Three predictions about Colorado

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Colorado coach Dan Hawkins can spin that he didn't mean his "10 wins and no excuses" statement as a goal rather than a prediction.

But it's still clear that Colorado fans are getting restless after only one bowl trip in the past three seasons under Hawkins.

After hearing what Hawkins and his players had to say earlier this week, here are three predictions I have for the Buffaloes in 2009.

1. Darrell Scott will emerge as the most-improved player on the team and a threat to rush for 1,000 yards. The heralded running back was one of the biggest disappointments after reporting to camp out of shape. He'll be ready to have more of a featured role in Colorado's offense, one that has one of the most underrated lines in college football.

Here's a stat courtesy of my friend Neill Woelk of the Boulder Daily Camera:

Only once in the past 21 years have the Buffs had a back rush for at least 800 yards in a season and not gone to a bowl game. Meanwhile, they've had at least one back hit the 800 mark 14 other times in that span, and they've gone to a bowl game each of those years. Conversely, they've managed a bowl game only twice without an 800-yard back in that same span.

Scott will be that 800-yard back and probably beyond this season.

2. Jimmy Smith will emerge as one of the best defensive backs in the league.

The Big 12 doesn't have many lockdown cornerbacks. All you have to do is watch a few games or look at statistics if you needed confirmation. But Smith can be that kind of player for the Buffaloes this season. And with him and the underrated Cha'pelle Brown on the other side, the Buffaloes have as good a pair of starting cornerbacks as you'll find in the Big 12 North.

That should enable them to combat passing offenses better than most and give them an edge in the North.

3. The Buffaloes' schedule will enable them to emerge as the North Division's dark horse.

The high altitude and vociferous fans used to give Folsom Field a reputation as one of the snake pits in college football.

It's not like that anymore, but I still think their schedule might keep them in the division race. Home games against Missouri, Kansas and Nebraska will give them one advantage. And despite tough road trips to Texas and Oklahoma State, the Buffaloes' schedule is more forgiving than any other North contender.

Colorado might not make it to 10 wins as Hawkins has "visualized," but I still look for the Buffs to be a North Division factor.

Coming Monday: Iowa State.