The Best Pac-12 NFL Players: Week 12’s Performers From Each School

Pac-12 NFL Players

Vita Vea displayed versatility to headline Pac-12 NFL standouts

This week in football, Pac-12 NFL fans were treated to a rare gem: a 347-pound player scoring an offensive touchdown. Everyone loves it when defensive players catch touchdown passes. Who else joined Vita Vea with top Pac-12 NFL Week 12 performances?

The Big List of Pac-12 NFL Performers, College by College


Nick Foles – Jacksonville Jaguars

Honestly, it’s a tough year for Arizona. Each and every week, it’s a difficult school to find Pac-12 NFL talent. This week, Foles was alright. Not great. But not horrible. He completed 66.7-percent of his passes for 272 yards, zero touchdowns and zero interceptions. It’s weeks like this that make fans wish the Jags would have stuck with Gardner Minshew.

However, there aren’t any significant Arizona options in the NFL right now. Therefore, it’s Nick Foles beating a low bell-curve. 

Arizona State

N’Keal Harry – New England Patriots

Now, we’re not going to try and paint N’Keal Harry a Pro-Bowler. But, he reached a big milestone this Sunday. In the first quarter, N’Keal Harry caught the game’s lone touchdown. It was his very first touchdown and hopefully there will be many more. 

In college, N’Keal Harry’s 43.9-percent (89th-percentile) College Dominator and 18.7 (95th-percentile) Breakout Age were collegiate elite. Combine that with a 134.5 (98th-percentile) SPARK-x Score and first-round draft pedigree. All to go along with playing snaps for the New England Patriots dynasty. N’Keal Harry’s stock will only go up from here.


Mychal Kendricks – Seattle Seahawks

11 solo tackles. Against the Philadelphia Eagles, Mychal Kendricks was a sure-tackler. He locked up the middle of the field and helped keep the Eagles to just 9 points. 

Kendricks also made one tackle for a loss. It wasn’t a pretty win for the Seahawks. But, it was a win nonetheless. And, the defense held up well to a receiver-less Eagles offense. Kendricks double-digit tackle total was a large part of that win.


Jimmy Smith – Baltimore Ravens

Earlier this season, the Baltimore Ravens secondary was exploitable. Now, with the addition of Marcus Peters and a healthy Jimmy Smith, the Ravens are once again difficult to face. On Monday night, the Ravens dominated the Rams.

In their easy win, Jimmy Smith made big plays. Not only did he sack quarterback Jared Goff, but he intercepted the ball to seal the game. Jimmy Smith is a great Pac-12 NFL representative. 


Arik Armstead – San Francisco 49ers

Oh my. All quarterbacks should fear Arik Armstead. Incredibly, Armstead hit quarterback Aaron Rodgers four times and sacked him twice. His defensive pressure is a great asset for the San Francisco 49ers.

On the season, Armstead now has:

  • 10 Sacks
  • 13 Quarterback Hits
  • 38 Tackles
  • 10 Tackles for a Loss
  • 2 Forced Fumbles
  • One Fumble Recovery
  • 88.8 PFF Grade

Oregon State

Steven Nelson – Pittsburgh Steelers

This year, Steven Nelson is low-key having a great season. He’s top-24 in Player Profiler’s Coverage Rating, Receptions Allowed, Catch Rate Allowed and Yards Allowed. Additionally, Nelson owns a 77.2 PFF grade.

It’s a great year for him. Against 42 targets, he’s allowed just 20 receptions. He’s an underrated corner climbing to the top of his game. Sitting at six and five, the Steelers are on the hunt for a playoff spot. They need Nelson to keep churning out solid games.


Christian McCaffrey – Carolina Panthers

It’s just not fair. No one can tackle Christian McCaffrey one-on-one. Even against a stout defense with a backup quarterback, McCaffrey finds a way to score. Although the Saints held him to just 64 yards on 22 carries, he still added 9 receptions for 69 yards a touchdown.

Almost every week, McCaffrey climbs to the top of Pac-12 NFL performers. He’s such a unique talent at the position. His combination of power, agility and pass-catching keep him at the top of running back lists.


Fabian Moreau – Washington Redskins

Up until this game, Fabian Moreau played mostly slot-corner in the NFL. However, moved to outside cornerback against the Lions, he was finally able to show off his skillset. On the day, Moreau racked up six tackles and two pass break-ups. 

But, his biggest plays came on his two interceptions. Moreau displayed an ability to jump routes and track the deep-ball. Moreover, he did what many corners can’t. He held onto the ball and earned his team possession. Well done Mr. Moreau.


Sam Darnold – New York Jets

It’s been an up and down season for the Jets. But, just like last season, Sam Darnold is closing out the season well. This time, he torched the Oakland Raiders and didn’t let off the gas. 

Darnold accumulated:

  • 315 Passing Yards
  • 2 Passing Touchdowns
  • 16 Rushing Yards
  • One Rushing Touchdown

His 83.5 QBR and 127.8 Passer Rating were both season highs. Darnold and the Jets are now on a three-game win streak. Also, keep in mind that Darnold is still only 22 years old. We still have years to go with this young, Pac-12 NFL quarterback. Provided he doesn’t get Mono again next season, New York has it’s quarterback.


Star Lotulelei – Buffalo Bills

Although his stat line from Week 11 was more impressive, Star Lotulelei had another impactful game in Week 12. Against the Denver Broncos, Lotulelei recorded another solo sack. Back-to-back weeks with a full sack. In his seven-year career, Lotulelei’s career-best is four sacks in 2016. 

It would be nice to see him beat that total by closing out the year with a streak. Granted, his sacks came against Miami and Denver. So, it’s highly unlikely that he’ll be able to continue this fun. However, in the final quarter of the NFL season, why not root for an underdog?


Vita Vea – Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Everyone loves it when the big guy scores. And Vita Vea is one large, athletic specimen. Standing at 6-foot-4 and weighing in at 347lbs, Vea is a monster of a man. 

In their win against Atlanta, Vea caught a one-yard pass from Jameis Winston for the touchdown. That puts his career catch percentage at 100-percent. Of course it’s just one target. But, it’s reminiscent of Mike Vrable’s receiving.

Additionally, Vita Vea managed to record two tackles, two pass break-ups and one sack. It was an excellent game for the big guy and a highlight Pac-12 NFL fans will be talking about all season.

Washington State

Deone Bucannon – New York Giants

Unfortunately, Deone Bucannon injured his ankle in Week 12’s loss to the Chicago Bears. However, before he left the game, Bucannon recorded five tackles. One of which was an impressive defensive stop against Tarik Cohen. If he didn’t make the stop, Cohen would have likely run for more than just a first down.

In 2019, this was Bucannon’s first game with more than one tackle. During weeks 9, 10 and 12, Bucannon played 36 to 39-percent of defensive snaps. His move from special teams to defense for the New York Giants, along with his five tackles, are a bright spot for Cougar fans.

Miss Week 11’s Top Pac-12 NFL Performances? Read them here:

Pac-12 Football Seasons: 2019 Colorado Buffaloes Week 6


The 2019 Colorado Buffaloes entered their bye week 3-1 and with plenty of optimism. As they now shift back towards game preparation, Colorado and their fans are hopeful about what is in store for the Mel Tucker era. The new head coach’s relentless attitude has helped the Buffaloes compete until the very end in all of their games while instilling confidence into the players. 

Tucker has accomplished feats previous coaches did not. He beat a ranked opponent on the road for the first time in 30 games, and in that same victory left Sun Devil Stadium with Colorado victorious for the first time in six tries.

But in all the optimism there have been twists and turns. Inconsistencies on offense have led to close nail-biters and thoughts of something more. Still, for all the inconsistencies the Buffaloes have flashed, the team has remained consistent in one aspect: making sure the games are competitive. Regardless of who the Buffaloes have played, all the games have been within one score at some point in the fourth quarter. The Buffaloes were able to prevail in three of these four games, but they may not have been the combination of wins many who follow the program were expecting to see.

The Buffaloes were expected to beat Colorado State, and they did 52-31. 

Many thought Nebraska was going to be a close game, and the Huskers were slightly favored. Colorado was able to push through adversity and make up a 17-point deficit to win in overtime. 

However, the next week, the Air Force Falcons shocked everyone in Boulder and gave the Buffaloes a permanent stain on their season, defeating them 30-23 in another overtime game. 

The Buffaloes then went the unexpected route and beat a ranked Arizona State team on the road in their Pac-12 opener. Unpredictability has been this team’s calling card.

Take the Nebraska game. The Buffaloes looked like a team with no sense of identity for the first 40 minutes, as they were down 17-0 until getting their first score late in the third quarter. Then suddenly, the script changed. The Buffaloes were a team on a mission and though it took them a while to warm up, they made a 180-degree turn and became one of the best teams in the country for 20-plus minutes.

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2019 Colorado Buffaloes Strengths

Conditioning: Mel Tucker has stressed being the best-conditioned team. The Buffaloes have been able to stay in games late and improved as games have progressed. The players are more energized as the games go on, and their conditioning helped in comebacks against Nebraska and Air Force.

Wide Receivers: The wide receivers group, coached by Darrin Chiaverini, has been a huge strength of the team. With Laviska Shenault facing double teams and being injured in the Arizona State game, the other wide receivers, namely Tony Brown, were able to pick up the slack. Known as “Touchdown Tony Brown” in high school, Brown is trying to reclaim that nickname in his senior year.

2019 Colorado Buffaloes Weaknesses

Inconsistency on offense, particularly the offensive line and Montez: The offense has looked extremely choppy at points this season. There has not been a consistent flow to the offense, and as a result, they’ve had various versions of the offense on display through the first four weeks.

Against Colorado State, it looked like the offense was figuring out how to deal with the double teams Laviska Shenault was receiving. Against Nebraska, it took nearly three quarters to pick up steam. 

The offensive line’s struggles were magnified against Air Force, as Montez was struggling in the pocket, throwing off his back foot on numerous occasions. With an offense that features three upperclassmen in Arlington Hambright, Kary Kutsch, and Tim Lynott, and a senior quarterback in Montez, it is frustrating when the chemistry has been off for one reason or another this season.

Secondary giving up big plays: The Buffaloes struggled to contain big plays in the opening game of the season against Colorado State, but the defense has improved each week. They have a bend-but-don’t-break attitude and turnovers have been their calling card. Cornerback Delrick Abrams has struggled on numerous occasions, as opposing receivers have had decent games against him. 

The defense has given up 31, 31, 30, and 31 points in their games this season, and secondary play will have to improve before the Buffaloes will be able to hold opponents under 30 points. 

Offensive MVP: WR Tony Brown

Stats: 19 Receptions, 301 Yards, 4 Touchdowns

It may surprise some that Laviska Shenault is not the offensive MVP of the Buffaloes right now. Some may point to the fact that he has been underutilized by offensive coordinator Jay Johnson, and an undisclosed injury prevented him from being fully utilized against ASU. Because of this Tony Brown has benefited. He has come in the clutch for the Buffaloes’ offense on numerous occasions this season, including catching two crucial fourth-quarter touchdowns. The first of these crucial touchdowns came trailing Nebraska in the final minute of the game when the Buffs were down 31-24. He was able to catch the ball in the end zone and send Folsom Field into a frenzy. 

His second fourth-quarter touchdown came two weeks later in the Arizona State game to give the Buffs a 31-24 lead. This play was huge because it came on a 2nd-and-goal from the ASU 20-yard line. Most teams would have been assured of a field goal on this drive, but this would not be the case as Brown went up over a defender to catch the clutch touchdown.

Defensive MVP: S Mikial Onu

Stats: 27 Tackles, 3 Interceptions, and 2 Forced Fumbles

Onu, a graduate transfer from SMU, has been the main tone-setter on defense. The defense’s calling card has been the turnover this season, and Onu is the driving force behind that. He was the first to don the “turnover robe” in the CSU game when he came up with the first of his two interceptions in that game. He also had an interception and a forced fumble in the Air Force game. Those two turnovers were arguably the only reasons the Buffaloes were even in that game in the fourth quarter. Onu is second on the team in tackles, and has had a profound impact on the successes of the Buffaloes defense so far this season.  

Most surprising player: RB Jaren Mangham

Mangham, a freshman, has had some timely runs for the Buffaloes this season and has shown his physicality that he brings to the table at 6-2 and 215 lbs. He had two red zone touchdowns in the Nebraska game, which were a contributing factor to the Buffs being able to come back and win those games. He might not get as many carries as Alex Fontenot, but he is going to get noticed more if he continues to be a physical presence running the football.

2019 Colorado Buffaloes Week 6

There are many positives to take away from the first third of the 2019 Colorado Buffaloes season. These will be crucial moving forward, as Colorado faces six straight Pac-12 opponents before another bye week on November 16. 

To succeed will require flipping the script from last season, as the Buffaloes failed to win a game after beating Arizona State in 2018. This task begins against Arizona, a team that will challenge Colorado.

The Wildcats may be without Khalil Tate, who has given the Buffs fits in the past. However, Arizona beat UCLA with backup quarterback Grant Gunnell in College Football Week 5. With the parity in the Pac-12 on great display this season, Brown, Onu, and the rest of the Buffaloes cast need to come prepared as they try to beat the Wildcats at Folsom Field for the first time since 2011.  

Pac-12 Football Seasons: 2019 Colorado Buffaloes Week 5

Relentless. This is the mantra Mel Tucker has used when he has described what he wants the 2019 Colorado Buffaloes to become in 2019. And the 2019 Colorado Buffaloes Week 5 appears to be just that, with a statement win coming in week 4.

The term relentless has become the social media hashtag used when the team wants to hype their fans up on social media, including Twitter. However, the Buffaloes have not been a relentless force in their eight-plus seasons in the Pac-12 minus their 2016 season. That changed, however, with Colorado’s win over the Arizona State Sun Devils. The 34-31 victory was their first road win against an AP Top 25 team in their last 30 tries.

Going Against History in Colorado vs. Arizona State

In the past, Sun Devil Football Stadium has been a house of horrors for the Buffaloes. They were 0-5 all-time at Sun Devil Stadium entering play Saturday, with a 0-4 mark in that stadium since they joined the Pac-12. They had been outscored 224-94 in those five games, with an average losing margin in those games was 30 points. 

The Buffaloes were looked at as a major underdog going into their first “Pac-12 After Dark” tilt of the season, as they lost to Air Force in College Football Week 3 and Arizona State pulled off a major road upset of their own against then-ranked Michigan State. However, the Buffs would set the tone early as the offense played consistently right from the get go, which was a pleasant change from the first three games of the season.

However, the injury bug bit bad for the Buffs. First off, linebacker Mustafa Johnson injured his left leg on Arizona State’s first offensive drive. On top of that, cornerback Delrick Abrams Jr. would go out in the second quarter with a shoulder injury. It was a crushing blow for the defense, as they looked like they were on damage control in the first half, giving up 21 points. Star receiver Laviska Shenault went out in the first quarter with an undisclosed injury, and the Buffaloes’ offense could have let the pressure of not having their top wide receiver get to them.

Instead, senior Tony Brown picked up the slack in a huge way. He caught the first two of his three touchdown receptions in the first half, and Montez looked far more settled than he did against Air Force. The Buffs took a 24-21 lead into the locker room. 

Despite the injuries, the Buffaloes, on first impression, proved they could play with their opponents in the Pac-12 on the road this season, after last season where they went 0-4 on the road against Pac-12 competition.

A Wild Second Half

The game tightened up defensively in the second half, as the Buffaloes caught some breaks with overthrows and drops by the ASU offense. Tony Brown scored his third touchdown of the game late in the third quarter to give the Buffaloes a 31-24 lead.

The Buffaloes showed up in Tempe to play, and had the opportunity to get rid of numerous dubious streaks that were a bad look for the program. They had never won at Sun Devil Football Stadium and had a 29-game road losing streak to ranked opponents. However, the Buffaloes were going to be relentless in their quest to end these bad streaks.

One of the definitions of the word “relentless” is “harsh or inflexible”. The Buffaloes were out to prove that there would be a different feel to the Mel Tucker era regardless of the first impression that was given via the first three games. They came through in the clutch.

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The Tense Fourth Quarter

Arizona State tied the game early in the fourth quarter, and the Buffs were forced to punt on the subsequent possession. It felt like it was going to be the same old “Buffs keep it competitive but lose” storyline that dominated the majority of the Mike MacIntyre era in Boulder. Instead, safety Derrion Rakestraw was able to pick off Arizona State quarterback Jayden Daniels with just over ten minutes remaining in the game. The Buffaloes were able to bend but not break on defense.

On offense, the Buffaloes did enough to give the defense an opportunity to win the game, as they drove into field goal range and secured a three-point lead. The defense impressed on the next possession, as Arizona State gained negative-6 yards on four plays and gave the Buffs the ball back. 

The Buffaloes hired Mel Tucker in part because of his defensive prowess as the Georgia defensive coordinator from 2016-2018. Mel Tucker’s signature was written all over what was Arizona State’s offensive possession, as they were finally able to get to Jayden Daniels and pressure the true freshman quarterback.

However, Tucker’s inexperience as head coach came out near the end of the game, as the offense tried to rush a play call on a 4th and 3. Wide receiver K.D. Nixon took the direct snap and was smothered by the ASU defense. It was a near-disaster for the Buffs, but they were bailed out by a delay of game penalty that blew the play dead. The Buffs decided to kick the field goal to lengthen their lead to six points, but a roughing the holder penalty against ASU gave the Buffs a first down, assuring victory. Crisis averted.

2019 Colorado Buffaloes Week 5 Preview

This relentless winning effort should restore the majority of the enthusiasm felt by the CU Boulder community after the Nebraska win. The loss to Air Force will be a stain on the 2019 Colorado Buffaloes season, but the team is going into their bye week with a 3-1 record that they should be proud of. They were able to beat two rivals in CSU and Nebraska and shed one of the more embarrassing road losing streaks to Top 25 teams. The Mel Tucker era is beginning to take shape, and it looks like the restoration effort of Colorado Buffaloes Football as a dominant force in college football may be yielding results. 

Next up, the Buffaloes will play Arizona on October 5. They have struggled against Arizona star quarterback Khalil Tate each of the past two seasons, but Mel Tucker has devised creative gameplans as a coordinator to stop players like Tate in the SEC. Arizona has to play UCLA next week, so the Buffaloes will also have an extra week to prepare for the Wildcats. This should help them, as fans and players alike will be rejuvenated in their enthusiasm about the 2019 Colorado Buffaloes season. The win over Arizona State meant a lot for the early stages of the Tucker era in Boulder, and there is hope that it was the first of many huge road wins that will be experienced now into the future.

Pac-12 Football Seasons: 2019 Colorado Buffaloes Week 3

Nebraska Colorado Football 2019

An instant classic in the saga of Nebraska vs. Colorado. That is what happened at Folsom Field when the Cornhuskers invaded Boulder on Saturday. But this classic game, a resounding win for the Colorado Buffaloes and first-year head coach Mel Tucker, did not root its atmosphere in 2019 alone. 

A college football rivalry dating back to 1898, the Colorado-Nebraska rivalry is one college football fans had to deal without for the early part of this decade. Renewed in 2018, the matchup still proves to be one of college football’s best. 

Last year, legendary Colorado Buffaloes football coach Bill McCartney stated his belief that the whole state of Colorado could get behind the effort of beating their old Big 12 rivals. The Buffaloes made the state do just that.

Down 28-27 with just over one minute left, quarterback Steven Montez hit Laviska Shenault in the right corner of the end zone. It was the decisive touchdown in a 33-28 win. Then-head coach Mike MacIntyre hugged his son Jaye as Boulder filled with Euphoria. Colorado was back, or so many thought.

But the remainder of 2018 would not prove so kind. After a 5-0 start to the season, the Buffaloes failed to win another game. The result led to MacIntyre being let go and another new era in Colorado football history.

Come back every Tuesday for a new installment of Pac-12 Football Seasons: 2019 Colorado Buffaloes

Setting the Table for 2019 Colorado Buffaloes Week 3

2019, meanwhile, brings with it positive change and expectations that Colorado is ready to make a national statement. 

After dispatching Colorado State in the Rocky Mountain Showdown, the Buffaloes turned attention to a sea of red. Nebraska, with revenge on their mind, would visit Boulder in college football week two. The Huskers had unfinished business, but the Buffaloes had something to prove.

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Drowning Out the Red

Drowning out the red. That was the goal for the Buffaloes as the Huskers invaded Boulder. It looked like a giant pool of red blood that had fissured the usual black and gold colors seen in Folsom Field’s stands. The Buffs’ first drive took up about half of the first quarter, but the offense came out choppy for the second consecutive week, as the team gained 33 yards on 12 plays and was forced to punt. Not exactly the remedy the Buffs were looking for to silence the red.

Nebraska, meanwhile, showed precision and came out swinging. They had touchdown drives of 96 and 95 yards in the first half, igniting their fans. Home chants were infected by chants of “Go Big Red”. 

The Buffs looked flustered as they entered the halftime locker room down 17-0. This was much their own doing. In fact, Colorado did about everything wrong on offense in the first half. It seemed like the team had no identity. The choppiness they showed in the CSU game was forwarded into the first half against Nebraska.

The Comeback

Fortunately, the Buffaloes turned it around.

It began with an eight-play, 64-yard drive that gave the Buffs their first score with 1:26 remaining in the 3rd quarter. Question being, would they have enough time to heal the wound of a 17-point deficit to Big Red?

Eventually, yes.

Getting the ball back early in the fourth quarter, Colorado and offensive coordinator Jay Johnson needed to silence the Nebraska crowd and strike fast. They did so by getting creative. 

Positioned nearly an entire field length away from their end zone, Colorado drew up its most daring play in years: the flea-flicker. Quarterback Steven Montez took the pitch back from running back Alex Fontenot and stood in the end zone with Nebraska rushers pursuing him. He completed the pass to K.D. Nixon, who ran into the end zone to cut the Nebraska lead to 17-14. Words cannot do this play justice. 

With the stadium rocking and silencing the Nebraska faithful, the Huskers struck back with a quick TD to regain a 10-point lead.

The Buffs would not lie down, as those watching the game got a sudden sense this would be one for the history books. Classic Nebraska vs. Colorado. 

Sensing their shot and riding a wave of second-half momentum, Colorado pulled within three on a lightning-fast 5 play, 75 yards touchdown drive. Folsom Field thundered, and with the help of a timely fumble by Nebraska quarterback Adrian Martinez, the stadium got louder, especially once the Buffaloes kicked a field goal to tie the game with 8:30 remaining. 

An Ending to Remember

But Nebraska proved unrelenting in their effort to make sure the red took over Boulder. Shaking off his mistake, Martinez marched the Huskers down the field and muscled in for a touchdown on 4th-and-1 to give them a 31-24 lead. 

With time beginning to wind down, Colorado knew it needed to regain momentum. Unfortunately, they would not get the chance they were hoping for, as Shenault fumbled the kickoff return around midfield, giving the Huskers a prime opportunity to eat the clock.

But it was not Nebraska’s day. The glory was to be had by Colorado. 

With Folsom Field thundering, the Buffaloes stuffed Nebraska and got the ball back with 3:33 remaining. 

On a defining drive, Montez converted a 4th-and-1 at midfield to keep the Buffs afloat. Then, with 46 seconds left to play, he connected with Tony Brown on a 26-yard touchdown pass to tie the game. The game headed to overtime, where the Buffaloes would finally overtake the red.


Kicking a field goal on their first offensive possession of overtime, Colorado turned to its defense. Fortunately for the Buffaloes, new head coach Mel Tucker knows a thing or two about game-changing defenses. 

Needing a field goal to tie and a touchdown to win, Nebraska was stuffed by Colorado. The end result of their first and only offensive possession in overtime? A four-play, negative six-yard drive that ended with a missed field goal. Wide right. 

As the field goal missed, it was the Black and Gold that poured onto the field. This was what Colorado needed to put themselves on the college football map.

These type of wins catapult programs into the national spotlight, and it was the exact type of win that coach Mel Tucker needed. His team has taken on his personality of a never-give-in attitude. They did not surrender to a dangerous Nebraska team, which along with their fans, attempted to invade Folsom Field.

Next Up: Air Force

CU will welcome another team in close proximity to them next week in the Air Force Falcons. The team will be coming off of the high of beating the Huskers, but should not overlook the challenge that the Falcons will present. 

Air Force is known for running the option, and it will be important for the Buffs to respect their opponent, who is from what most would say an inferior conference. However, the Pac-12 and Mountain West have always had a “big brother little brother” rivalry, and it is important that the Buffaloes once again show which football team rules the land in Colorado, as they did when they beat Colorado State two weeks ago. 

But while the team focuses on the upcoming game, there is no doubting the importance of beating Nebraska. Triumphant two years straight in one of college football’s best rivalries, Colorado has made its statement. The red was drowned out and the Black and Gold has risen. It’s time for the next chapter in Colorado football.