Deion Sanders, Colorado's 2023 Pac-12 Schedule Announced; Will Play USC in Week 5

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 19, 2023

BOULDER, CO - DECEMBER 4:  Deion Sanders, CUs new head football coach, takes questions in the Arrow Touchdown Club during a press conference on December 4, 2022 in Boulder, Colorado. CU held an introductory press conference to announce the hiring of Deion Coach Prime Sanders as the schools new head football coach. Chancellor Phil DiStefano and athletic director Rick George accompanied Sanders into a packed room in the Arrow Touchdown Club inside the Dal Ward Athletic Center. Sanders becomes the 28th head coach in Buffalo football history.  Sanders, who known as Prime Time during his Hall of Fame playing career has since transitioned into Coach Prime as a head football coach. Sanders, 55, joins the CU program from Jackson State University where in three seasons the Tigers compiled a 27-5 record and won back-to-back Southwestern Athletic Conference championships. (Photo by Helen H. Richardson/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
Helen H. Richardson/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Colorado won't get to ease into Pac-12 play in Deion Sanders' first season at the helm.

The Buffaloes are slated to play Oregon in Week 4 on Sept. 23, and then they face off with USC the following week on Sept. 30. Sanders and Co. will close out the year against two-time reigning Pac-12 champion Utah.

Pac-12 Conference @pac12

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It's not an exaggeration to say Colorado was the worst Power Five team in 2022. The program finished 1-11 and had a point differential of minus-349.

The early portion of the Buffaloes' schedule presents Sanders and his staff with an opportunity to show how much progress was made in the space of an offseason.

The Hall of Fame cornerback set a firm tone during his first meeting with the players. He made it clear he intended to hit the transfer portal hard and turn over the roster where he thought reinforcements were needed.

"I'm bringing my luggage with me," he said. "And it's Louis."

Sanders also indicated during his introductory press conference his son, Shedeur, will be the starting quarterback in 2023.

As expected, Sanders brought not only Shedeur but also Travis Hunter with him from Jackson State to Colorado.

Michigan State went from 2-5 in 2020 to 11-2 in 2021 under Mel Tucker in large part because of Tucker's success in the transfer portal. A similarly rapid turnaround could be in store for the Buffaloes, and the extent of their advancement will be apparent right out of the gate.

A road test against national runner-up TCU beckons on Sept. 2.

The Horned Frogs might be coming off a College Football Playoff appearance, but they're losing their leading passer (Max Duggan), leading rusher (Kendre Miller) and leading receiver (Quentin Johnston). Defensive starters Dee Winters and Tre'Vius Hodges-Tomlinson and consensus All-American offensive lineman Steve Avila are out the door as well.

TCU could be there for the taking, and a Week 1 win would represent a major statement for Colorado.

The games against Oregon and USC will be great barometers as well. Bleacher Report's David Kenyon ranked the teams at No. 11 and 5, respectively, in his early Top 25 projection for 2023.

The Buffaloes lost to the Ducks and Trojans by a combined score of 104-27 in 2022. If they can simply look respectable in those two games, it would be a major improvement. And imagine how the college football world would react if Colorado upsets either of the two.