Colorado, which hosts Washington on Saturday, has just one victory this season, an improbable 35-34 win at Washington State.
It wasn’t much of a secret that Colorado would struggle this season.
Every preseason prediction — the Pac-12 media poll, college football magazines and random websites — picked the Buffs to finish last in the Pac-12 South.
Still, at Pac-12 Media Day in Los Angeles in July, the Buffs sounded confident.
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“We’re shooting for the top,” junior left tackle David Bakhtiari said.
A few months later, and reality has not only set in but has hit the Buffs harder than the cold blasts of wind that whip through Boulder this time of year.
Entering a game Saturday at 10:30 a.m. against the Washington Huskies, the Buffs are 1-9 and riding a six-game losing streak. Statistically, they rank among the worst teams in conference history.
Through 10 games, the Buffs are being outscored an average of 47-17. The 2008 Huskies, who went 0-12, were outscored 38-13. Washington State, in 2008, was outscored 43-12. The 1980 Oregon State Beavers, who went 0-11 — along with the 2008 Huskies, the only other conference team to not win a game since the conference expanded to 10 teams in 1978 — were outscored 35-9.
“It’s definitely been tough,” Bakhtiari said this week in a phone interview.
The only victory was an improbable 35-34 win at Washington State in late September that saved the Buffs from the infamy of a winless season.
But unless Colorado overcomes heavy odds this week to beat Washington — the Huskies are a 20 ½-point favorite — or next week against Utah, this could be the worst season in school history. Their worst record in the post-World War II era is 1-10 in 1980 and 1984, when the Buffs were members of the Big Eight.
The lack of wins has left players such as Bakhtiari — who is regarded as a possible high-round NFL draft pick — left to settle for moral victories.
“The one positive I have noticed, the one thing I can take away on film, is that guys are still playing hard,” he said, saying that he had heard that Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez complimented the Buffs’ effort after a 56-31 win for the Wildcats on Saturday in Tucson. “You want to win. But at least you know guys are playing hard and playing really physical, and that’s one thing we can take away.”
The losing and the huge margins of defeat — each of Colorado’s Pac-12 defeats have been by 25 points or more — have led to questions about the future of the program under coach Jon Embree.
Embree, though, is finishing just his second year and it’s thought the school wouldn’t yet pull the plug. Embree is a popular former player under coach Bill McCartney and was hired in part due to an endorsement from McCartney. Embree, 4-19 as coach, played tight end for Colorado from 1983 to 1986.
Speculation has stated that Embree might be forced to make significant changes to his staff. Embree this week deflected questions about the future of his staff, saying that everything will be evaluated after the season.
Colorado has not had a winning season since 2005, the last for coach Gary Barnett, who was fired in the wake of alleged improprieties in recruiting (as well as a 70-3 loss to Texas in the 2005 Big 12 title game). Dan Hawkins was lured away from Boise State as his replacement, but couldn’t duplicate his blue-turf success in Boulder, going 19-39 before being fired late in the 2010 season.
Embree was hired, and given an uneven roster: Colorado has just eight seniors this year, which the school says is the second-fewest in the country, and has 13 true freshmen playing, the seventh-most.
Some say another factor in the losing is that the school has lagged in the facilities arms race, though it expects to use some of its newfound Pac-12 TV money to begin updates soon.
For now, all Colorado really wants is a win in Boulder against either UW or Utah to avoid becoming the first CU team since 1920 not to win a home game.
“I expect us to,” Embree said this week.
“I don’t think of it any other way.”
• UW coach Steve Sarkisian said Thursday that true freshman offensive lineman Shane Brostek could see time on the defensive line this week to help fill the void for depth issues created by injuries (such as the loss of Pio Vatuvei to an injury suffered against California). Brostek started the Stanford, Oregon and USC games at guard but has played sparingly since. Sarkisian said it is not necessarily a permanent move.
• Sarkisian said backup linebacker Jamaal Kearse, injured against Utah, and backup running back Dezden Petty, injured this week in practice, will not make the trip.
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter @bcondotta