Head coach Mike MacIntyre isn't talking about a target win total as he enters year No. 2 with the Colorado Buffaloes.

"It's what you believe," he said of CU's potential for success. "If you don't believe it, you can't achieve it. So, I'm not setting our goals anywhere but going 1-0 and then going 1-0 the next week and winning every game we play."

For many, the final win total will be the ultimate way to judge CU's progression as a program. However, there are other areas to look at in measuring the on-field progress of the Buffs.

1. Improve on third downs: MacIntyre has mentioned this as a key component to CU's growth. The Buffs converted just 33.7 percent of their third-down opportunities last season. Picking up yards on first and second downs will help; the Buffs, on average, had 7.1 yards to go on their third downs. Meanwhile, the defense allowed opponents to convert 38.8 percent of third downs — better than just four other teams in the Pac-12.

"Specifically on the football field, we need to be able to play better on third downs, both sides of the ball," MacIntyre said at Pac-12 media days in July. "You have to improve three or four percent from where you were last year."


2. Get to the red zone, and score: CU was, by far, the worst team in the Pac-12 in terms of getting into the red zone (inside the opponents' 20-yard line). The Buffs got there just 32 times and scored 14 touchdowns. Every other team in the league had at least 40 red zone trips (and eight had at least 50), and every other team scored at least 21 red-zone touchdowns. Defensively, CU allowed its opponents to get into the red zone 64 times (12 more than anyone else) and gave up 43 touchdowns. Improving those numbers would be a huge benchmark for the Buffs.

3. Narrow the gap: In 2012, CU was outscored by an average of 28.2 points per game. Last year, the Buffs trimmed that number to 12.9. They did it by putting up 7.6 more points per game and giving up 7.7 less than in 2012. Narrowing the gap even more would be a huge step for the program.

4. Positive turnover ratio: This is often talked about as one of the most critical stats in football, and CU has not had a positive turnover ratio since 2006. Last year, the Buffs were at minus-3. It was a dramatic improvement from minus-19 in 2012, but not where the Buffs want to be just yet. From 1993-2006, the Buffs had a positive ratio 11 times and went to a bowl game in nine of those seasons.

5. Run the ball: The Buffs have been trying to get the run game going for a few years now. They averaged 3.4 yards per rush last year, a slight jump from 3.1 in 2012, but in the Pac-12, only Washington State was worse. The Buffs would love to get that average into the 4.0 yard-per-carry range.

6. Get to the quarterback: Last year, the Buffs registered just 17 sacks, the program's lowest total since 1999. Somehow, they need to get their young group of defensive ends to put more pressure on the QB. That would go a long way toward helping the defense improve as a whole.

During his three seasons as the head coach at San Jose State (2010-12), MacIntyre saw improvement in most of those areas from year No. 1 to year No. 2 — and again from year No. 2 to year No. 3. It's no coincidence that improving in those areas added up to more wins, as the Spartans went from 1-12 in 2010 to 5-7 in 2011 and 11-2 in 2012.

MacIntyre is hoping to see the same progress on the field with the Buffaloes.

"We kept maturing (at San Jose State)," he said. "It's a process. As long as (the CU players) keep staying focused, keep working hard, keep playing hard, keep believing in everything they're doing, keep doing all the little things which add up to big things, we'll end up being successful."