With one game to play, the Colorado football team is already enjoying its best season in 15 years.
Athletic director Rick George believes the Buffaloes' program is just getting started, however.
"I think this was a great year for our football program," George said. "All the kudos go to (head coach Mike MacIntyre) and his staff and the players, but I think our best days are ahead of us."
After 10 consecutive losing seasons, the Buffs (10-3) have vaulted to No. 10 in the College Football Playoff rankings and No. 11 in the Associated Press poll. They'll take on Oklahoma State (9-3, No. 12 CFP, No. 13 AP) in the Valero Alamo Bowl on Dec. 29 at the Alamodome in San Antonio.
For directing the turnaround, MacIntyre has received several national coach of the year honors, as well as being named Pac-12 Conference coach of the year by his peers and the media.
"I'm happy about every single award he gets, because he deserves them and he's worked hard to get them," George said.
"The impressive thing is the way his team, his staff and he stayed focused on the next thing. They've done a great job with that all year. A lot of that has to do with Mike's leadership, but it also has to do with the senior leadership that he had."
While CU has a senior-laden team, especially on defense, George is confident that the pieces are in place to keep the momentum going after this season.
"It's taken us 11 years to get to this point, and I'm happy that we've got to that point," George said. "Moving forward it's about consistency in competing at that level every year.
"I know we can't talk about specifics in recruiting, but we're off to a pretty good start, and I see that continuing to get better and better every year. I'm excited about our future."
Back in the groove
With 27 days between games and finals week in the middle of that time, CU has had a disjointed schedule so far this month. It has included several light practices, and two stretches of four days off.
With finals now behind them, the Buffs got back on the practice field on Friday and will have a more regular schedule before the bowl game.
"It's exciting to be out there," junior safety Afolabi Laguda said. "I think we're starting to get our rhythm back, we're starting to jell again. It's just a great time to be out there with the seniors for the last time. It's going to be a great game on the 29th."
While finals week was mentally grueling for some of the players, Laguda said the physical break was important.
"It feels good to be recovered and fresh," he said. "Physically we definitely got a break and that break was well needed."
Having a defense loaded with talented seniors has helped the Buffs enjoy a breakout season. It'll lead the Buffs with several holes to fill next year, however.
While the Buffs like the young players they have on the roster, they added some experience to their defense this past week by signing three junior college players: defensive tackle Javier Edwards, outside linebacker/defensive end Chris Mulumba and cornerback Dante Wigley.
"The JC route is important for us," MacIntyre said. "I always want to sign a few JC guys every year. It brings some maturity. It also brings guys in that are extremely hungry that have had to go a little different route. I think that's important.
"I think it really keeps your ability to have big senior and junior classes continually. If you keep doing that ... that's how you want to keep being a mature football team."
CU has had a great deal of success finding quality junior college players. This year's defense has featured three starters who came to CU from junior colleges: Laguda, defensive tackle Jordan Carrell, and cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon.
MacIntyre said the Buffs are looking at adding other JUCO players this winter.
San Antonio is several hours away from El Paso, Texas, where CU backup quarterback Steven Montez grew up.
It's close enough, however, for Montez to have several of his fans in attendance.
"It's huge, because I'm going to get to see my dad, and I get to see my high school coaches," he said. "It's going to be exciting for me to see a lot of close friends and family."