Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Colorado returned to a bowl game last season and notched a rare sweep of South Division opponents. But the Buffaloes' 6-7 record was a disappointment to coach Dan Hawkins as he attempts to turn the program around.
The pieces appear in place for improvement with an improving offensive line, the arrival of heralded tailback Darrell Scott and a strong and deep group of defensive linemen and linebackers.
But several questions remain before the Buffaloes start talking about contending for their first Big 12 North title since claiming four in a five-season span from 2001-05.
Here are some of the most notable as Colorado gets ready for its Aug. 31 opener against Colorado State in Denver.
1. Can QB Cody Hawkins develop more consistency? Sure, some have claimed nepotism played a part in Cody Hawkins getting the starting job on his father's team. But "Little Hawk" is a fiery and combative leader, despite his small size. And his team seems to play hard for him. He'll have some better weapons this season around him and a much improved line. That might be a recipe for some unexpected offensive success that will be critical this season.
2. How long will it take TB Darrell Scott to win a starting job? Scott is currently listed as the Buffaloes' third-stringer at the position, but I'm betting he's starting by the time conference play starts against Texas on Oct. 4. He's too good and runs too hard not to be a big part of his team by then -- if not even more quickly.
3. Hawkins can't be serious about occasionally using Scott as a punter, can he? We hope not, although the appearance of the Parade All-American in the punting position might be a frightening experience for a rival special-teams coach the first time it happens.
4. How will the cornerbacks fare? That's the biggest question on defense, particularly with as many high-powered aerial attacks as will be found in the Big 12. It's not a good season to be breaking in two new starters on the corners. Junior Cha' pelle Brown and senior Gardner McKay have gotten the nods for the opener, but don't be surprised if redshirt freshmen Anthony Wright and Jalil Brown get a lot of playing time as the season progresses.
5. Can the Buffaloes do a better job in forcing turnovers and protecting the ball? Look for a concerted effort after Colorado tied for 83rd nationally in turnover margin last season. In order to improve, Hawkins has to cut down on his interceptions after tossing 17 to rank only behind league leaders Colt McCoy and Blake Szymanski last season. The young backs can't be plagued by fumbles and the defense has to be more productive than last season in making big plays.