UCLA’s window at the Pac-12 South title opened up after USC’s defeat of Utah, but the Bruins have little room for error. Jim Mora’s squad is in a three-way tie for second in the division, and should be heavy favorites in two or three of its final five regular-season games. First up in that order is Colorado, which only has five conference wins since joining the Pac-12. Brian Howell of the Boulder Daily Camera answered five questions about the Buffaloes, who are looking for more signs of progress in their third season under Mike MacIntyre.
1. Colorado lost 14 straight Pac-12 games before winning at Oregon State this past Saturday. How much of a mental toll did that take on the team?
Quite a bit, but more so than the 14 losses, it’s the amount of close losses that weighed on this team. This past Saturday was the seventh time in their last 13 Pac-12 games that the Buffs have either led or tied at the half, and it was the first time they pulled off a win. Five of their Pac-12 losses since the start of 2014 have come by a touchdown or less. So, it’s really been the fact that they’re close – but not quite there – that has bothered them the most.
2. The Buffaloes’ defense has gone from awful to middling in a year, at least statistically. How much credit does new defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt deserve for the turnaround? How does he utilize the team’s personnel differently than his predecessor Kent Baer did?
Leavitt deserves a lot of credit. From the start, the players have loved his fiery personality and they love playing in this defense, which is set up to allow the guys more freedom to play, rather than having to think so much. One of the biggest, and most important, changes Leavitt has made personnel-wise is utilizing all the skills of Chidobe Awuzie, who is their best player on defense. Continue reading