It's absolutely amazing to me that the Buffaloes lost, 41-34 in overtime, at home to an Oregon State team that has been arguably the worst Power 5 conference team in the country this season. It's even more amazing that the Buffs lost after building a 31-3 lead.
Finish off that win, and the Buffs would be 6-2 overall, 3-2 in conference with bowl eligibility wrapped up and a South division title within grasp. Now? Forget the South, and it's reasonable to question if CU (5-3, 2-3) can get to win No. 6.
It was the worst loss of Mike MacIntyre's six-year tenure in Boulder, and it puts serious doubt into whether he gets to a seventh year here.
Yes, the Rise of 2016 was remarkable and CU is in better shape than it was when MacIntyre took over before the 2013 season. But, we're now deep into his sixth season, and all he's really done is proven he will (usually) beat the teams he's supposed to beat and probably not beat the others.
I was asked in the press box Saturday if MacIntyre has a signature win. First off, I don't know how you really define a signature win. Is it a monumental upset of a top-ranked team? Is it a program changing win?
My answer was that MacIntyre's signature win was the 41-38 victory at Oregon on Sept. 24, 2016. That sparked the Rise and CU's run to the Pac-12 South title. Oregon finished 4-8, but that was a major mental hurdle for CU to beat the Ducks, and the Buffs went in as a 10-point underdog.
Maybe the signature wins came against Washington State and Utah that year. Those are the only times MacIntyre has defeated ranked opponents - although the Buffs were ranked higher in both games.
The person who asked me this question was making this point: MacIntyre doesn't really have a signature win. And, really, it's hard to argue.
When facing ranked foes as an unranked - or lower ranked - team, MacIntyre is 0-17 at CU. To put that in perspective, first-year Pac-12 coaches Mario Cristobal (Oregon), Herm Edwards (Arizona State) and Kevin Sumlin (Arizona) each already has an upset win against a ranked or higher-ranked opponent. Second-year coach Justin Wilcox of Cal picked up his second such win on Saturday.
MacIntyre is 5-36 as an underdog, and only one of those wins - 2016 at Oregon - came with a spread larger than 4 points. First-year Pac-12 coaches Jonathan Smith (Oregon State) and Chip Kelly (UCLA) already have one of those wins - Smith's, of course, coming Saturday in Boulder.
Can MacIntyre ever take CU to an elite level? He has yet to prove he can do that, and losing Saturday against Oregon State was the most damaging result he's had yet.
It would cost CU nearly $10 million to move on from MacIntyre after this season. That's a lot of money, but given the results to this point - and the collapse on Saturday - don't think that buyout prohibits CU from making a move. Especially if the Buffs continue to slide down the stretch.
MacIntyre has yet to prove he can beat team's he's not supposed to beat. Over the next month, he's going to have to. His job may depend on it.
A few thoughts from the weekend:
1. Since Saturday, I've heard a lot of comments about the Buffs taking their foot off the gas against Oregon State. Specifically, I've heard many point to MacIntyre's comments from a few weeks ago, when he said he doesn't like to run the score up on anybody.
a. Immediately after OSU made it 31-10, CU came out passing - not running the ball to milk the clock. The Buffs wound up punting, but that drive started with a Juwann Winfree drop and ended with a perfect, 5-yard pass from Steven Montez to KD Nixon on 3rd-and-4. Perfect, except that in trying to gain more yards, Nixon ran backwards, turning a first down into a 3-yard gain and a fourth down.
b. Still up 31-10 after forcing an OSU punt, the Buffs didn't just sit on the ball on their next drive, either. On second down, they threw a deep pass to Tony Brown. The ball from Montez was perfect, but it hit off Brown's hands and fell incomplete. They also took two shots into the end zone from 28 yards out. Both fell incomplete, but they were aggressive in looking to score.
c. Lead down to 31-17, CU came out firing again, with two passes to get the ball near midfield. On 4th-and-1, they went for it, and McMillian was stuffed for no gain. Not a bad play call against a bad run defense, but they didn't get it done.
d. The next drive, with the lead down to 31-20, included a drop by Jay MacIntyre on third down (drop may be harsh, because the pass from Montez slightly behind MacIntyre, but they were inches from a completion). That would have moved the sticks, but instead they had to punt.
e. Lead down to 31-28, the Buffs had a solid, 5-minute, 8-second drive to take the clock down, and got to the OSU 10. On third-and-five, Montez scrambled and ran for a first down - which would have either set up a game-clinching touchdown, or at least allowed them to run out the clock. A holding penalty called it back, though, and they settled for a field goal and leaving 2:05 on the clock for OSU.
2. Having said all that, I do think the Buffs relaxed a bit mentally after taking the big lead. But, I also think Oregon State did a great job of taking advantage of CU's depleted secondary. Already without cornerback Chris Miller for the season, the Buffs didn't play their best corner - Delrick Abrams Jr. - until they got desperate late. He was clearly healthy enough to play, but I'm guessing the Buffs were hoping they could give him another week to rest a calf injury that kept him out of the previous game. Late in the first half, though, safety Evan Worthington went out with an injury. Then, Kyle Trego was ejected for targeting. CU was relying on players such as Derrion Rakestraw and Aaron Maddox - neither of which had ever played a meaningful snap on defense as Buffs - and Ronnie Blackmon, who began the year as the top nickelback, but has since fallen on the depth chart.
3. I do feel for cornerback Trey Udoffia. He's one of my favorite Buffs to interview, and I know he was feeling confident going into Saturday. He just couldn't catch a break, though, and never could stop the negative momentum. Not sure I've seen a cornerback get so routinely picked on and beat in a game. After working his way back into the lineup in recent weeks, I thought he played a solid first half. Second half, not so much. OSU's Jake Luton just picked him apart. For a while, it was Dante Wigley getting torched. But, he was benched (for Abrams), and Luton turned his attention to Udoffia, who gave up a touchdown and ensuing two-point conversion with 7:13 to play. Then, on the Beavers' game-tying drive at the end of regulation, he had back-to-back 15-yard penalties before giving up two passes for 22 yards.
4. A lot of fans have posted since Saturday that they don't see the Buffs winning another game. I get it. I look at the remaining schedule and not sure where I see a win, especially after watching Arizona destroy Oregon and Cal upset Washington. Those are, in theory, CU's two easiest opponents on the remaining schedule. They've also got home dates with the Pac-12's two hottest teams: Washington State and Utah. However, if the Buffs can get Laviska Shenault back from his toe injury, that changes a lot for this team. And, don't underestimate this team's ability to bounce back. The outlook is bleak right now, but there's still a lot of talent, and a lot of quality leaders on this team. Do they rise up and fight back? We'll see. But, I'm not counting this group out.
5. If the Buffs do fail to win another game, however, they will pull off one of the biggest in-season collapses in recent college football history. In 1997, the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) reached 20 bowl games for the first time (there are now 39 bowls). Since 1997, only one team from a Power 5 conference has started 5-0 and failed to reach bowl eligibility (not counting teams with bowl bans). That team was Kansas, in 2009. The Jayhawks started 5-0 and rose to No. 17 in the national rankings. They lost their first game of the year to the Buffs, 34-30, in Boulder, and didn't win again, finishing 5-7. This CU team needs one win to avoid that same fate.
6. Two people I felt bad for Saturday were the two Sun Bowl representatives who attended the game. The Sun Bowl - scheduled for Dec. 31 in El Paso, Texas - is fifth in the Pac-12 pecking order, and CU came into Saturday very much in play for an invitation there. And, the Sun Bowl really, really wants CU because of quarterback Steven Montez, who went to high school in El Paso and is a local celebrity. "We're always looking for schools that could bring a lot of people and I think Colorado would do that," said Bernie Olivas, executive director of the Sun Bowl. "I think it would be good for El Paso (to have Montez in the game) and it would be good for the Sun Bowl. If we had an opportunity, we sure wouldn't pass on it, at all. Having Steven Montez come to El Paso as the starting quarterback for one of our Sun Bowl teams would be very attractive for us. I think the attraction (to CU) is pretty obvious when you have a hometown boy playing for Colorado, but there's still a lot of things that can happen." Nobody expected the loss to Oregon State to happen, though. Now, the Buffs would need a fairly significant rally in the next four games to have a shot at the Sun Bowl.
The week's best Buffs
1. WR KD Nixon: He was way too hard on himself after the game when he said this loss was on him. Yes, he had a pass in overtime slip through his fingers. That would have been a heck of a catch, though, after it was tipped by an Oregon State defender. Nixon still had a monster game, with 13 catches for 198 yards and two touchdowns.
2. LB Nate Landman: I thought he played his best game in weeks. He was credited with 10 tackles (although it seemed like twice that), four tackles for loss and two sacks.
3. RB Travon McMillian: Continues to be one of the stars of this team. He had 132 yards and a touchdown - a 75-yard run - on 20 carries.
4. QB Steven Montez: Posted solid numbers (24-of-39, 319, 2 TD and 66 rushing yards), but played better than that. Of his 15 incompletions, I counted six drops. He also had a huge first down run late in the game that was waved off because of a penalty.
5. DL Terrance Lang: As good as he's looked all season. He was credited with one sack and one pass breakup, and also blocked Oregon State's potential game-winning extra points in the final moments of regulation.
Stat of the week
This one is rather stunning. In the past 12 months, the Buffs have had six chances to achieve bowl eligibility, and have lost every time. That's even more remarkable when looking at how they've lost those games:
1. Nov. 4, 2017, at ASU: Led 27-17 going into the 4th and got outscored 24-3 to lose 41-30.
2. Nov. 11, 2017, vs. USC: Fell behind 27-0 in the 3rd before rallying to make it look respectable with a 38-24 loss.
3. Nov. 25, 2017, at Utah: After two weeks to prepare, went into halftime trailing 28-0 and lost 34-13.
4. Oct. 13, 2018, at USC: Took 7-0 lead, then gave up 28 straight points in a 31-20 loss.
5. Oct. 20, 2018, at Washington: Within 1 at the half, outscored 13-0 after the break to lose 27-13.
6. Oct. 27, 2018, vs. Oregon State: Led 31-3 in the 3rd quarter, got outscored 38-3 rest of the way to lose 41-34.
That is a collection of epic failures in the biggest games CU has played during the last 365 days.
Pac-12 players of the week
Offense: Jake Luton, Oregon State - As Buffs fans knows too well, what Luton did was impressive. He didn't even play in the first half, but came off the bench to lead OSU's rally in Boulder, throwing for 310 yards and three touchdowns and leading five touchdown drives.
Defense: Evan Weaver, California - His interception return for touchdown was the only touchdown of the game for Cal in its 12-10 upset of Washington. He also had 11 tackles, 1 tackle for loss and a pass breakup.
Special teams: N'Keal Harry, Arizona State - Had a 92-yard punt return for touchdown that sparked the Sun Devils' 38-35 upset win at USC.
Pac-12 Team of the Week
Oregon State: There were plenty of choices this week, from Arizona routing Oregon, ASU ending USC's home win streak and Cal knocking off Washington. What Oregon State pulled off in Boulder, however, was remarkable. Down 31-3, to outscore the heavily favored Buffs 38-3 the rest of the way was stunning.
National Team of the Week
Clemson: The Tigers have obviously been one of the best teams in the country for several years, and Florida State has been down for a couple of years. Still, to go into Tallahassee and crush the Seminoles, 59-10, was impressive. Clemson is clearly one of the top contenders for the national title once again.
A few thoughts on the Pac-12 after Week 9:
1. This conference is amazing, and not necessarily in a good way. Cal's 12-10 upset of Washington was shocking. Arizona's complete domination of Oregon was shocking. ASU's upset at USC was even in a bit of a surprise, given USC's 19-game home winning streak. Yet, none of them were as stunning as Colorado's loss to Oregon State. Unbelievable week.
2. There is at least some clarity at the top of each division now. Washington State is the best team in the North and Utah is the best team in the South. They've both been sizzling of late. Neither one has ever reached thePac-12 title game, but could meet up in Santa Clara. The way everyone else (Oregon, Washington, USC, Colorado) is falling off, they're the only teams playing like they want to get there. That might be a fun rematch of their Sept. 29 game in Pullman, won by Wazzu, 28-24.
3. Khalil Tate looked pretty good against Oregon on Saturday night, and that could be scary for Arizona's opponents the rest of the way. That starts with Colorado on Friday. The Wildcats need to win two of three to get to a bowl, and that schedule includes a date at Washington State and a finale against rival ASU. Won't be easy, but a healthy Tate makes this an intriguing team down the stretch.
4. If there's a coach in the Pac-12 with a hotter seat than MacIntyre, it's USC's Clay Helton. The Trojans expect championships, and this looks like a team that could finish at or just above the .500 mark.
After week 9, here's how I rank the teams in the Pac-12:
1. Washington State (7-1, 4-1 Pac-12): Cougars now alone atop the North after knocking off Stanford and aiming for their first title game appearance.
2. Utah (6-2, 4-2): Utes on a sensational four-game run, outscoring the opposition 163-69.
3. Stanford (5-3, 3-2): Cardinal up one spot in this week's rankings, but only because so many others lost. Cardinal did hang with Wazzu all afternoon, though before a 3-point loss.
4. Washington (6-3, 4-2): Ugly 12-10 loss to Cal drops the Huskies a couple spots. They're still one of the best in the conference.
5. Arizona State (4-4, 2-3): Great win in Los Angeles, as the Sun Devils snapped USC's 19-game home win streak.
6. Arizona (4-5, 3-3): Maybe the best win of the week in the Pac-12, as the Wildcats completed dominated Oregon.
7. California (5-3, 2-3): Bears get their second in a row, this time upsetting Washington. Somehow they got the win without an offensive touchdown.
8. Oregon (5-3, 2-3): Two weeks ago, Ducks appeared to have a shot at the College Football Playoff. Now they've lost two in a row and are falling out of contention for the North title.
9. USC (4-4, 3-3): Trojans have lost two in a row, as well, and quickly falling out of South contention.
10. Oregon State (2-6, 1-4): I still think this is the worst team in the conference, but after a remarkable comeback in Boulder, they deserve to move up this week.
11. Colorado (5-3, 2-3): Three weeks ago, they were the only undefeated in the conference. Now, they're riding the longest losing streak in the conference.
12. UCLA (2-6, 2-3): Two-game win streak came to a screeching halt with a 41-10 loss at home to Utah.
Quote the of week
CU defensive end Mustafa Johnson on how the Buffs can bounce back from the loss to Oregon State:
"It starts on Sunday. We come in Sunday, have meetings and we have to be ready to go next week. We have to come with the right mindset, I think. During this week you could tell some people kind of took Oregon State for granted due to their record and obviously what the stats say. I think that came to bite us in the butt. All we can do is come in with our heads on right."
Contact staff writer Brian Howell at firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/BrianHowell33.