Ryan Thorburn, Camera Sports Writer
Ryan Thorburn, Camera Sports Writer ( PAUL AIKEN )

Mission possible.

I like Jon Embree's style of setting and publicly announcing important goals for his team. It's refreshing in an age when most of his peers roll out the one-game-at-a-time coach speak.

Last season Colorado's head coach vowed to end the program's hideous road losing streak, which dated back to 2007, so the seniors could finally sing the fight song on an airplane.

The original plan was to realize the goal on Sept. 3, 2011, in Honolulu. CU stumbled out of the gate and said goodbye to the opportunity with a defeat against Hawai'i at Aloha Stadium.

Lopsided losses at Ohio State, Stanford, Washington, Arizona State and UCLA extended the skid to 24 games, a painful way of making the breakthrough victory at Utah even sweeter.

Head coach Jon Embree during the Spring game.For more photos of the game, go to www.dailycamera.comCliff Grassmick / April 14, 2012
Head coach Jon Embree during the Spring game. For more photos of the game, go to www.dailycamera.com Cliff Grassmick / April 14, 2012 ( CLIFF GRASSMICK )

"That's a program win," Embree said on Nov. 25, 2011, after his team met the goal while spoiling the Utes' bid for the South Division title and an opportunity to play for the Pac-12 championship.

The win in the season finale only improved CU's record to 3-10. But it provided a lifetime memory for the graduating players and gave the returning players some momentum and confidence entering offseason workouts.

Now, instead of circling the Sept. 15 game at Fresno State as a must-win to end the road losing streak, Embree is aiming higher.

"Our goal this year is to find a way to get to a bowl game," Embree announced to the Pac-12 media world last week in Los Angeles.


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So how can the boyish Buffs stiff-arm the preseason prognostications and find their way to Albuquerque or Las Vegas or perhaps even San Francisco this December?

I think it's a safe assumption that this squad, which will rely on sophomores and freshmen, isn't going to be in the hunt for the Rose Bowl and will lose to national title contenders USC (Oct. 20) and Oregon (Oct. 27) during daunting back-to-back road games.

That means CU will have to win six of the other 10 games on the schedule.

Automatic W's? Fans should circle Sacramento State at home ... in pencil.

The Hornets from the FCS stunned Oregon State, which started seven true freshmen, in the 2011 opener at Corvallis. Embree, who also plans to have freshmen all over the field in the Folsom Field opener, will not lose to a Big Sky opponent as his predecessor did six years ago.

One down and five more wins to find.

The season opener against Colorado State on Sept. 1 at Sports Authority Field will probably have to go the Buffs way if they want to close the season at a bowl.

The Rams are coming off consecutive 3-9 seasons and have dismissed their best defensive players for being too violent and aggressive off the field. CSU appears to have made a sound coaching hire in former Alabama offensive coordinator Jim McElwain and could have a little more experience at quarterback if Garrett Grayson holds onto the job.

I'll give the overall coaching edge to Embree and his staff. CU will extend its win streak in the Rocky Mountain Showdown to three.

With a 2-0 start, the Buffs are suddenly feeling good about themselves entering the first road game of the campaign at Fresno State. CU might even be favored to beat the Bulldogs.

But having sophomore and freshmen cornerbacks trying to read Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr makes this a dangerous non-conference game.

I still remember vividly watching the 2001 Big 12 champion Buffs lose to David Carr-led Fresno State at Folsom Field.

Signs point to the CU road winning streak getting snapped at one here.

Still searching for four more wins.

After collapsing late in the fourth quarter against Washington State in their official Pac-12 inauguration last year, the Buffs have a chance to get some revenge and spoil Mike Leach's conference debut in Pullman on Sept. 22.

I'm not sure what to expect from the Cougars this season -- other than 55-to-65 pass attempts per game -- but CU defensive coordinator Greg Brown had Leach's number in the Big 12.

This could still turn into a high-scoring affair, and I'm not convinced Paul Richardson will really be available to help the Buffs put points on the board.

CU is now 2-2.

If Rick Neuheisel is at Folsom Field on Sept. 29 it will be to call the CU-UCLA game for the Pac-12 Network. That spoils a juicy sidebar.

Jim Mora Jr. -- Playoff! There's going to be a college football playoff? Are you kidding me? -- takes over the Bruins and brings a little defensive flavor to the offense-driven conference.

I think the former UCLA assistants (Embree and Eric Bieniemy) get a big win here, which will also help them in the recruiting battle for Los Angeles.

Three down, three to go.

Brock Osweiler will be holding a clipboard and observing Peyton Manning this season. So when Arizona State, now led by head coach Todd Graham, visits Folsom Field for an ESPN Thursday night game on Oct. 11 it will arrive with a new quarterback and offensive scheme.

The Sun Devils, despite three very curious first-place votes, were picked fifth in the South Division ahead of only CU. The Buffs take care of business in this one and surpass their 2011 win total.

CU is a solid 4-2 at the midway point but back to .500 quickly after getting mauled by the Trojans and Ducks.

Stanford won't need Luck (Andrew) to control the line of scrimmage or the scoreboard at Folsom Field. Embree will have to rally the troops after three humbling losses.

On Nov. 11, the 4-5 Buffs travel to Tucson to take on 3-6 Arizona. The ex-Wildcats assistants (Brown and Mike Tuiasosopo) get the best of the Rich Rodriguez spread as CU escapes with win No. 5.

Steve Sarkisian's high-powered offense allows Washington to win in Boulder, dropping the Buffs to 5-6. Embree reminds his players in the postgame locker room that the preseason goal is still on the table with Utah set to visit Folsom Field for the first time since 1961.

This time the Utes, who upset the Orange Bowl-bound Buffs 51 years ago, spoil the Pac-12 party by denying CU its sixth victory.

So this crystal ball shows the Buffs finishing a respectable yet still disappointing 5-7, the program's seventh consecutive losing season.

Then again, it's only Aug. 1, still on month to kickoff. Embree's 2012 mission is still possible.