Midseason report: Colorado

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Colorado (3-3, 0-2): It might not be fair to blame all of Colorado's early woes on quarterback Cody Hawkins. He's playing behind a patchwork line that makes his protection an iffy proposition against most good defenses. But it's also true that Hawkins and the Buffaloes' offense can't match up with the Big 12's most explosive units. They had a nice win against West Virginia, but barely escaped against Division I-AA Eastern Washington and wore down against both Texas and Kansas.

Offensive MVP: Josh Smith. Most Colorado fans embraced Smith before the start of the season because he helped lure his nephew, top recruit Darrell Scott, to Boulder. But Smith has been the big offensive weapon in his family so far this season. He's been a consistent producer as a receiver and kick returner, leading the team with 1,016 all-purpose yards, scoring four of Colorado's 18 touchdowns and setting up five more touchdowns with long returns.

Defensive MVP: Cha'pelle Brown. Cornerback was supposed to be one of the Buffaloes' biggest questions, but Brown has emerged as a big-time player in his first season as a starter. Brown won the Eastern Washington game with a dramatic interception return for a touchdown and has played 411 of the team's 422 defensive snaps. He also has notched 47 tackles, made eight third-down stops, broken up five passes and produced two interceptions.

What's next: The Buffaloes have fallen into an early hole with two conference losses. But they have a key four-game stretch coming up with three winnable games: home games against Kansas State and Iowa State and a road trip to toothless Texas A&M. If Colorado can sweep those three games, it will be become bowl eligible and will be playing their final two for a better trip. Even with the early struggles, a bowl bid looks achievable and a solid step forward for a young team that could be among the North's title contenders in 2009.