When the Colorado Buffaloes take the field today against Missouri, they need remember only one thing:

The Big 12 North is still up for grabs. Play well and win, and they`ll be right back in the thick of things. That is the beauty and curse of playing in a division that is still far and away the lesser of the two in the Big 12.

The big boys play for the prize in the South; the leftovers go to the North.

The Buffs need to decide if those leftovers are worth fighting for.

As the Buffs` season has progressed -- some might say regressed -- the temptation to over-analyze has been great. More of this, less of that. The defense needs to change (fill in the blank) while the offense must get (fill in the blank) more playing time. Simplify the playbook, expand the game plan ... pick your solution and it`s been voiced.

But the answer today for the Buffs is none of the above. Nothing complicated. Dan Hawkins hit the nail on the head early this week.

The Buffs need to play with a chip on their shoulders. Play like they care. Play like someone is trying to steal their lunch instead of acting like they`re willing to share.

That`s what`s been missing far too often this season.

Against Kansas, the Buffs played with that chip. Unhappy after letting the chance at an upset get away from them in Texas, they focused their emotion on Kansas. The Buffs forced turnovers on defense, blocked people on offense and put the Jayhawks on their heels.


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But a week later, they were gracious at Kansas State. The perfect guests. "Thanks for having us, and we`ll leave the turnovers on the carpet on our way out."

Enough of that.

Now the Buffs need to be horrific hosts. Pop the Tigers the minute they step on the field and don`t stop until the game is over. Make Missouri miserable.

Play like it matters.

"There has to be an edge in every single game that you have to garner," Hawkins said. "Somehow, you have to find your chip."

That shouldn`t be too difficult for the Buffs in this one.

They are 2-5. They`ve been embarrassed two years in a row by the Tigers. Fans aren`t exactly singing their praises.

But most of all, the Buffs must remember how they followed up a nice effort against Kansas with the stinker at Kansas State. Their pride hasn`t just been damaged; it`s been battered. Just when it looked as if they were ready to step forward, they tripped all over themselves.

The fact that there`s still plenty to play for hasn`t escaped the Buffs. They spent the week talking about the fact that they are indeed still in the Big 12 North mix, and it`s not simply a matter of bravado. The bizarre circumstances thus far in the North have created an opportunity of which CU can realistically still take advantage.

A week ago, Kansas State appeared to be the make-or-break game for the Buffs to step up and show they still belonged in the contender conversation. The loss in Manhattan could have made that a very short conversation.

But thanks to Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri also losing last week, the Buffs can still make a run at the division -- if they play well today.

Call it their latest last chance.

The good news is the Buffs are home today, where they are 2-1 this year. Even better, they get another home game next week, when Texas A&M comes calling.

Even in this season of disappointments, the Buffs have shown glimpses of promise. The defense has been very good at times. The offense, especially with Tyler Hansen at the helm, has displayed the ability to move up and down the field.

But they haven`t put it all together for a complete game.

Do it today -- and keep that chip on their shoulders for the next few weeks -- and what`s been an empty season thus far could still produce some flavor.