For three straight weeks the Colorado football team has played the role of badly overmatched underdog in games against Pac-12 Conference foes Oregon State, Oregon and Arizona State.

CU was overwhelmed as expected in each of those games with the closest final margin being a 27-point loss on the road to the Beavers.

The Buffs return to Folsom Field on Saturday where they get a break from their 11-game losing streak in Pac-12 play to be on the opposite end of pre-game expectations. CU plays host to undefeated Charleston Southern (7-0 overall, 1-0 Big South) from the Football Championship Subdivision, a step down from major college football.

It is the Buffs' second FCS opponent of the year. CU previously beat Central Arkansas in September. It also looks like a must-win if the Buffs hope to snap their five-year bowl drought.

It should be a nice way for true freshman quarterback Sefo Liufau to break in as the Buffs' new starter. He saw the first playing time of his career last week at Arizona State when coaches called on him to replace Connor Wood, who was struggling badly for the third straight game.

Liufau led the Buffs to two scores but he also committed three turnovers and was flagged for intentional grounding in the end zone resulting in a safety. He said the game slowed down the more he played against the Sun Devils and he hopes to be much sharper in his second opportunity and first college start this week.


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"They are a very good team -- very athletic, very fast," Liufau said of Charleston Southern. "They run a bunch of different coverages, different blitzes, so we have to be very prepared and very sound. Especially, we have to be very consistent, unlike last week."

The Buccaneers come to town as a fill-in for Fresno State. The Bulldogs were supposed to visit Boulder on Sept. 14, but the game was canceled because of historic flooding in the area.

Colorado true freshman Sefo Liufau will make his first start Saturday vs. Charleston Southern.
Colorado true freshman Sefo Liufau will make his first start Saturday vs. Charleston Southern. ( CLIFF GRASSMICK )

CU (2-3 overall, 0-3 Pac-12 play) is honoring tickets and parking passes for the Fresno State game Saturday and the NCAA has given the Buffs a waiver to count this game toward bowl eligibility in addition to the Buffs' first FCS win against Central Arkansas.

While Charleston Southern is undefeated and ranked No. 23 in the FCS, it has beaten only one team with a winning record this season and that team -- North Greenville University -- plays at the Division II level. The combined record of Charleston Southern opponents is 11-28.

That hasn't stopped CU coach Mike MacIntyre from talking up the Buccaneers. MacIntyre said he believes Charleston Southern is better than Central Arkansas, which is not exactly a comforting thought for CU fans considering UCA led in the fourth quarter before the Buffs rallied to win.

"I'm pretty sure that Charleston Southern will come in and feel like they can win the football game," MacIntyre said. "It's going to be a tough battle. They run the option offense out of the pistol. ... So, it's a lot of detail and work in trying to get ready for that."

MacIntyre said the team has responded positively to the change at quarterback. He said having been around teams with true freshmen starting quarterbacks in the past and because of Liufau's maturity, he doesn't expect to have to simplify the offense much, if at all.

MacIntyre also feels like he can deal with Liufau in the same way he would a veteran.

"I've been around it a couple other times but it's a situation where he needs to just keep improving and to keep doing what he's doing and not try to do much and I don't think he will," MacIntyre said. "He has the ability to kind of adapt in certain situations and he did that a little bit the other night, too."

Contact staff writer Kyle Ringo at ringok@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/kyleringo.