Mike MacIntyre understands he has some ground to make up when it comes to talent and depth on his roster when compared to every other Pac-12 Conference team. But the first-year Colorado coach does not believe those are the only issues preventing the Buffs from winning in the conference.

In the immediate aftermath of last week's victory over Charleston Southern at Folsom Field, MacIntyre said his team must overcome the mental hurdle that is keeping it from being more competitive in Pac-12 play.

The Buffs have lost 11 consecutive Pac-12 games entering Saturday night's homecoming game against Arizona (6:07 p.m., Pac-12 Network). The game will be a blackout in the stands and on the field with the Buffs scheduled to wear all-black uniforms and fans encouraged to do the same with their attire. Players will be wearing pink accents and parts of the field will be painted pink in honor of breast cancer awareness.

CU is 0-3 in conference games this season and the closest of those three games was decided by 27 points. Since joining the conference before the 2011 season, CU has played 21 Pac-12 games, losing 15 of them by 25 or more points and winning just three times.

"There is always going to be talent situations with every team you play, but I really think it's a mental thing with us," MacIntyre said. "I think we're closer to that, of beating it."

Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott will be at this week's game. Though he is neutral he probably can't help but hope for improvement from the CU program because having a team be so uncompetitive eventually affects what people outside the league think of the overall strength of the conference.


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"They've got to keep believing," MacIntyre said of his players. "They've got to do the right things. They've got to do the right things under pressure. When the guy makes a play or the guy is really quick and fast, you can't throw everything out the window. You go to keep doing what you've been coached to do and do it harder and better and it will work out."

Colorado football coach Mike MacIntyre believes the Buffs just need to believe in themselves to break through in the Pac-12.
Colorado football coach Mike MacIntyre believes the Buffs just need to believe in themselves to break through in the Pac-12. ( CLIFF GRASSMICK )

CU is 3-3 overall and needs three more victories to become bowl eligible for the first time since 2007. The NCAA has given the program a waiver to count both its wins over Football Championship Subdivision teams toward bowl eligibility after CU was forced to play a second FCS game when September flooding in Boulder forced the cancellation of a home game with Fresno State.

On paper at least, the Wildcats (4-2, 1-2) appear to be one of few remaining winnable games for the Buffs, in part, because Arizona is one of the teams CU has been able to beat since joining the league, doing so here in Boulder in 2011.

MacIntyre said a win over the Wildcats would put CU in position for a November that matters. That hasn't been the case since 2010 when the Buffs fell one game short of a bowl game at 5-7, finishing that season under interim coach Brian Cabral.

The significance of this week's game is not lost on players who usually try to not make too much of any particular game or opponent. Wide receiver Paul Richardson sent CU students an email this week asking them to support the program by filling the south end of the stadium.

Even if the Buffs are able to clear the mental hurdle that MacIntyre referenced and more fans decide to attend than have shown up to the first three home games, the Buffs still face a major challenge in slowing down the nation's leading rusher.

Arizona running back Ka'Deem Carey set the single-game Pac-12 rushing record against the Buffs last season in Arizona when he ran for 366 yards and five touchdowns. It was the ninth-best single-game rushing performance in NCAA history. Carey is averaging 161 yards per game entering this season's contest.

A win in this one at least gives the Buffs hope entering the final five weeks of the regular season. A loss makes reaching a bowl game that much more daunting with three more wins needed against UCLA, Washington, California, USC and Utah.

It also leaves that mental hurdle still to clear.

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