CU Buffs vs. UNC Bears football: Things to know, matchups, predictions

Northern Colorado at Colorado; 7 p.m. Friday, Folsom Field

TV/Radio: Pac-12 Network/850 AM, 94.1 FM (CU); 1310 AM, 102.3 FM (UNC)

Line: CU -38.5, 55.5 over/under

Weather: 32% chance of thunderstorms, 74 degrees

What to know

Mystery Bears. There may be no bigger black box in college football than the UNC Bears, who not only have a new head coach in former Broncos receiver Ed McCaffrey, but also 65 players suiting up in blue and gold for the first time. The Bears haven’t played a game in 650 days after opting out of the spring season. McCaffrey hasn’t coached a game since his Valor Christian Eagles lost in the Class 5A state semifinals two years ago. Suffice it to say, the Bears are an enigma.

Easily transfer-able. The transfer portal turned into a free-for-all this offseason, with seniors given an additional year of eligibility and all athletes granted the ability to transfer and play right away. Coach McCaffrey took full advantage, bringing 17 transfers to Greeley from the FBS ranks. That, of course, includes his son Dylan (Michigan) at quarterback. The Buffs weren’t shy either, taking in three players from college football blue bloods Ohio State (LT Max Wray), Oklahoma (LB Robert Barnes) and Notre Dame (LB Jack Lamb), among four others.

Quarterback shuffle. For the second year in a row, the Buffs open the season without a single quarterback on the roster with collegiate starting experience. While Brendon Lewis did see some action — and success — vs. Texas in the Alamo Bowl, this will mark his first start at CU. Sitting behind him on the depth chart are true freshmen Drew Carter (Portland, Ore.) and Jordan Woolverton (Durango).

No gimmes. Outside of maybe Stanford, which plays nothing but Power 5 programs, there might not be a more challenging schedule in the country than the one CU undertakes this fall. With Texas A&M up next at Empower Field, and Minnesota visiting Folsom Field a week later, this marks the only time the Buffs will be heavy favorites this season. That makes Friday night a must-win if CU wants to go bowling for the second year in a row.

Key matchups

CU corners vs. UNC receivers. Going off talent and production, the UNC passing game could be special. QB Dylan McCaffrey was a four-star recruit out of Valor, and he has three FBS-level transfers lining up at receiver: Dylan Thomas (TCU), Kassidy Woods (Washington State) and Jonah Morris (Akron). Throw in sophomore Jaren Mitchell (48 receptions-740 yards in 2019), and CU’s young CB corps (junior Mekhi Blackmon is lone upperclassman) is in for a challenge.

Dorrell vs. McCaffrey. As unfamiliar as these two teams might be, there’s plenty of familiarity between the head coaches, as CU’s Karl Dorrell was once Ed McCaffrey’s position coach with the Broncos from 2000 to ’03. But while McCaffrey actually had some college game film to review, Dorrell and Co. were reduced to dissecting Valor tape in an effort to glean what McCaffrey’s Bears might look like come Friday night.


Kyle Fredrickson, sports reporter: CU, 42-10

Sean Keeler, sports columnist: CU, 31-10

Matt Schubert, deputy sports editor: CU, 48-17

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