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UCLA Football Oppo Preview: Is Mike MacIntyre's Program Ready to Turn the Corner?

In two seasons, the improvements to the Colorado football program have been noticeable, but the changes have not yet registered in the win column.

Doug Pensinger

While there may not have been a flashy turnaround yet, Mike MacIntryre is building a program at Colorado.  In the three seasons preceding his hiring, the Buffaloes won a total of 3 games.  MacIntyre inherited a program with a star in Paul Richardson and not much else.  Yet, through two seasons, MacIntyre has injected some life into the program, and while it may take some time, the Colorado program is beginning to turn around.

In former coach John Embree's final season, Colorado averaged 302.8 yards on offense per game, posting a pitiful 17.8 points per game, all while surrendering 488.5 yards per game and 46.0 points per game. They finished 1-11 last year (including a loss to Division I-AA Sac State) and Embree got the boot. Last year, Colorado made some progress, increasing their offensive production to 370 ypg and scoring to 25.4 ppg, as well as making a small decrease in yards allowed to 468 ypg and reducing opponent's scoring to 38.3 ppg.  Through seven games this season, Colorado has shown continued improvement offensively, increasing their total offense to 466.1 ypg and scoring to 31.1 ppg.  Unfortunately for the Buffs, the defense has struggled, where they are allowing 38.6 ppg despite reducing yards allowed to 435.1 ypg.  Whether or not MacIntyre is around when Colorado turns around will have a lot to do with whether he is able to make the same strides in the upcoming seasons defensively as has been able to do over the past two offensively.

Turning to the special teams, unlike a lot of our conference opponents, there hasn't been any turnover in the kicking game for the Buffaloes, with both punter Darragh O'Neill and kicker Will Oliver returning for their senior seasons in Boulder.  O'Neill is having a great season, averaging 45.46 yards per punt this year on 35 punts.  Oliver, on the other hand, has made only 5/9 field goals after making well over 70% of his kicks over his first three seasons.

As for the return game, Nelson Spruce (9 returns, 6.2 yards per return) handles the punt return duties while Phillip Lindsay (23 returns, 23.26 yards per return) is the primary kickoff returner.  Lindsay tore his ACL in the season opener in 2012 and is only a redshirt freshman, but he's definitely fully healthy at this point.  He's got very good speed, and at 5'8 175 lbs., he can get through some very small holes in the return game.  As was the case last week, kicking deep and preventing kickoff returns will be imperative this Saturday.

After two straight losses, UCLA bounced back in an unconvincing way last week, beating a pretty sorry Berkeley team by just two points despite dominating the game statistically.  Colorado, on the other hand, is coming off a disheartening blowout loss to USC after a 2-3 start to the season where they had nearly upset Berkeley and Oregon St. in the two previous weeks.  Will UCLA come motivated to play, or will they overlook Colorado, with a showdown versus Arizona looming?  Will Colorado come motivated to play, or will they be still be down after last week's game?

That concludes part 1 of the Colorado preview.  Be sure to check back in tomorrow for a closer look at the Buffalo offense.