- Ted Miller, ESPN Staff Writer
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Though the Pac-12 blog harbors concerns that this series might have jumped the shark, the nuttiness that is "Best case-worst case" is back.
This is the first in a series looking at potential dream and nightmare scenarios for all Pac-12 teams.
Understand: These are not predictions. They are extreme scenarios and pieces of fiction. You can read last year's versions here.
We're going in reverse order of my post-spring power rankings (which might not be identical to my preseason power rankings).
Up first: Colorado
Deep inside Pac-12 headquarters, Larry Scott sits in his office, fuming. His communications director, Dave Hirsch stands before him.
Scott: Dave, what is the worst team in the Pac-12?
Hirsch: Well that would be hard to say, sir. They're each outstanding in their own way.
Scott: Cut the malarky, son. I've got their highlights right here. Who lost to an FCS team in Week 2? Who turned in a white flag performance at Fresno State? Who posted the biggest margin of defeat of any major college team? By every Halloween, Boulder is filled with despair. Every spring, a sense of resignation that the good times are gone forever.
Hirsch: You're talking about Colorado, sir.
Scott: Of course, I'm talking about Colorado, you twerp!
Scott announces that Colorado is on double-secret Pac-12 probation. If they don't reach a bowl game in 2013, they will get kicked out of the conference and replaced by Nebraska.
Inside the Colorado locker room, the Buffaloes learn the news. Few believe this team can get to six wins.
LB Derrick Webb: Let it go, guys. War's over, man. Scott dropped the big one.
Center Gus Handler: What? Over? Did you say "over"? Nothing is over until we decide it is! Was it over when Darth Vader captured Harry Potter? Heck no!
QB Connor Wood: Darth Vader?
WR Paul Richardson: Forget it. He's rolling.
Handler: What the fudge happened to the Colorado I used to know? Where's the spirit? Where's the guts, huh? Where's the shoulder-to-shoulder? This could be the greatest season of our lives, but you're gonna let it be the worst. 'Ooh, we're afraid of Larry Scott and Oregon and Stanford and USC, Handler, we might get whipped.' Well just kiss my rear end from now on! Not me! I'm not gonna take this.
Richardson: Right! Handler's right. Psychotic... but absolutely right.
Colorado beats Colorado State and Central Arkansas. Fresno State is up next.
On Monday, first-year coach Mike MacIntyre wordlessly rolls a giant screen into the Buffs main meeting area. He clicks on highlights of Colorado's 69-14 loss at Fresno State the year before. When grumpy players leave after re-watching their notorious performance, they realize that MacIntyre has set up TVs all over the football facility. Those TVs will endlessly spool Fresno-Colorado highlights all week.
The Buffs trail 28-24 with one minute remaining. They take over on their 20-yard line. Wood is sacked on the first two plays. Ten seconds remain. No time outs. It's third and forever.
Wood drops back and heaves the ball into the air. It flies 70 yards. It lands in the outstretched fingers of a leaping Richardson. Two Bulldogs safeties collide. Richardson, realizing he is alone, struts into the end zone. Handler is the first to arrive.
Folsom Field goes bonkers. For 20 minutes.
Colorado loses its next three games to Oregon State, Oregon and by a field goal at Arizona State. The media grills MacIntyre.
"It's pretty simple, folks," MacIntyre says. "Our best effort, our best performance, guarantees this team very little. We are smaller, slower and younger than just about anybody on our schedule. But our best effort does guarantee us one thing, however, and it is the most important thing. It guarantees we can look around the locker room and know we did everything we could to be a great teammate. That, by the way, is no different than what those championship Colorado teams in the late 1980s, early 1990s asked of themselves."
The Buffaloes upset Arizona, lose a heartbreaker at UCLA and get bombed at Washington. They get win No. 5 against California, but fail to earn bowl eligibility after losing 20-10 to USC.
Up next: Arch-rival Utah.
Handler walks into MacIntyre's office with Wood, Webb and Richardson. He drops a bike on MacIntyre's desk. The black and gold bike has been sloppily painted over with Utah red.
Handler: Coach, this is the vandalized bike of the daughter our former coach, Jon Embree, a great and loyal Buff.
Richardson: We know a lot of Colorado fans blame him for everything, but we don't. We love you coach, but we still love and respect coach Embree.
Wood: So we want to tell you what this is and what it means to our locker room. And, well, we also know that it's one of the Pac-12 blog's favorite bits of fancy in his Best Case/Worst Case posts, which he nearly killed this year because he wasn't certain he could think up much else. Word is his brain is not that big.
A short time later, MacIntyre bursts into the Buffs locker room and throws the bike.
"This is an abomination!" he barks. "This must not stand! We have an old saying at Colorado: 'Don't get mad, get even.'"
Colorado beats Utah 30-27, with kicker Will Oliver booting a 57-yard field goal on the last play of the game. The Buffs earn a berth in the New Mexico Bowl, where they beat Nevada to finish 7-6.
Richardson announces he is returning for his senior year. "I'd like to ask the rest of the Pac-12," he says to reporters. "Do you mind if we dance with your dates?"
On Christmas Eve, Trey Parker announces he will pay for all of Colorado's facilities renovations. The "Cartman Academic Center" is a big hit.
The snow comes early and often and is most righteous.
The ultimate indignity wasn't losing a second consecutive game to Colorado State, this time 28-10. It was that the Rams didn't seem that enthused by the result.
Big brother in the state rivalry had taken a fall.
"We've got bigger fish to fry," Rams coach Jim McElwain says. "While our fans won't take a win over Colorado for granted, I think just about everyone in Fort Collins felt confident entering this game."
The Buffaloes get a win by besting Central Arkansas, and the visit from Fresno State seems to inspire a locker room bent on revenge for the blowout loss to the Bulldogs the previous year.
But Derek Carr takes a merciful kneel on the Buffs 2-yard line as time expires. The final count? 50-13. Folsom Field is just about empty when Carr gently puts the Buffs out of their misery.
"We'll keep fighting," coach Mike MacIntyre says.
Only it doesn't seem that way as the Buffaloes lose to Oregon State, Oregon and Arizona State by a combined 153-20 margin. "MacIntyre honeymoon ending early," says the Boulder Daily Camera headline.
With an off week ahead, MacIntyre switches from Connor Wood to true freshman Sefo Liufau at quarterback. But Arizona sacks Liufau twice and intercepts him three times before MacIntyre reinserts Wood in a blowout loss to Arizona.
"We're going to play two quarterbacks," MacIntyre says.
But nothing works because the Buffs just don't have enough talent. The season-ending loss at Utah gives them a 10-game losing streak and a final 1-11 record.
"As miserable as this season was," says MacIntyre, looking for a positive spin. "I saw some good things. We're young. We're going to get better."
Fundraising hits rock bottom, and facilities upgrades are delayed indefinitely.
Nebraska wins the national title over Texas.
Walmart buys downtown Boulder.
"We're going to get rid of all those uppity shops and high falutin restaurants and give folks low prices on plastic furniture and cheap stuff they don't need," says Walmart president and CEO Mike Duke. "It's going to be the biggest and best Walmart yet!"