No. 9 Stanford at Colorado

When: Saturday, 11 a.m.

Where: Folsom Field

TV: Pac-12 Networks

Radio: 850 AM

There's a month of football left to be played by the Colorado football team.

Barring a few upset wins, the Buffaloes are sure to spend the bowl season sitting at home once again.

However, with nine games down and four to go, the Buffs (4-5, 1-4 Pac-12) do appear to be in a good spot going forward.

Here are a few observations about the Buffs to this point.

1. Leavitt making an impact

Colorado's new defensive coordinator doesn't pretend to be a miracle worker, and he certainly hasn't been. The Buffs are still giving up 423.3 yards per game and 26.8 points per game. Arizona State scored 48 on the Buffs. Arizona topped the 600-yard mark.

What Leavitt's defense has done, however, is give the Buffs a fighting chance for the first time in years. The 26.8 points per game allowed by CU is a remarkable improvement for a team that gave up 39.0 points a year ago. CU hasn't given up less than 30 a game since 2009 and the last time they gave up less than 28 a game was in 2006. The 423.3 yards per game allowed is the best by a CU defense since 2010.

Despite a lot of injuries at inside linebacker, this has not been a crew that gets torched on a weekly basis anymore.


2. Injuries have been costly

Coaches don't like to use injuries as an excuse, but head coach Mike MacIntyre and offensive coordinator Brian Lindgren don't deny that their offense has suffered because of them.

Most notably, injuries to the offensive line have hurt this team all year. It's rather amazing that CU has had a different starting combination on the offensive line in each of its five Pac-12 games to this point. The Buffs are set to make it six in a row, as left guard Gerrad Kough could miss this week's game with a concussion.

On top of that, the Buffs have essentially played the last seven games without top tailback Michael Adkins II and lost speedster Shay Fields for a game.

Defensively, injuries to linebacker Addison Gillam and Kenneth Olugbode and safety Ryan Moeller have impacted this team.

3. The good and bad of Liufau

Junior quarterback Sefo Liufau has done a great job, for the most part, of protecting the football this season. He did throw two costly interceptions against UCLA on Saturday, but has just five picks this season, after tossing 15 a year ago.

Liufau has also developed into a good runner and has made several big plays — including five touchdowns — with his feet. In addition, his toughness and resiliency have been remarkable, given how many times he's been hit this season.

Liufau, however, has not taken his game to a higher level, and therefore hasn't taken the Buffs to a higher level. During Pac-12 play, he and the Buffs have had several chances to make big, potentially game-winning plays on offense late in games, and they haven't come through. For CU to eventually start winning these close games, it is going to need Liufau to take that next step.

4. Kicking game in good shape

There were major question marks going into this season, as the Buffs lost four-year starters at punter and kicker. At this point, there are no questions.

Diego Gonzalez is 15-for-21 on field goals and 29-for-29 on extra points. Freshman punter Alex Kinney had a rough start but has proven to be a major weapon with his ability to pin opponents deep.

5. Talented youngsters

Injuries have forced the Buffs to use some young players this year, and while the results have been up and down, the potential is clear.

True freshman Patrick Carr ran for 100 yards against UCLA on Saturday and seems to have the power and speed to a valuable player for this team for years to come.

Freshman linebackers NJ Falo, Rick Gamboa and Grant Watanabe have also been given chances to play, and all three of them have shown flashes of excellence. Throw in Kinney, corners Nick Fisher and Isaiah Oliver, offensive lineman Josh Lisella II, receiver Jay MacIntyre, and there's a lot to like about the freshman class.

6. Meaningful November

Yeah, it's a long shot for CU to reach a bowl game this year. The Buffs need to win three of the last four to get there.

However, the Buffs do enter November with that carrot out there. It's a carrot they believe they can get. Few outside of the program believe they can do it, but that doesn't matter. The players do, and that's something to fight for as the Buffs head into the final month.

Whether it reaches the seven-win mark or not, CU has a chance to finish the season on a high note and make this a campaign on which the Buffs can build.

Brian Howell:, on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.