Game at a Glance
Matchup: Arizona State Sun Devils (5-1, 2-1 Pac-12) at Colorado Buffaloes (4-2, 2-1 Pac-12)
Kickoff: 6:07 p.m. MDT
Where: Folsom Field in Boulder. Capacity: 50,183; Turf: Grass
TV: Pac-12 Network
Radio: KOA (850 AM & 94.1 FM).
Odds: CU by 13
Coaches: Colorado — Mike MacIntyre (14-29, 4th season; 30-50 career); ASU — Todd Graham, 5th season (39-20; 88-49 career)
Series: ASU leads 7-0, 3-0 in Boulder
If anyone still doubts whether the Colorado football team truly believes it can win a Pac-12 championship, look into the angry eyes of linebacker Kenneth Olugbode after a 21-17 loss at Southern California last Saturday.
"I'm tired of these moral victories," the senior said.
Moral victories are for teams with low standards. Those outside the CU program have been more willing to count the moral victories, because, after 10 consecutive losing seasons, it's difficult for most to see the Buffaloes as something other than a team that can't win.
As the Buffs stand at 4-2 overall and 2-1 in the Pac-12 — owning a share of the South division lead — they have easily exceeded the outside expectations.
However, as the Buffs prepare to host Arizona State (5-1, 2-1) on Saturday to kick off the second half of the season, it should be clear that the bar has been raised inside the program and, therefore, needs to be raised by those outside of it.
"It's hard," quarterback Sefo Liufau said when asked to grade the first half of the season, "because I think that in recent years, before this year, I don't think our standards have been as high as a team. Obviously you want to go out there and win every game, but to honestly believe in yourselves and your teammates and your ability to go out there and win games and make plays, it's a lot higher standard."
That higher standard was set by the team long before this season began. Despite going 5-40 during their first five seasons of Pac-12 play, the Buffs came into the year trying to tell everybody that they were on a different level this year.
Even after an impressive, 44-7 rout of Colorado State in the opener, players walked out of the locker room not ready to celebrate, but with a sense that they simply did their job, and it was on to the next task.
"We want to set the bar high," safety Afolabi Laguda said after that game. "We're chasing that Pac-12 championship; nothing less. We don't just want to go to some random, 6-6 bowl game. We want to get to that championship, and we have to play that high level championship football."
CU didn't play high level football against the Trojans last week, and it cost the Buffs a win. While a four-point loss to the Trojans might have been a moral victory in years past, the Buffs are to the point where a high level of play is expected.
Although the Buffs have never come close to beating ASU, they are 13-point favorites this week and the expectation for Buff Nation should be for Colorado to play well and walk away from Folsom Field with a victory.
"Arizona State is a great football team," running back Phillip Lindsay said. "We just have to play ball. We're an elite football team, too."
Six games into the season, the Buffs are proving that, but as far as they are concerned, the first half was just OK.
"I think we'd like to have a couple things back and we'd like to have a couple more wins on the board," Liufau said. "But I think for the most part, to be able to have a positive record and (tied at the) top of the South is great for where we are in the season. We have a lot more to go. To be in the position we are right now, I'm really proud of our team and the way we're playing. There's just a lot more to go."
That starts against ASU, the first of four South division rivals the Buffs will play in the next six games. With a firm belief that they can win the Pac-12, and a new standard of excellence set in the program, it's not crazy to think that the Buffs can get through this upcoming gauntlet and be on the field at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., on Dec. 2 playing for the title.
In fact, the Buffs won't be satisfied if they aren't in Santa Clara that day.
"We've never arrived," Liufau said. "You should never have the feeling that you've accomplished anything. Each week you need to go out there and prove yourselves and that's what we have to do as a team again this week."
As has become the new normal for the Buffs, they expect nothing less than a great performance.
"We're back at Folsom Field," Lindsay said. "It's our house and now it's time for us to go full tempo and full speed and get back to rolling."
Brian Howell: firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.