Is Colorado a threat in the Pac-12 South?

BOULDER CO - NOVEMBER 13: Linebacker BJ Beatty #59 of the Colorado Buffaloes begins to celebrate after sacking quarterback Austen Arnaud #4 of the Iowa State Cyclones at Folsom Field on November 13 2010 in Boulder Colorado. Colorado defeated Iowa State 34-14. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Admittedly, we've been preoccupied on this blog with the current state of affairs with our athletic program, namely the sanctions and various other things related to the NCAA and compliance. As a result, I don't think we've had the opportunity to really explore the new Pac-12 conference alignments, which provided the superconference idea doesn't gain traction in the immediate years, could provide an interesting dynamic for some time.

The Washington and Oregon schools have been relegated to the North and won't be playing the Trojans on an annual basis (I can't say I'm particularly disappointed). But in particular, I wanted to take a closer look at Colorado moving into the southern division, which IMHO, could, because of its annual trip to Southern California, become a bit of a thorn in the side for USC on the recruiting trail. Per ESPN's Ted Miller:

Hello, Pac-12 South Division.

[John] Embree got a late start in recruiting but made a notable 11th-hour surge and signed 21 players. Still, the Buffaloes will need a significant talent upgrade before they start talking about Pac-12 championships.

The thing about Colorado is that they've won before. It's not as if the program is a sleeping giant that is waiting for the right coach, the right system and the right group of players to reach its ceiling. It's won before. Not necessarily at the level of Alabama, Michigan or USC, but it does have a national championship, 26 conference titles and 30 All-Americans in its history. It's got some stuff on the resume.

Under Bill McCartney, from 1982-1994, the Buffaloes went 93-55-5 en route to an Associated Press national title in 1990. They won under McCartney's watch, which is what makes new coach John Embree all the more intriguing. Embree, as Miller notes, is a McCartney disciple.

As a touted local recruit in 1983, he bought into what McCartney was selling and became an impact player as a true freshman tight end. In his final season, 1986, the Buffaloes overcame a 0-4 start to finish 6-6. Then it was off to a brief NFL career.

In 1991, he joined McCartney's staff as a volunteer assistant. In 1993, after a year as a high school assistant, he came back to Boulder with a full-time job, coaching tight ends, and he remained with the Buffaloes until 2002, sticking around to work for both Rick Neuheisel (1995-98) and Gary Barnett (1999-2002).

As it has been well-documented, Embree has never been a head coach and there's certainly going to be a learning curve. But at the very least, he wants to be in Boulder and coach his alma matter. Of course, Karl Dorrell and Rick Neuheisel have held similar feelings. But nonetheless, that's what the Buffaloes have in Embree.

They're also playing in a mediocre division. Utah is moving into a BCS conference. Both Arizona and Arizona State seem to have great difficulty eclipsing the 7-5 mark. USC is sanctioned. UCLA is, well, UCLA. They have a chance to make inroads, because there isn't necessarily a team in this division that is invincible. We'll have to wait and see what happens, but it should be an interesting development.

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