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TCU Football 2023 Opponent Preview: Colorado Buffaloes

The Horned Frogs open the 2023 season in Amon G. Carter Stadium against a future conference foe

Colorado Football Spring Game
QB Shadeur Sanders is one of many new faces the Buffaloes will bring to Fort Worth to open the 2023 season
Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

At halftime of the 2022 season opening contest in Boulder, the debut of new Horned Frogs head coach Sonny Dykes, his heralded offense was held scoreless and TCU clung to a measly 1-point lead thanks to a Derius Davis punt return touchdown. Newly-named QB1 Chandler Morris was forced to the sideline with injury and the new era of TCU Football appeared in peril. The Horned Frogs promptly ran off 31 unanswered points to take the victory and ran off another eleven straight wins to earn a Playoff bid and advance to the National Championship.

In 2023, it will be the Buffaloes debuting a new coach and new QB as Deion Sanders will make his FBS coaching debut with his son Shedeur set to lead the offense on the field. Coach Prime will bring a brand new bag to Fort Worth in the form of a fully overhauled roster. Will that bag indeed be Louis Vuitton as he claims or will the on-field performance be more akin to Hefty? We’ll find out on September 2 at 11 AM CT when the Buffaloes & Horned Frogs open the season under the spotlight of FOX’s Big Noon Kickoff at Amon G. Carter Stadium.

2023 Outlook

(odds per DraftKings Sportsbook)
Season Win Total: 3.5
Odds to win Pac-12: +14,000
Odds to win National Championship: +30,000
Overall Preseason SP+ Rank: 103 (Offense: 84; Defense: 115)

The Buffs were even worse than low expectations in 2022, winning just one game all season with only one more with a final margin in single digits (an eight-point home loss to Arizona State). As one of the worst teams in all of college football, Colorado made the big offseason move to bring in Deion Sanders and a near 100% roster flip. In most years, Coach Prime’s arrival would be the dominant offseason story for this dormant program, but now conference realignment has turned on its head as the once left-for-dead Big 12 has lured Colorado to return to its former home in 2024 and away from the fledgling Pac 12. In its final season in the Pac 12, the Buffs face a brutal slate of opponents (including: at Oregon, at UCLA, at Utah, and vs. USC in addition to the trip to Fort Worth) that makes it very difficult to envision Colorado reaching the 4-win mark, much less bowl eligibility. However, if Deion Sanders can prove a complete teardown is a viable rebuild method; if he has selected the correct players and can get them playing to maximum potential, the Buffaloes will have a chance for some fireworks and, at minimum, play spoiler to some unsuspecting opponents.

History Vs. TCU

Last season was the first clash between the Frogs & the Buffs, though Colorado has certainly traveled to the Lone Star state many times during its time in the Big 12, including a 2001 Big 12 Championship victory over the Texas Longhorns in Irving’s Texas Stadium, the former home of the Dallas Cowboys.

Key Departure

Na’im Rodman, Defensive Tackle
It’s hard to say anyone from the 2022 squad will be sorely missed for Colorado, however Rodman was a key rotational piece on the defensive line before transferring to fellow Pac-12 program Washington State. He played in every game last season, including a season-high 30 plays against the Frogs, securing a tackle for loss and a third-down stop.

Key Newcomer

Alton McCaskill, Running Back
The actual answer here is “everyone” - you could choose the former #1 overall recruit Travis Hunter, who could be the team’s top WR and top CB or maybe 5-star freshman DB Cormani McClain, or of course the Brothers Sanders with Shedeur at QB and Shilo at Safety. As well, Colorado has brought in other new RBs Kavosiey Smoke from Kentucky and dynamic four-star freshman Dylan Edwards, but the Houston transfer is the one to watch. After a breakout 2021 campaign where he was AAC Freshman of the Year, he missed the entire 2022 season with a torn ACL. The opening of the 2023 season will be 17 months since the injury; if he’s recovered for a return to 2021 form to be the lead runner in Offensive Coordinator Sean Lewis’ system (as Kent State Head Coach last season, his team ranked 19th overall in EPA per rush), he’ll be one of the best backs the Frogs face all season

Match Up vs. TCU

Although these programs faced off a year ago, the teams are in such different places now that there is little to take away from that contest. As individuals, there are plenty of high-talent stars in the black and gold to cause fits for the Frogs in September, the question will be whether these pieces fit together to form a dangerous puzzle. TCU is also replacing major production on the offensive line and defensive front, so there may be opportunity for the Buffs to hassle Chandler Morris early as it did in Boulder a year ago; the CU O-Line may give sufficient time for Shedeur Sanders to make some magic happen and open holes for a re-tooled run game. The unknown nature of Colorado’s coaching staff and personnel will make game-planning a challenge, but some of the one-on-one matchups will be highly entertaining: preseason All-American cornerback Josh Newton locking down five-star transfer WR Travis Hunter on the outside, five-star freshman CB Cormani McClain jockeying for jump-ball position with Savion Williams, Alton McCaskill being introduced to Damonic Williams and Jamoi Hodge at the line of scrimmage. It will be a big national spotlight to open the season, with an opportunity for both programs to make a major statement for the season and for the future: Colorado is looking to prove that Coach Prime was the right man for the job, leapfrogging from FCS Jackson State to the Power 5, as it looks to set the tone ahead of the Buffs transition up to the Big 12; the Horned Frogs are looking to prove that the magic of the 2022 Playoff run was no fluke and the Sonny Dykes regime is set for sustained success in the new Big 12 going forward. It’s a game sure to be filled with fireworks that will capture the attention of even the most casual college football fans. September cannot get here soon enough!