There is doubt surrounding the Colorado football program even as a more positive vibe is quietly growing within it.
The 2013 season opener is just five days away and no one on the outside expects much from the Buffaloes following a seventh consecutive losing season in 2012 in which the Buffs went 1-11, leading to a coaching change.
The doubt encasing the Buffs, like a fist around a marble, is no surprise. It's coach Mike MacIntyre's job to show his players how to break free from it and thrive . He seems to be making progress.
"I have no reason to think we would not make a bowl game," wide receiver Paul Richardson said recently. "I'm very confident in our program. I'm confident in our coaches to put us in the right position to be successful. That's where all my confidence in this team is coming from.
"I'm out here in the trenches with my team. I'm in the team periods. I'm on special teams. I know how good we can be on offense and how good we can be on defense. I don't see us, just going game-by-game on our schedule, I don't see why we wouldn't be in position to make a bowl game this year."
The Buffs are starting to believe in themselves again, in part, because they have their best weapon back on the field in Richardson, but also because of the approach MacIntyre and his staff have taken with them. It's a 'firm but positive' tact that players appear to like after two years of a more R-rated in-your-face style from their old coaches.
Still, they are continuously confronted by the doubt on the outside. It happened again Tuesday at the first of MacIntyre's weekly press luncheons when he and captains Connor Wood and Paul Vigo were asked several times if they believe this year's team will handle adversity better than it did a year ago when the team was repeatedly routed in seven of the final eight games, all losses.
Last season got off to a sour start as well with a loss to CSU.
The Buffs gave away a double-digit lead to the Rams in a 22-17 defeat. It was a mistake-filled game for CU and harbinger of what was to come the rest of the season. Only once, on the road against Washington State, did the Buffs show the ability to overcome their mistakes, band together and win.
Wood described last season's loss to CSU as 'a big L' that has been hanging over the Buffs' heads for nearly a year. He said the way CU coaches handle practices and meetings has given players confidence to stick together more than in the past -- at least on the practice field. CU fans will find out Sunday and in the coming weeks if it all translates to games and improvement.
"Coach MacIntyre does a good job during fall camp specifically of giving us surprise situations," Wood said. "I think we'll be more prepared for it and hopefully capitalize on those opportunities."
MacIntyre said he understands his players will look to him in those adverse situations most of all and it is important that they see him handle every situation with consistency.
"I have moments when I'm fiery, I have moments when I'm very even keel and I have other moments when I'm watching and doing things," MacIntyre said. "So they know who I am and I've got to be that same person every day.
"As you do that, then you sustain stability and everyone knows how to react and there is a calmness to it and eventually, great things start to happen."
MacIntyre said he has 100 concerns at this point but his primary emphasis is that his players are ready to play on Sunday. He says he believes they are.
"Usually that's pretty easy the first game," he said. "It's when you get down to the middle of the season and they're tired and they're sore. That's when you have to keep pushing them and pushing the right buttons and keep working and keep finding and keep searching to motivate young people."