Colorado nearly getting smacked with their first loss of the Deion Sanders era in a friendly atmosphere against an overmatched foe was a reminder that college football’s unpredictable nature goes both ways. Eventually, the underdogs become the hunted, and fortune shifts on a dime. At kickoff, Colorado were a 23-point favorite. This shouldn’t have been close. The close result didn’t cast a cloud over the sunny optimism that’s overtaken Boulder, though.
The positive outlook is that Colorado was due for a hiccup. Up until the 59th minute, Colorado was set to receive an epic humbling a week earlier than expected. Then, with under a minute remaining, Shedeur Sanders uncorked a deep strike to Jimmy Horn Jr. outside the numbers and inside the 15-yard-line. Horn faked a receiving defensive back off-balance by shifting his weight to his left and lurched back to his right, giving him a clear path into the endzone. The ensuing 2-point conversion catapulted both teams into overtime where Colorado took care of business.
Egos were bruised, but Deion Sanders’ is still the hottest rising name in college football’s coaching ranks. Paul Finebaum’s wish-casting Coach Prime as a successor to Nick Saban at Alabama is premature, but he may be coaching his way out into a bigger job. He is arguably the most progressive coach for this age of college football. His avante-garde usage of the transfer portal and NIL has reanimated the decomposing Buffaloes program and upended college football’s establishment. At the end of the day this is a sport that relies on recruiting, which relies on appealing to teenagers. Coaching acumen or X’s and O’s comes second.
Deion couldn’t have been this version of himself three years ago during the previous NIL era. He’s the endgame of unbridled capitalism proliferating throughout college football. Two years ago, athletes wearing social media handles on practice uniforms would have resulted in a bowl ban. Deion would have been fired into the dark side of the moon by the NCAA for gifting sunglasses to one player, much less arranging for shades to be dispensed to the entire team like he did this week in response to Jay Norvell’s shade. Most of Deion’s Gucci luggage would have had to apply for eligibility after transferring in from other programs.
But the flash has congealed into substance. Now 3-0 Sanders and the Prime University Buffaloes are about to enter their Pac-12 crucible. The fact that Colorado is ranked before getting served up to the ducks is a testament to Coach Prime. Colorado’s talent upgrade has elevated them into Top 25 relevance, but Oregon, and USC possess a dozen Travis Hunters. Like rivalry games, showdowns against conference powerhouses often come down to coaching preparation, in-game adjustments, and a sliver of luck. The next two weeks are going to be the toughest test Shadeur has ever faced outside of the Celebration Bowl. If Colorado thought Colorado State was tough, they haven’t seen anything yet.
Next week, Colorado will be pitted against a Ducks squad that has squashed its first three opponents by a 137-point margin.. The following week is fifth-ranked USC and reigning Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams. For the last year Deion has been trying to promote his son’s Heisman campaign while he was still at Jackson State. Shedeur Sanders’ 348 yards and four touchdowns are a bit deceiving, but he generated offense when it mattered.
After the win, Shedeur told ESPN’s Stan Verrett he channeled his “Brady mode.” Colorado will need Shadeur to make Brady mode his standard operating procedure. Until the final possession and two overtimes, he was a non-factor. His brother Shilo, Deion’s fifth-ranked child, had a more significant impact returning a pick-six and forcing a fumble in the red zone. Shedeur’s Heisman candidacy took a glancing blow before his late-game heroics against Colorado State enhanced his legacy, but In three starts, Caleb Williams has been immaculate. If there was ever a measuring stick for his surging NFL Draft stock, USC week will provide it.
On the downside, Colorado may have to play without their best receiver and shutdown corner. Colorado State players chirped all night. They’d heard the noise and came for a fight. Lethal two-way threat Travis Hunter exited in the first quarter after ending up on the receiving end of a cheap shot from a Colorado State defender. Missing him for next week or longer would be a major blow to Colorado’s slim chances of an upset in either matchup.
In a sport built on the attention span of those aforementioned teenagers, the country can move on quickly. Deion survived for one week, but Deion’s disruptive tactics have made him and his players prey. After building the hype, he now has to sustain it.
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