Anyone who follows the Colorado football program understands how desperate the Buffaloes are for victories at this point.
And anyone who listens to head coach Mike MacIntyre speak on a regular basis knows that he won't ever publicly admit to one game being more important than another.
So, going into Tuesday's weekly press conference, it was fruitless to ask MacIntyre how badly his team, now 0-1 after a disappointing lost to Colorado State last Friday, needs a win this Saturday when it travels to Massachusetts.
Instead, I asked the question this way: "You have your first game at Folsom Field next week against Arizona State. How big is it for you to go out there and perform well, for your fan base, to try to fill the seats a little bit more?"
MacIntyre gave a slight laugh and then said, "I don't have any control over the amount of people in the seats. Hopefully they all come to the games no matter what, but definitely if you win it always makes it better, for sure."
In a literal sense, MacIntyre is correct. He can't force anyone to open their wallets for a CU ticket or make the trek to Boulder to catch a game.
From a practical standpoint, however, MacIntyre couldn't be more wrong. He and his Buffs have a great deal of control over how many people show up to Folsom Field, and losing to UMass could assure that not many will this season.
The Colorado fan base is a results-oriented fan base, as most sports fans in this state seem to be. That's been proven in the recent past. Big wins have to led to nice crowds, and bad losses have led to empty seats.
In 2006, the Dan Hawkins-led Buffs lost their opener to Montana State. By season's end, attendance was lower for Big 12 Conference matchups than it was for the Montana State game.
Two years ago, the Jon Embree-led Buffs lost their home opener to Sacramento State. Official figures don't show it, but attendance suffered greatly that season. Ticket giveaways boosted the final numbers in the record book, but the actual number of fans in the stadium on game day was embarrassing. A $2.6 million shortfall in football ticket revenue that season was the only number that mattered to CU.
What makes Saturday's game at UMass so important for CU is that it really can't afford another Montana State/Sacramento State moment.
The uneasy fan base is already disappointed after the loss to CSU. That's a game that many thought the Buffs could — and should — win. To see their team lose by 14 points and get overpowered by the Ram running attack was disheartening to some. The Buffs may have already lost some fans with that loss.
Now, the Buffs face a team that is arguably the worst in the Football Bowl Subdivision. Yes, it's on the road and two time zones away, but as of Tuesday, CU was a 17-point favorite. That says more about the pathetic nature of the UMass program than it does about CU.
This game will be played in front of maybe 15,000 fans in a stadium that holds more than 68,000. Home field advantage for UMass? Hardly. The Minutemen are 1-12 at Gillette Stadium, home of the NFL's New England Patriots, since 2011.
UMass is 2-23 since making the jump from FCS to FBS. The Minutemen are 7-30 all-time against Power 5 conference teams, the most recent of those wins coming in 1978. Since then, they are 0-19 against Power 5 teams.
Beating a dreadful team on the road, even if the Buffs look great in doing it, likely won't boost attendance that much. But, as we've seen in the recent past, losing this game could kill the attendance, not only for next week's opener against ASU, but for the rest of the season.
Nobody has more control over that than MacIntyre and his team.