We asked last week if Deion Sanders’ winning formula from his time coaching at a historically Black college (HBCU) would translate to the Power 5, and on Saturday we all got that answer in resounding fashion.
Not only did the University of Colorado Buffalos edge out the #17 team Texas Christian University (TCU) – an accomplished program whose previous game was the national championship last season – but they did so with a record-setting performance by their quarterback in what amounted to a statement game that should put the entire college football universe on notice.
Following the 45-42 upset win over TCU, there was increasing speculation on social media resulting in one question: Will Colorado be ranked when the college football polling is released next week?
If the answer is yes – which seems to be the consensus, particularly among Black users of the X app formerly known as Twitter – it would be seen as both a return to prominence for a once top-ranked program in Colorado and unmitigated validation for Sanders’ coaching ability and his decision to leave Jackson State University (and HBCU) that wasn’t greeted warmly at the time.
CBS Sports said it would be a “shock” if Colorado was not ranked next week.
“The preseason win total suggested Colorado would not be a bowl team, and the Buffs did not receive a single top 25 vote in the preseason, but it would be a shock to see the AP voters not put Coach Prime’s squad in the rankings on Tuesday,” CBS Sports wrote on Saturday.
Sanders reveled in victory and mocked those who didn’t believe the HBCU players he brought with him from Jackson State – including his son, quarterback Shadeur Sanders, who threw for more than 500 yards against TCU, a school record – would fare against what mainstream media has described as competition Black colleges would typically lose to.
“For real? Shedeur Sanders? From an HBCU? The one that played at Jackson last year? The one that you asked me, ‘Why would I give him the starting job?'” Colorado coach Deion Sanders asked mockingly about his son, whom he had coached at Jackson State before Colorado. “I’ve got receipts. I know who they are.”
ESPN put the game and the pressure on Sanders and the Buffalos in perspective:
Colorado, which went 1-11 last season and hired Deion Sanders in December, won its first road game since 2021 and snapped a streak of 24 consecutive losses as an underdog of 21 points or more. The team recorded its best road win against a ranked opponent since 2002 and its first of any kind since 2019.
Chances are that when the top 25 rankings are released on Monday, the Colorado Buffalos will be among the teams. It was by far already the biggest game of the young season and it’s clear that sports writers and broadcasters – the ones who determine the weekly rankings – took notice, what with the ubiquitous news coverage of the game.
There is a point-merited system when it comes to formulating the rankings.
“Voters first create a list of what they consider the 25 best teams in the country,” Sports Illustrated explains. “From there, they assign each team a number of points, awarding the best team the most number of points, which is 25. They give the second-lowest number to the second-best team, the third-lowest to the third-best team, etc.”
Considering that Colorado beat what sportswriters and broadcasters previously determined to be a team among the 25 best in TCU, why wouldn’t it follow that the Buffalos might now also be considered among the top 25?
Sanders alluded to that news attention following the game and said there was no change in his team’s mindset from how he coached at Jackson State.
“It’s the same recipe, the same preparation, same things we’re doing over and over,” he said following the game. “It’s just magnified and y’all are able to see us, more cameras and stuff. The only difference is the media and everybody is driving the headlines.”
Sanders has every reason to feel confident and vindicated.
His time at Jackson State was marked by numerous achievements, but the passionate coach faced his fair share of challenges, especially when he announced his new position with Colorado earlier this year. Coach Prime’s new job sparked outrage among HBCU alumni and supporters, with many calling the former Dallas Cowboys star a “sellout” and “traitor” for taking his talents and expertise from a Black college to a predominately white institution (PWI). That was especially true considering that Sanders himself has said how the only college that would give him a head coaching job was an HBCU and not the PWIs he admittedly coveted.
Fans of the revered football star believed that he was on the cusp of achieving something significant at Jackson State, and by proxy for HBCU schools across the country. His brief, three-season tenure had already shown promise, with improvements in recruitment, team performance and visibility. Sanders’ exit before being able to fully realize his vision for the program seemingly left some within the Jackson State and HBCU communities feeling that there was unfinished business that could have propelled the team to even greater heights.
But now Sanders is achieving those heights on a much grander stage, and with former HBCU players, to boot.
The combination has prompted the expectation across pockets of social media that all of the above will mean that by Tuesday, Colorado will be ranked in the top 25 for the first time since 2020, when the team was #1 overall.
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