2023 Preview: Colorado

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Maybe the most anticipated game I can remember in Nebraska in the past decade will kickoff tomorrow. And Cornhusker fans are in full defeated mode between how we lost in Minneapolis, and with the Buffaloes upsetting TCU on the road in week 1. For some reason, Nebraska fans are of the opinion that this Colorado team is like 2021 Michigan who made it to the CFP. But do you remember that Nebraska only lost to that Wolverine team by 3? I’m going glass is half-full mode on you today because it’s too early to be this beat up folks.

Cornhusker faithful are of the mindset “same old same old, did you see us lose it in the 4th quarter?” while apparently failing to remember that we have 62 new players on this 2023 team and an entirely new coaching staff that have no relevance to what happened before. It reminds me of the casinos that put that little board up on the roulette wheel to show you what numbers have hit prior, as if it has any bearing on what will happen on the next roll. “It’s hit red 9 straight times put it on red!” is exactly what you think until you have someone else say “but doesn’t that mean black is coming up this time?” It makes no difference what happened before, this is a new roll/game.

And to make Nebraska fans even more scared, for some reason TCU turned the Colorado game into a track meet which didn’t favor them at all. Sure, that’s TCU’s strength, but Colorado has all the skill position players in the world to match that. All the concerns I had about what’s going on in Boulder are still there after watching them week 1. If you make the game what they want it to be, they’ll win. If TCU would have just had a heart to heart with itself and ran the ball, they leave there with a win. I mean, on 3rd and inches going in to score, TCU runs a wheel route to their RB out of the backfield:

That’s moronic in so many ways. I mean, I sat here in my Minnesota recap telling you that Satterfield shouldn’t have made Jeff Sims do reads on 3rd and Goal from the 5 with 8 seconds left, I may have just off’d myself if I saw a play-call like that with my team. Nebraska can’t match the skill players Colorado has, and quite frankly neither could TCU. But you know what TCU did (but not enough) and Nebraska can do? Push the Buffaloes around.

Sticking with what happened down in Forth Worth a week ago, I also think people have a false sense of what exactly TCU is in 2023. They only returned 3 players on offense from a year ago, including losing their Heisman Runner-Up QB from Council Bluffs Max Duggan. They had 8 players selected in the NFL draft, and another 5 players signed undrafted free-agent contracts. That’s 13 players from their National Runner-Up team gone. Here is the breakdown of the 13 guys that left:

QB – 1
WR – 4
RB – 2
OL – 2
DL – 1
Edge – 1
LB – 1
DB – 1

9 players on offense off to the NFL, yet they still scored 42 points on Colorado without knowing what to expect from the defense and losing the turnover battle. They averaged 7 yards per carry on offense, scored 42 points, and had over 500 yards on offense despite losing 9 players and their offensive coordinator calling RB wheel routes on 3rd and inches.

Let’s also not forget that their offensive coordinator who was the Broyles Award Winner (best assistant in the country) left to go to Clemson in the offseason, and they hired Kendall Briles, so it’s a new offense that scored this much on Colorado.

That’s enough, let’s move on to us and go over how we win in Boulder tomorrow, shall we?

On Offense:

Nebraska has to run the ball. That’s not a secret. And they need to figure out how to do it without having Sims get 19 carries. TCU averaged over 7 yards per carry, but for some reason threw the ball around everywhere. Colorado’s secondary is no joke, much like Minnesota’s. Minnesota’s secondary was the strength of their defense and we decided to throw more than we should. For the people saying how we need to get our WRs more involved or get some of the true freshman going, that’s fine, but I actually think if we are doing anything on the outside of the field we will end up losing. Sure, we need to take a shot here or there to keep them honest, but we need to be running the ball and doing short passes. I don’t really care what our outside WRs have going on, they shouldn’t be a factor.

Colorado’s defense is very predictable. They are either in 1 high safety trying to stop the run or 2 high trying to take away the pass. Take note Husker fans, if they are ever in 2 high and we throw the ball, get frustrated. If they are in 2 high and we pass it will be a long day. TCU had a ton of success running the ball, and I don’t expect Colorado to be in 2 high much against us. Even against 1 high safety we should be fine. TCU saw 1 high a ton, and still broke off massive runs:

Again, 1 high safety is designed to bring another player into the box to help with the run. Colorado tried that on the play above and still got broken off. That will really be the key, can we run against them? And we need to keep trying, they don’t have the horses to keep up for 60 minutes. And even if we don’t get all the blocks like we should, check this stat:

So we can run the ball everytime and even if we are getting hit at the line of scrimmage we can make first downs? Sign me up for that. Colorado is going to be in one high a ton, if we can’t run, we are in trouble. I think we will be able to. The OL needs to take things personally this week.

But what else can we do, as the Buffaloes know that and are going to try and make us get away from it?

Reduce the reads and have Sims make one read and make a decision, not multiple:

Ok, so hang with me here, but Sims is pretty awful at making reads. Or maybe I should say going through his progressions, either way we need to have it be more 1 read and throw or run. RPOs will do the trick for that. Even further, many times your main read is the slot WR for RPOs who would be our current best WR Billy Kemp IV. We try one here (you can tell it’s RPO with our OL climbing to second level).

In this play, Sims has one read and one read only. The OLB that is half way between our slot WR and the OT is who Sims reads. If he comes up to stop the run, he pulls it and throws to the slot WR as the safety is too far back to make the play. You can see the OLB comes up but unfortunately the ball is tipped by the MLB. But plays like these will make it so Sims isn’t having to make multiple reads and give us the ability to get Kemp more touches.

Can we get the TEs involved?

I stated in my fall position previews that TE was one of the strongest on the team. Against Minnesota, not only did Kemp get 0 receptions but our TE room only had 1 for 4 yards (Boerkircher). Yes, I know he was wide open on the INT in the endzone. And for some reason we put our backup QB in at TE instead of letting Fidone get the ball. But I have a way to not only help our LT out but also get the TEs more involved. I remembered a play that Michigan absolutely destroyed us on, it’s somewhat of a TE delay. In the play below, you see the TE set up next to the LT, he helps to make sure the LT is good pass blocking then takes off as the LBs are bailing to their spots. Fidone could be deadly on this play:

Can we protect our LT AND limit the amount of progressions for Sims?

Quite frankly I was a bit shocked how OC Satterfield just kept Sims in the pocket to try and diagnose a defense. Between his apparent inability to go through progressions (still a lot of time to change that) and our LT giving up 3 sacks, I thought Satt would try and move the pocket a bit. Rollouts are easy ways to get that done. The QB can roll out towards a side and read from high to low or low to high, if he’s unsure he tucks and goes. I would love to see more rollouts this game that are a form of run-pass options. It’s what we did with Luke McCaffrey quite a bit:

And I started seeing Minnesota do something in the second half that they didn’t really do in the first half to stop Sims’ legs. They started doing some twisting to have a late defender come free since our offense would have a tough time accounting for him:

If you watch the OLB up top, he basically lets the rush happen then loops around to corral Sims. I expect games like that from Colorado. But the good news is, if you have to start playing games like that, theoretically we can run right at that twist and blow them off the ball.

Unbalanced anyone?

Colorado’s new defense had a heck of a time lining up against TCU when the Horned Frogs put their formation in an unbalanced set. You can see here that Colorado has so many guys to the bottom that the TCU RB just walks in to the light side of the formation (second one down):

Nebraska could utilize things like this to confuse the defense and create gaps in “odd places”. When you line up in unbalanced, many times the DL that is usually over the tackle or TE is now over a guard, and the linebackers gap changes. This can help cause confusion to take advantage of. With all new coaches and all new defenders still learning how to play together, this could pay massive dividends for us.

I’d lastly like to point out one more time that everyone wondering what we are going to do at WR is thinking about the wrong things. WRs, especially outside ones, need to be decoys this game. Colorado has two NFL caliber cornerbacks, one of which will probably be in New York if he continues playing the way he is. Don’t throw there, ever. This game needs to be decided by our OL, RB, TEs, and our slot WR Kemp. We start needing help from our outside WRs it’s game over. To hammer the point home more, one of their starting safeties is out so the middle of the field should be able to be taken advantage of:

The long and short of it is we need to make this a “football game” offensively like Coach Matt Rhule said. We can do that by running the ball and running it often. If we only get a yard or two, it’s fine. Stick with it and shorten the game.


Defensively, it’s very easy just like with offense, and it’s all about how you execute. Colorado wants to turn this into a track meet again like they did last Saturday, and they want to get the ball outside to their WRs and swing passes to their RBs. They know they do not have the advantage with their line or up the middle.

I have a lot of respect for Colorado’s OC, I think he is a very good play caller. They also know that their line can’t hold up so they don’t have too many long developing plays. If there’s a question on what to do, usually there’s a deep route to an ultra fast WR that he can just throw it up to. TCU runs the same defense as us, so it will look familiar to the Buffaloes, but a lot of what I saw the Horned Frogs do didn’t make a ton of sense to me.

And I was actually a little surprised that QB Sanders doesn’t run the ball more. He only had 5 attempts and almost all of those were sacks, as he rushed for -32 yards. Yes, negative yards against TCU. Last year he only averaged 2 yards per carry, and 13 yards on the ground per game. Lovely. These are the types of QBs and offenses DC White told me he feasts on. If you have a QB that can’t move, watch out. Nebraska did an excellent job of getting pressure against Minnesota with 3 sacks, and 2 of those came from our DL without bringing extra guys. We also had a massive 14 QB pressures against the Gophers. The confusion our 3-3-5 creates can make many one on one matchups for our front line. I expect to see a lot of Cam Lenhardt this game, this is a perfect matchup for him. And when we get one on one, Lenhardt, Hutmacher, and Gunnerson need to win.

But we have to be careful, because much like TCU did running the ball after contact, Colorado’s skill guys can make you miss and then it’s off to the races, especially if you are bringing the house:

In all, I have just 3 concerns. The first i’m not overly worried about, but it’s the deep ball to guys like Hunter running past our corners. But Hartzog and Newsome should be able to handle that. If we can mix in getting physical at the LOS and some cover 3 where we bail and they can’t get behind us anyway, we should be in good shape. Just be prepared for them to hit one or two of those, it’s not the end of the world.

The second thing that worries me is how we will defend their RB out of the backfield on passes:

That action is really, really tough to defend. It’s a play action to him so our LBs come up in case it’s handed off, and then it’s a foot race with that LB responsible for filling the gap. Reimer, Henrich, and Bullock can’t keep up with them, so we would need our Rovers and Safeties to help there. Here’s another one where he just outruns things:

Keep an eye on defending that RB on passes throughout the game. I think those were just bad matchups and the defenses getting confused for those two, but we can’t have that happen to us.

Lastly, and the one that I just don’t know if we have an answer for, is Jimmy Horn Jr. He plays the same position as the slot WR Crooms from Minnesota who had 7 receptions for 63 yards against us in Minneapolis. Horn Jr is a transfer from USF and had 13 targets, 11 receptions, 117 yards and a touchdown. The slot position gives this defense a little bit of trouble, as guys like Gifford are covering them. You can see on this play, Horn just runs a nice stop route and Sanders who has some time puts it right on the money:

Those don’t look like much, and i’m willing to bet that White will give up those sideline throws to take away the deep balls and RB passes that i’ve mentioned. So early on I may just have to live with those and pull my hair out.

There is a fourth thing Colorado does that worries me, but i’m not as concerned about it due to a built in defensive call(s) that DC White has. Colorado runs a fast-paced tempo to try and continuously keep the defense on their heels, especially after a successful play. You’ll watch as Nebraska will possibly have trouble getting a play-call in so that we don’ t stick with the same call that got burned the play prior. White implements a “hot and cold system”. Allow me to explain. You have your original call on defense that is signaled in from the DC. That play could be a base look or any number of things… with DC White’s hot/cold system, he also has a “hot” call which is a blitz that they have found through the week that they like to use against the opponent. They also have a “cold” call which can back things off whether that’s changing the coverage in the secondary from the original call or another form of “holding the line”. What this essentially does is make it so that White doesn’t have to signal in a new play while Colorado is going ultra-fast. He can simply yell “hot” or “cold” and the defense is instantly changed. Typically he allows his veteran linebackers to make this call, but in just the second game with his system i’m not sure he’s ready to go there yet. Either way, what a great system to have 3 calls essentially at you disposal at all times.

Rhule and DC White utilized 22 guys on defense last week against the Gophers, and have a secret weapon for conditioning tomorrow as they will get a fresh Ty Robinson in the second half once he serves his suspension for the targeting call. If we rotate like that, I don’t expect the tempo or altitude to be a problem.


I have no reason to go back on my preseason predictions now. I told everyone we wouldn’t quite be ready for Minnesota and would lose by a score. I mentioned in my preview that Colorado would be scary at the skill positions but we would be able to have our way on both sides of the ball in the trenches. Nothing I saw against TCU changes that. If Rhule and Satterfield can play ball control, and Sims holds on to the ball and we win the QB battle, I love our chances.

It was so weird watching the TCU/Colorado game play out. Between untimely penalties, timeouts to get sorted, play-calling, and general organization, I would have told you that TCU was the team with 87 new players and a new staff, not Colorado. The Buffaloes looked extremely well coached and organized, something I didn’t expect in the first game with a lot of players getting there for the first time in the summer. But that still doesn’t bother me. TCU lost that game on their own.

Reasons for optimism tomorrow:

1 – TCU showed the blueprint and what to be scared of, we have the recipe, now can we cook it correctly?

2 – We absolutely have the better lines, which will allow us to control the clock and keep the ball out of the Buffs potent offenses hands. Minnesota’s OL and DL are much better than what we will see tomorrow, but can we take advantage of that?

3 – CU’s strength offensively is our strength. Our corners are legit and we have safeties/rovers that can help over the top on the deep balls. If we can neutralize the quick passing game without help, we can tee off on a non-mobile QB.

4 – Want Vegas wisdom on your side? The Buffs game has a ton of money on it this week, but it seems the line isn’t really moving. My amateur thoughts think that “big sharp money” is on Nebraska. Also factor this:

5 – Nebraska gets two extra days rest and to prepare compared to Colorado since we played on Thursday. We can rest up more, so Sims’ 19 carries may not be as pivotal as say Travis Hunter trying to recover from 144 snaps. Further, we can self-scout for 2 days, our coaches can see what WE did well and what we needed to clean up. Then you can look at Colorado and see where the overlap is and what our “watch outs” are. That’s a huge advantage.

6 – TCU played right into Colorado’s hands going spread and hurry-up while throwing the ball. If we get multiple TE sets and some fullback plays, they have to play more guys that aren’t as “blue chip”. Less DBs on the field and more linemen and linebackers that aren’t as skilled.

7 – We can wear them down, while we lack a ton of depth, we are way deeper than Colorado. They have a guy playing both ways with 144 snaps, their #2 LG and RG is the same person, their backup center is their starting LG. Look, TCU ran for 200 yards on the ground in the second half alone, CU can get wore down if we try to do it.

Prediction Time:

Simple week 1 overreaction tells you Nebraska isn’t going to be able to score and Colorado will score at will. But overreactions are how Vegas buildings were built:

I have no reason to go against what I thought at the beginning of the season. In fact, i’d say that we are going against a much softer defense so we will get a few offensive successes, and our defense is going to play the Buffaloes much better than TCU’s. If Nebraska wins the turnover battle (hold onto the damn thing and take one or two away), we are walking out of Boulder with a ‘W’.

Nebraska 31
Colorado 30

Don’t forget we had two other posts today, a toilet reading for some comedy and our gambling picks if you’d like to lose money!

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15 thoughts on “2023 Preview: Colorado

  1. Hope you’re right.

    It seemed to me that our corners were playing pretty soft most of the game against Minny. Didn’t seem to hurt us a ton, but there were a few drives where it seemed we were just giving up tons of short\intermediate routes over and over.

    Was that just me or did you find that true, and if so is that a general MO of White, or a situational game thing?

    1. I have to admit i’m just giving the reasons we can win, whether we can execute those things are massively up in the air.

      Ya, White plays them off for a bit until we get the offense behind the chains or mixes it up to confuse the offense a little bit. We will need to get tighter without getting beat deep.

  2. Your comment on making reads easier for Sims, reminds of what you said/what Purdue did to Nebraska a few years ago when they had to play their 3rd or 4th string qb. Purdue designed his reads off of a couple sets. The qb knew where to go before the snap based on how they Huskers lined up.

    1. Ya, I can’t remember exactly what they did, but we need to do something like that. It’s frankly what I expected Satt to do, but it didn’t appear we went that route.

  3. This. “rollouts this game that are a form of run-pass options”. I think we can feast. Time for some bison burgers.

  4. Awesome preview of the matchup. Thanks for talking me off the ledge. I was at the 2011 game at CU and still haven’t quite recovered.

    1. I may be a little too optimistic. And let’s be honest, knowing what to do and executing it are two very different things. But I wanted hope heading into game 2 not pessimism so here we are.

  5. If CU doesn’t stack the box, I will be shocked. Thus it might be rough the first few series running the ball. Hopefully, the OC doesn’t panic and start throwing the ball. One key is can NU can survive the 1st Qtr without being behind by 2 TDs. If they are, the OC will probably panic and start throwing the ball which will play right into CU’s hands.

  6. I like it. Basically: RTDB. We should be able to physically light CU up like a Christmas tree.

    However the PTSD side of me as a fan has thrown all the koolaid out the window. I’m full on in ‘show me’ mode with Nebraska football until this team actually shows up and changes the narrative. Would love nothing more than to eat a Prime cut of steak for dinner tonight.

  7. Man, u can’t average 4 to’s a game and expect a win. Sims is a turnover machine and there isn’t anyone behind him that’s good either. Had a chance when it was 13-7 but defense just vanished in the 2nd half. Special teams weren’t great either. I’m afraid it’s going to be another long season if Sims keeps playing like this. Worst offense I have ever seen from an NU team

    1. Also I would add, all of this disrespect BS from Sanders after the game is pure BS. Can’t wait to see them get beat. As I said before they are a bunch of Cocky and Mouthy dudes. Naturally when u win u get way with this but Payback will be a Bitch someday.

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