All sizzle and no steak. All hat and no cattle. Select the idiom of your choice concerning the failure to live up to overwhelming hype. That sums up the past two months for the Buffaloes, who are assured a losing season after a 56-14 thumping at Washington State on Friday.
It’s a long way from a 3-0 start that was magnified by a famous first-year coach (Deion Sanders), a novel method of roster construction (almost complete turnover with the help of a massive influx of transfers) and far too much credulous coverage suggesting the sport was being transformed in real time.
Instead, Colorado (4-7, 1-7 Pac-12) was done in because it couldn’t hide its defensive deficiencies even when it was winning. It could only mask its limited offensive line for so long. It never had much high-end depth, and it couldn’t withstand the injuries that occur during a routine season.
And the ability to generate attention made the Buffaloes something they hadn’t been at any point in the past two decades: A target, a foe that opponents were only too happy to get up to play (a trend that became evident when Oregon clobbered Colorado, 42-6, on Sept. 23).
That started a tailspin of seven losses in eight games, and all of it was on display Friday. Washington State (5-6, 2-6 Pac-12) rolled up a 42-7 halftime lead with the help of touchdowns on a fumble return and a kickoff. It also steamrolled the Buffaloes’ hapless defensive line on a short touchdown run late in the half. Colorado quarterback Shedeur Sanders was forced out of the game because of injury.
The entire second half was a victory lap for the Cougars in their home finale.
As for Colorado, it took the long way around to a familiar spot: The Pac-12’s cellar. Sanders didn’t reinvent the college football wheel in his first year, though he shouldn’t have been expected to do so. And until and unless the Buffaloes fix the basics — play on the lines and depth chief among them — the sport won’t be revolutionized in Boulder next year, either.