BOULDER, Colo. (AP) — Oregon State coach Jonathan Smith understands all too well what's going on in Boulder. How it's a process to turn around a program.
How it can take some time for Deion Sanders to restore Colorado's program to full health.
Smith went 2-10 in his first season in charge of Oregon State in 2018. Now, he has the sixteenth-ranked Beavers (6-2, 3-2 Pac-12, No. 16 CFP ) bowl eligible for a third straight season. Smith sees what everyone sees with Sanders' squad — all the talent.
"They have been competitive throughout," said Smith, whose team faces Colorado (4-4, 1-4) on Saturday night at sold-out Folsom Field. "Dramatically different than, let’s face it, last year. This is a good football team.”
The stats through eight games illustrate the vast amount of progress the Buffaloes have made in the first season under Sanders. They're averaging 32.1 points a game, compared to 16.3 at this time a season ago. They’re gaining 408.6 yards on offense as opposed to 295.3. They’re 4-4 — selling out every game, even on the road — and not 1-7.
Just don’t ask the Buffaloes to paint too rosy a picture. Not right now. Not after starting 3-0 and dropping four of their last five.
The Buffaloes remain two wins shy of bowl eligibility with four games to go. They don’t figure to be favored in any of them, starting Saturday as Colorado enters as a 13 1/2-point underdog to the Beavers, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.
“Obviously, everyone knows it’s better than last year. But I mean, I don’t know if I’d say it’s successful,” said Colorado safety/linebacker Trevor Woods, who was around last season when the Buffaloes finished 1-11. “It’s an upgrade but it’s not where we want to be. ... But you don’t want to just look at everything as a failure.”
The Beavers have steadily found their stride since Smith — a former QB at the school — took over. They're 13-2 since last season against teams not ranked in the AP poll, according to Pac-12 research. But they did lose last weekend to an Arizona team that's unranked but gaining steam (and just so happens to be the Buffaloes' opponent on Nov. 11 in their final home game of the season).
“Every week in this conference, we’ve got another big-time opponent, tough place to play," Smith said. "This team’s playing at a high level, so we’ve got to have a great week.”
Colorado quarterback Shedeur Sanders is climbing up the program’s record books. His 22 touchdown passes are tied for the second-most in a single season in team history, trailing only Sefo Liufau’s 28 TD tosses in 2014. Sanders has thrown for 2,637 yards and is on pace to eclipse Liufau’s single-season mark of 3,200 yards (2014).
All this despite being sacked 41 times this season.
“This guy is a tough, accurate, athletic, competitive quarterback that we’re facing,” Smith said of Sanders.
Count Hall of Fame defensive back Deion Sanders among those amazed by the two interceptions two-way standout Travis Hunter made last weekend in a 28-16 loss at No. 20 UCLA. Hunter also had three catches.
Hunter is the only FBS player in the last five seasons to be involved in 200 or more snaps on both sides of the ball in the same season, according to league research. Sanders doesn’t think most fully understand the talent of Hunter.
“But they will,” he said.
The police in Pasadena, California, initiated an investigation after several Colorado players and staff members reported items missing from the locker room after their game against UCLA at the Rose Bowl. Sanders is taking inventory of the items that were reported missing. He’s also calling on the NCAA and the Rose Bowl to reimburse the players. Some of the items reportedly missing included jewelry and money.
“That’s a travesty," Sanders said. “I would expect the NCAA to do something about that.”
LOUD & CLEAR
Smith and the Beavers are bracing for the capacity crowd in Boulder to be rocking. There could be plenty of celebrities and athletes showing up on the Buffaloes' sideline, too.
“We’re expecting a raucous, tough crowd,” Smith said.
NO PLACE LIKE HOME?
Colorado has lost its last five conference home games dating to last year. Over the span, teams have scored at least 42 points on the Buffaloes.
AP Sports Writer Anne M. Peterson and AP freelance writer Monica Costello contributed to this report.
AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll and https://apnews.com/hub/college-football