The Buffs can still smell the roses.

At least for another week or two.

After producing a disheartening 1-3 non-conference record, Colorado has turned the focus to its first Pac-12 schedule, which begins Saturday with Washington State's visit to Folsom Field.

The Cougars (2-1) believe they have turned the corner in Paul Wulff's fourth season as head coach after winning a total of five games in the previous three seasons.


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Neither team is expected to make a run at the Rose Bowl anytime soon.

Despite improved skill and depth, Washington State was picked to finish last in the North Division, which is where the media tabbed CU to reside in the South Division.

"This is a big game for both programs. I talked to our players about it," CU head coach Jon Embree said. "Playing the first Pac-12 game in the school's history, and with our issues on the road, if we're going to have any chance of accomplishing anything, we've got to win at home."

Before worrying about the burden of taking a 19-game road losing streak to No. 4 Stanford next week, the Buffs have a chance to get off to a fresh 1-0 start in their new conference.

CU is a 3-point favorite at most of the Las Vegas casinos thanks to the homefield advantage.

"Now that I've been with this team for four games, it's amazing the difference when we get on a plane and when we play at home," Embree said.

CU is 78-37-2 all-time in conference openers, including a 5-2 record in a first game as a new league member.

Washington State is 2-2 all-time in Boulder, including a 47-26 win on Sept. 23, 2003.

"This is really the beginning of our Pac-12 experience and our season," CU tight end Matt Bahr said.

Slow starters

Part of the reason CU's running game has struggled is because the team has been playing catch up on the scoreboard due to slow starts.

In the first quarter-and-a-half of the four games this season, the Buffs have been outscored 43-3 and outgained 524 yards to 230 yards. CU's offense has picked up 14 first downs while the defense has allowed 33 first downs in that time frame.

However, in the final two-and-a-half quarters of the four games (including overtime vs. Cal), Embree's team has outscored opponents 89-72 with a significant edge in total yardage (1,246 to 723) and first downs (62 to 44).

Training room

Cornerback Vince Ewing (knee), offensive lineman Shawn Daniels (calf) and cornerback Travis Sandersfeld (leg) are on the mend but not expected to play Saturday.

According to Embree, cornerback Parker Orms could be in the lineup with a "miraculous" recovery from leg injuries.

Starting center Daniel Munyer (ankle) is listed as probable and linebacker David Goldberg (knee) is day-to-day.

Notable

The Buffs are 12-3 at home since 1984 after losing by 20 or more points on the road the previous week (CU is coming off a 37-17 loss at Ohio State.) ... CU's 16 rushing attempts against the Buckeyes are tied for the second fewest in program history. ... Toney Clemons, who transferred to CU from Michigan, will become the first player to ever play in the Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12.

Quotable

"Their stats are PlayStation kind of numbers. When you watch them, they are explosive," Embree said on Washington State's offense, which has averaged 539.7 yards through three games.