HOLLYWOOD, Calif. — Not long ago, Colorado was looking up at the rest of the Pac-12, hoping to attain the success of programs such as Stanford and Oregon.
Now, the Buffaloes are somewhat of an example for others.
Going from last place in the Pac-12 South in 2015 to first place last year gives some hope to teams that have been struggling recently.
CU had gone through 10 consecutive losing seasons, including 4-9 (1-8 Pac-12) in 2015. The Buffs (10-4, 8-1 in 2016) then had the biggest single-season turnaround in Pac-12 history last year.
"We talk about that all the time: Where did Colorado come from? How did they end up being so good?" Oregon State linebacker Manase Hungalu said at Pac-12 media days at the Hollywood & Highland. "Players like me who have been playing for a while understand that (Colorado) has been playing together since they were freshmen and sophomores. It's just a process for them. They went through losing seasons and then had this big winning season last year. That's how we want to see ourselves now."
Oregon State (4-8, 3-6 Pac-12) has had three consecutive losing seasons, but now enters its third year with coach Gary Andersen. The Beavers believe they've got the ability to reach bowl eligibility.
"One of these days it's going to flip," Hungalu said. "The program is going to flip and everybody is going to be on the right page and the results will show for itself.
"We've had a lot of young guys. Now everybody is more developed and great experience and guys are just more mature. We expect to have a similar season as Colorado did last year."
Oregon State will host the Buffaloes in Corvallis, Ore., on Oct. 14. CU won last year's meeting, 47-6, in Boulder.
Facing the Rams
For Oregon State, the path to bowl eligibility begins Aug. 26 in Fort Collins, when the Beavers take on a Colorado State squad opening a brand new stadium.
Agreeing to move the game from its original Sept. 23date was beneficial for both the Rams and Beavers, because it creates a much-needed bye week. Andersen knows the early date - and being a part of CSU's stadium debut — presents some challenges, however.
"Opening up a new stadium, they're going to be a challenge," he said. "There is no doubt. They're a good football team, and they proved that last year. We've watched their tape and have a lot of respect for them."
Oregon State will go to Fort Collins looking to snap a 13-game road losing streak. The Beavers are 0-11 on the road under Andersen.
Learning from Leavitt
During the previous two years, Colorado's defense went from one of the worst in the country to one of the best under the direction of coordinator Jim Leavitt.
In December, Leavitt left the Buffs to lead the defense at Oregon, and the Ducks are hoping for the same results. So far, they've experienced the trademark Leavitt energy that sparked the Buffs.
"He's brought a lot of energy and a brand-new philosophy," Oregon linebacker Troy Dye said. "Everybody has really bought into it, because the energy he brings out every day, you have to really come out and match the energy.
"He treats every day like the Super Bowl. That's what he tells us to do: 'Treat every day like it's your last day, and like it's your last snap.'"
Oregon ranked 126th in the country in scoring defense last year, allowing 41.4 points per game.
Southern California has been projected to win the Pac-12 title this year, and many believe the Trojans (10-3, 7-2 last year) can make a run at a national title.
To reach expectations, the Trojans will have to fill several holes, including at receiver, where the top two from last year are gone, including star JuJu Smith-Schuster.
Asked how good his young receivers are, USC quarterback Sam Darnold smiled and said, "Very good."
A Heisman Trophy candidate, Darnold certainly doesn't lack confidence, in himself or his teammates. And, he's not worried about his receivers.
"Whoever gets the ball, gets it, and I know they're going to do something with it," Darnold said.
CU head coach Mike MacIntyre, running back Phillip Lindsay and linebacker Derek McCartney wrapped up their media obligations shortly after noon on Thursday and were expected to arrive home in the evening. The Buffs report for preseason camp on Friday, with the first practice on Saturday. ... Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham said he spoke with coaches who were with Darren Carrington II for four years before bringing the former Oregon receiver to the Utes. Carrington was dismissed from Oregon earlier this month after a DUI arrest. A graduate transfer, Carrington still needs some administrative items completed before he can be cleared to practice with the Utes. Carrington caught 112 passes for 1,919 yard and 15 touchdowns at Oregon.