Game at a glance
Matchup: No. 7 Washington Huskies (3-0) at Colorado Buffaloes (3-0)
Kickoff: 8:07 p.m. MDT
Where: Folsom Field in Boulder. Capacity: 50,183; Turf: Grass
TV: Fox Sports 1
Radio: 760 AM
Odds: Washington by 12
Coaches: Colorado — Mike MacIntyre (5th season, 23-31; 39-52 career); Washington — Chris Petersen (4th season, 30-13; 122-26 career)
Series: Washington leads 10-5-1 (4-1 in Boulder)
Sitting in the summer sun outside of a Hollywood hotel in July, Colorado running back Phillip Lindsay was seven months removed from the previous season, yet still bothered by how it finished.
Sure, going 10-4 and winning the Pac-12 South title last year was sensational, especially for a CU team that had posted 10 consecutive losing seasons prior to that, but it was incomplete.
"If you go into the season winning, but at the end of the season you lose, you shouldn't be happy," he said that day. "Our goal was to win a Pac-12 championship, not go to a Pac-12 championship.
"We got embarrassed in the two games at the end of the year. The motivation is to show that we're here and it's not a fluke."
On Saturday, the Buffs (3-0) have a chance to show they weren't a one-hit wonder last season.
No. 7 Washington (3-0) visits Boulder for the Pac-12 opener for both teams. It's a rematch of one of those embarrassing losses from a year ago, when the Huskies rolled by the Buffs 41-10 in the Pac-12 title game.
CU can't win the conference title this weekend, but it can regain a measure of pride that was lost against the Huskies a year ago.
"This is definitely a new team," CU head coach Mike MacIntyre said this week, "but I'm pretty sure the kids that played in the game last year definitely have to be thinking about it. If they didn't, they're not really competitors."
The Buffs can use that loss for motivation, but are they ready to take on a team like the Huskies? CU has put together its first 3-0 start since 2008, but it hasn't been a sharp 3-0, leading to many question marks about this team.
The offense, expected to be one of the most explosive in the conference, ranks near the bottom of the Pac-12 in scoring. The defense, while very good early, looked vulnerable against lower-level Northern Colorado.
At times, the Buffs looked disinterested in nonconference play. They insist they never looked ahead, but the reality is, the Buffs have targeted Washington, USC and other Pac-12 foes all year — not Colorado State, Texas State and UNC.
"The ante is definitely up when you're back in conference play," senior safety Ryan Moeller said. "When you're out of conference play, it's easier for you to maybe get distracted. I don't want to say you play down, but when you play in your conference play, those games are just so intense — fast, fast, fast — and then everything just elevates itself."
MacIntyre said there's "more at stake" in each Pac-12 game, and understands these are the games that get his players more amped up.
"They came here to be a Pac-12 football player, play in a big game, play in Folsom Field, play on national television, play against the best," he said. "That's what you want to do, step up and play the best and see if you're going to be the best."
Washington was the best in the conference a year ago, and come in as one of the favorites this year. The Huskies, in fact, are favored by nearly two touchdowns in this game.
As far the Buffs are concerned, this is the perfect way to open the conference schedule.
"We should be excited to come back out here and be able to play them again," Moeller said. "Kicking off the (Pac-12 schedule) with them, it couldn't be any better.
"Being able to play this team as the first one, we'll show you what we've got and they'll show us what they've got."
Based on what the Buffs have done on the field this month, it's difficult to tell what kind of team they have. Based on the motivation expressed by Lindsay this summer, however, we know that the Buffs are eager for this game.
"We feel like we've been preparing for this game and for Pac-12 play ever since we lost last year to Oklahoma State (in the Alamo Bowl)," cornerback Isaiah Oliver said. "It's something we've been working for, to get ready to get back to the Pac-12 championship.
"All the guys are excited. All the guys are fired up and ready to play."