College football in 2023 is a TV show, and it only took three weeks of Deion Sanders leading the Colorado Buffaloes for the networks toss the old rules in the trash and rely on the lure of “Coach Prime.” otherwise yawn-inducing signal to be transmitted on Saturday board. They might as well have given him the title of executive producer.
Given the dismal third week, Fox and ESPN decided to host their morning pregame shows in Boulder. ESPN even broadcast “First Take” live from the Colorado campus on Friday. Think about it: This wasn’t the USC game in two weeks. That was Colorado State!
The Buffs and Rams combined for four wins last season, and yet in this college football dead zone were Heisman Trophy winners Matt Leinart and Mark Ingram on Fox’s “Big Noon Kickoff” and the legendary pair of Kirk Herbstreit and Lee Corso guest starred on ESPN’s “College Gameday,” where Corso picked Colorado for his 400th “headgear choice.”
On paper, it was one of the easiest decisions Corso ever had to make, as the Buffs were the 23.5-point favorite. Given the late kickoff time on the East Coast, the expectation was that Colorado would entertain viewers for perhaps half an hour before most of the country tuned in for the evening.
But as always, Sanders has gone above and beyond our wildest dreams. The guy just gets the stage life. He had his 18th-ranked Buffs, fresh off impressive wins over Texas Christian and Nebraska, fall behind rival Colorado State 21-14 at halftime. Prime’s decision to choreograph Rams wide receiver Louis Brown IV’s mocking version of the “Deion Shuffle” after he scored the go-ahead touchdown was also pure directorial brilliance.
Most impressive was how, after trailing 28-17 in the fourth quarter, Sanders made Colorado fans look as shocked as entitled blue-blooded fans do at the mass shooting.
In fact, Sanders must have prepared his son Shedeur, the team’s quarterback, for moments like the one the Buffaloes gave him Saturday night, when he took over at his own 2-yard line down eight points with two minutes left.
Because Shedeur handled this predicament like he had done it his whole life. He drove Colorado down the field seemingly without breaking a sweat and got within 28-26 with a 45-yard touchdown pass to Jimmy Horn. (Let’s not forget that Prime made sure the cameras caught him giving Horn a pep talk early in the game and pulling him into a hug after star two-way player Travis Hunter Jr. left the game due to a brutal hit.)
Shedeur made another throw to tight end Michael Harrison, sending the game into overtime. Yes, Prime was so bold that it even challenged the conventional logic that today’s viewer has a short attention span. The game lasted nearly four and a half hours and ended in double overtime, with Colorado atop the scoreboard at 43-35 and securely atop the Saturday TV ratings chart when it is released this week.
Prime’s Colorado experience isn’t just the best story in college football – it’s the greatest story in sports. Period. And even if you can’t stand the guy, you’ll definitely be watching next week when the Buffs pick No. 13 Oregon play, and next week when they play No. Align 5 USC.
At this point, the Sanders family has won the devotion of viewers, especially Shedeur, who had his first Heisman moment Saturday night when he saved his new school from major embarrassment.
Shedeur is now a star, surpassed only by USC’s Caleb Williams. After what he accomplished on Saturday, he deserves the love.
“SHEDEUR, YOU ARE A PROBLEM!!!!” LeBron James tweeted.
Shedeur revealed in his postgame interview on SportsCenter that he thought about going into “Brady mode” at the start of his 98-yard drive. He then revealed that he actually communicated with Tom Brady after every game and expected a text message from Brady later. Sure, why not?
On Saturday, it became official: You never know what you’ll see or hear when you watch a Prime-coached Colorado football game. These buffs don’t do anything to show off.
Next week will be wild. Ohio State plays at Notre Dame and Florida State has a date at Clemson, but neither game will captivate the nation like Colorado’s trip to Oregon.
Prime was asked after the game what he learned from the Colorado State episode.
“Patience,” he said.
When it comes to the Buffs, America has no patience. Give us more, more, more.
Trouble at the top
While USC enjoyed its early bye week, the four teams ahead of it in the Associated Press Top 25 poll all showed vulnerabilities.
The day began with No. 3 Florida State narrowly escaping Boston College, 31-29. The Eagles lost to Northern Illinois and beat Holy Cross by a field goal, but almost eliminated the Seminoles? Florida State will have to play much better to get out of Death Valley undefeated next weekend.
In its first SEC game of the year, No. 1 Georgia trailed South Carolina 14-3 at halftime in Athens. The Bulldogs looked much more like the two-time defending national champions in the second half and stormed back to a 24-14 win. But any Georgia fight is welcome news to would-be usurpers of the throne.
No. 2 Michigan turned the ball over three times in the first half at home against Bowling Green before winning 31-6. The Wolverines will get Jim Harbaugh back from his suspension next week, but they will need to play much sharper to live up to their preseason expectations.
Finally, a week after beating Alabama, No. 4 Texas was tied 10-10 with Wyoming in the fourth quarter. The Longhorns’ emotional hangover was evident and they pulled away, winning 31-10.
There doesn’t appear to be a dominant team in 2023, which means we’re in for a regular season.