Brian Howell
Brian Howell

Mid-October has generally been a good time for anybody associated with the Colorado football program to begin making holiday plans.

Usually by now, the Buffaloes have cleared up their December schedule.

Any talk of bowl games has been done so in recalling fond memories of CU's glorious past or in trying to decide whether the New Mexico Bowl or the ever-popular Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl is worth watching on TV.

CU does, of course, have a nice history of postseason appearances, with 28 bowl games to its credit. But it's been six years since the last one, and it's been three years since the Buffs even went into November with a legitimate chance at going to one.

So, forgive the current Buffaloes, who are 3-3 at the halfway point, for believing they could end the drought this year.

Many outsiders might look at the quality -- or lack thereof -- of CU's wins and the complete ugliness of its losses and laugh at the notion of the Buffs going bowling. For the players, however, this is a nice change, and they deserve the opportunity to keep hope alive.

On this date a year ago, the Buffs were 1-6. They were 1-7 two years ago today.

Today, CU heads into its matchup against Arizona (4-2) knowing that if it can go 3-3 in the second half, it'll head to the postseason. No wonder the atmosphere around the Dal Ward Center is a little more upbeat this fall.

"We all want to go to a bowl," said true freshman quarterback Sefo Liufau, who didn't have to endure the last two seasons. "We know how possible it is if we stay consistent and we take the coaching that we learn and put it out on the field. We think it's very possible."

It's certainly possible, but the game against Arizona will determine whether or not it's probable.

To this point, CU has needed two wins against Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) teams to get to the .500 mark.

Generally, the NCAA allows only one FCS win to count toward the six needed for bowl eligibility. But, because of the flooding in Boulder that led to the cancellation of the Sept. 14 Fresno State game, the Buffs were given an NCAA waiver to count not only the Sept. 7 win against Central Arkansas but also the Oct. 19 win against Charleston Southern.

That certainly works in CU's favor, but there are no more FCS opponents on the horizon. So, in order to seriously entertain bowl game thoughts, CU needs to find a way to beat three Pac-12 opponents in the next six weeks.

Considering the Buffs are 3-18 all-time in Pac-12 play and bring an 11-game conference losing streak into Saturday's game, going 3-3 the rest of the season seems unlikely.

But, there is genuine hope and optimism coming out of the CU locker room, and considering all that this program has been through, the Buffs ought to enjoy that.

"We don't really talk about bowls, but they're at the first time where maybe they could utter it," CU head coach Mike MacIntyre said. "We're three away. To me that's good motivation for them to go out and practice. And to understand what's at stake and keep focusing, and keep getting better and remembering every little thing matters."

Needing three wins to get to a bowl, the game against Arizona appears to be one of the most winnable left. Not that the Wildcats are a pushover, but they don't appear to be as dominant as many of the Pac-12 teams CU has, and will, face.

Get this one and the Buffs can carry four wins into November for the first time since 2008. In November, they've got home dates with Cal (1-6) and a shaky Southern Cal squad and a road trip to Utah -- a team the Buffs have played well against in each of the last two seasons.

If they lose to Arizona, however, the Buffs can pretty much forget about December practices. That makes Saturday a critical game for the Buffs.

MacIntyre isn't quite ready to think about a bowl game, but knowing the rough times in CU's recent past, he's not about to discourage his players from dreaming.

"I think every college football player aspires to have that happen," MacIntyre said of going to a bowl game. "Especially if you haven't ever been to one.

"I look at it as positive. With these guys right now, they look at it as motivation to keep helping them to stay positive. They haven't really ever had that chance before really."

Right now, they have that chance. Holiday plans are up in the air, and the Buffs would like to keep it that for as long as possible.

Contact staff writer Brian Howell at howellb@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/BrianHowell33.