Colorado quarterback Steven Montez rarely seems to have trouble getting excited to play a football game.
That feeling has been elevated this week, though, as Montez and the Buffaloes prepare to face in-state rival Colorado State (0-1) on Friday night at Broncos Stadium at Mile High.
Coming off a disappointing 5-7 season in 2017, Montez has cranked up his preparation this offseason. He's watching more film than ever before, feels more confident about reading defenses, and has a new level of comfort in the CU offense.
Now, it's time to see the results of that work.
"I can't wait. I'm so excited," Montez said Tuesday. "I don't know if I've been this excited for a game since probably Oregon (in 2016). I'm very excited to play this week. I don't know what it is. I can't wait to get out there and show what we've been working on on offense, and I'm sure the defense has a lot of stuff they want to show the world, as well."
As usual, the Buffs have goals of winning a Pac-12 championship and playing in a bowl game, but head coach Mike MacIntyre said he's seen a renewed focus as the players try to bounce back from last year.
"I think they're bonding on everybody calling them a failure last year: 'You let down, you didn't keep it going,'" MacIntyre said. "That's what they've heard out there, and people saying things to them. They've put two chips on their shoulders, shut their mouths and worked at it and let the results on the field stand for it.
"Hopefully we'll have the results they've worked hard to try to achieve."
That starts Friday against the Rams. The Buffs have won three consecutive against CSU, and taking the Centennial Cup again is important.
"We all want the trophy," running back Kyle Evans said. "We want to represent the state well and we want to represent CU well. The best way to do that is to win the game."
CU linebacker Drew Lewis will run into an old friend Friday night.
Lewis and CSU quarterback K.J. Carta-Samuels were both part of Washington's 2014 recruiting class and played together with the Huskies as true freshmen that year.
Lewis was dismissed from Washington's team in the summer of 2015 and went to Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College before transferring to CU in 2016. Carta-Samuels spent four years as a Huskies backup before going to CSU as a graduate transfer this summer.
"When I do see him in the game, we'll definitely shake hands and talk a little bit," said Lewis, adding that he and Carta-Samuels have kept in touch.
Last week in a 43-34 loss to Hawaii, Carta-Samuels set a CSU record with 537 passing yards, while tossing five touchdowns and adding 25 yards on the ground.
"I was definitely impressed," Lewis said. "He had the confidence and the poise to where he started off slow, but he ended up turning that around. (At Washington), he was that leader of a person, so I expected him to go into that game and lead that offense. It all showed that when things didn't go well, he was able to still do well for his team."
While the passing numbers were impressive against Hawaii, Lewis said he saw the same running ability he saw four years ago in the 6-foot-2, 225-pound Carta-Samuels.
"He wasn't the best runner, but he could use his size to his advantage," Lewis said.
Evans said he was happy former CU running back Phillip Lindsay, now with the Denver Broncos, didn't have his trademark afro cut as part of the Broncos' rookie tradition. Instead, Broncos veterans shaved Lindsay's eyebrows earlier this month.
"He was like, 'I hope they don't shave my hair, I hope they don't shave my hair. I'm trying to get a Head & Shoulders endorsement,'" Evans said. "I was like ... let's hope for the best. I FaceTimed him after and it was pretty funny. I think he's OK with the eyebrows for now."
CU fans can kick off game day early on Friday. "Born to Lead: The Sal Aunese Story," will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network at 8 a.m., Mountain time. ... CU goes into this week riding a nine-game winning streak in non-conference games played in state. ... As of Tuesday morning, CU had sold 32,108 tickets for Friday's game, with 8,755 of those sold to students.