Steven Montez has done well in his three starts at quarterback for the Colorado football team, but the freshman will understand if the coaches elect to hand the reins of the offense back to senior Sefo Liufau at some point.
"You have to earn your stripes on this team and I know Sefo, he's definitely earned them in full," Montez said after practice on Monday. "If it's his turn to be called up to play then I'm going to sit behind him and I'm going to definitely support him."
Once again, however, the Buffs (4-2, 2-1 Pac-12) go into the week trying to figure out which quarterback will start as they prepare to host Arizona State (5-1, 2-1) on Saturday at Folsom Field.
That question gets more and more intriguing as Liufau heals from a sprained right ankle suffered against Michigan on Sept. 17, but it's a question the Buffs may not answer — at least publicly — until Saturday.
"We're going to work this week like we did the previous few weeks and see how Sefo is feeling and go from there," coach Mike MacIntyre said.
While Montez has started the past three games, Liufau relieved him for a brief time during Saturday's 21-17 loss at USC after Montez had the wind knocked out of him. Liufau played seven plays near the end of the first half.
MacIntyre and co-offensive coordinator Brian Lindgren said after the game they went back to Montez for the second half because Liufau is still limited in his mobility. On Monday, MacIntyre said Liufau had no set-backs in his recovery after playing and getting hit a couple times against the Trojans.
Montez, who has led the Buffs to a 2-1 record in his three starts, has thrown for 940 yards, nine touchdowns and three interceptions this season. He had his toughest outing against the Trojans, though.
"Tempo was a big thing we didn't end up doing in the game," he said. "That's on me actually. That's my fault. I have to push the guys and get them going and get them running to the line and get the ball snapped. We have to do a better job of that this week."
Montez said he and Liufau both come into the week preparing to be the man to get the offense back on track, and both continue to help each other.
"I think we've handled it really well, being good friends," Montez said. "Like I always say, whoever Mac puts in, they're going to give us a really good chance to win, and whoever doesn't end up starting is going to be behind the starter 100 percent."
MacIntyre said he believes both players are on board with whatever decision is made, because they realize the objective is to win.
"I don't see a selfish bone in either one of their bodies," he said.
There's plenty of competitiveness in both players, though. That's made them better, Montez said. But he also knows Liufau brings much more experience to the table.
"I don't know if determination is the thing that's going to be the problem (for me)," Montez said. "I think it just might be experience. That's what is going to be the turning point. We're both competitive, we're both hungry, we both want to win."
One week after vaulting into the Top 25 rankings for the first time in 11 years, the Buffs dropped out of both polls on Monday.
The Buffs, who were ranked No. 21 in the Associated Press poll last week, are now eighth among the "others receiving votes." After sitting at No. 23 in the Amway Coaches' poll last week, the Buffs are 11th among others receiving votes.
Arizona State, meanwhile, is ranked for the first time this year. The Sun Devils are 24th in the Coaches' poll, but fell short in the AP poll, sitting at 27th overall.
Right tackle Aaron Haigler left Saturday's game with a knee injury, which was determined to be a sprained MCL.
"We'll see how long that takes," MacIntyre said. "Hopefully he'll be back next week."
Haigler has shared right tackle duties with Sam Kronshage this season. Kronshage has started four of the six games — including Saturday at USC — and is likely to do so again this week.
After a tough loss to USC, MacIntyre said he was impressed with how the team came out with their usual mindset for Monday's practice. "They flew around and were into it, which is really good," he said. ... The Pac-12 announced that CU's Oct. 22 game at Stanford will kickoff at 1 p.m. MDT and will be broadcast on the Pac-12 Network. ... CU will wear tradition colors - gold helmet and pants and black jersey - against ASU.
Brian Howell: firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.