SEC. After that, it would have been ... Arizona...

See, even in the Power Five era it is a struggle to get more than two Big 12 teams into a 12-team field. It would have happened in 2022 with Kansas State and TCU, 2021 with Baylor and Oklahoma State and 2020 with Oklahoma and Iowa State. Essentially, the ACC and Big 12 will get between three and four teams into the 12-team field combined. The big question is can Colorado even get to Arlington?

My growing belief is that the Big 12 will be won and lost on coaching this upcoming season, and not on talent. There has not been enough time for somebody to emerge from the deep middle of this league to ascend to the top of the conference to fill the power void vacated by Oklahoma and Texas. Upwards of eight or nine teams can get to the conference championship, maybe even Colorado?

Overall, I would say that it is still highly unlikely that Colorado can get to the Big 12 Conference Championship game in its first season back in the league, mostly because next year's team's ceiling is about 8-4, maybe even 9-3 if we are being generous. Should they somehow be six wins better and get to 10-2, they would have to win the Big 12 title to get in. From there, they might get left out of it.

If Colorado were to be seven wins better and go 11-1, now we are talking. These things take time.

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