The old nemesis is all that stands in the way.
Colorado makes its final trip to Nebraska for the annual post-Thanksgiving-feast battle with the Cornhuskers today (1:36 p.m., ABC) needing a win to gain bowl eligibility.
Both teams altered the college football landscape earlier this year when CU was first to announce its departure from the Big 12 Conference for the Pac-10 and Nebraska followed a day later with its plan to leave for the Big Ten.
Call it the Exit Bowl, the Defection Bowl, the Getting Out From Under Texas Bowl. Take your pick, but understand it is a bittersweet day for many who have watched these programs compete each year for more than six decades.
Somewhat overlooked in all the hubbub about the rivalry, Colorado`s improvement under interim coach Brian Cabral, the Pelini family meltdown at Texas A&M last week and the status of Cornhusker quarterback Taylor Martinez is the fact the Buffs haven`t won a road game in more than three years.
The road-losing streak has been front and center every time a road trip has approached for the team over the past two seasons, but it barely received any attention this week. CU hasn`t won in its past 17 games played outside the state.
The Buffs thought they had put an end to it three weeks ago at Kansas before one of the biggest collapses in college football history.
They have come a long way in the days since, including the firing of former coach Dan Hawkinsand consecutive home victories, but they have no room for error today. It`s do or die, as some might say it should be, in the final battle with Big Red.
"I`m not concerned about the Big 12 race, a bowl or anything but this team playing Nebraska," Cabral said. "But I`m excited about seeing this team for another week, to see what we indeed can accomplish with another week. I`m so pleased and so happy for our team, our players, coaches, to where they`ve gotten us to. Yeah, big game. Lincoln, big game. But I`m excited to see how we progress, what step we take."
The Buffs will have more support than usual in Lincoln this year. The novelty of it being the final trip to play the Cornhuskers helped Colorado sell out its allotment of 3,800 tickets.
A win would extend the careers of a group of seniors who have been regular contributors for three or four years, including Cody Hawkins, Scotty McKnight, Jimmy Smith, Jalil Brown, Nate Solder and B.J. Beatty. A loss would close the book on their chapter in black and gold.
"It`s going to be a tall task, but I think our guys on our team are up to it," Hawkins said. "We`re preparing accordingly and we`re going to go out and fight hard."
Nebraska also has plenty on the line. The Cornhuskers are playing for Big 12 North Division championship and trip to the conference championship game next week in Dallas. This is only the third time in Big 12 history neither division winner has been decided going into the final week of the regular season.
It seems the Buffs might be catching Nebraska at the perfect time. The Cornhuskers have been dominant much of the season, but it has been a tumultuous week that started with a 9-6 loss at Texas A&M last Saturday. Coach Bo Pelini and defensive coordinator Carl Pelini both were caught by television cameras berating players or officials during or after the game and both spent the week apologizing.
Bo Pelini was caught poking his finger in the chest of starting quarterback Taylor Martinez at one point on the sidelines and screaming at his signal caller. Martinez is not expected to be at full strength entering today`s game because of a sprained ankle, and this could be a huge benefit to the Buffs because the freshman has torched defenses all season.
Nebraska also will play without wide receiver and kick return man Niles Paul, who suffered a season-ending injury earlier in the week.
There have been so many distractions around the Cornhuskers this week, they hardly received any questions about the Buffs in their weekly press conference. Or maybe it`s that the Huskers are 17-point favorites and no one outside of those in black and gold expect today`s game to be much of a contest.
"You have to go out and earn it," Bo Pelini said. "That`s what`s lying ahead of us. That`s the challenge that`s lying ahead of our football team right now."
It`s the same story for the visitors from Boulder.