Game at a glance
Matchup: Colorado Buffaloes (5-4, 2-4 Pac-12) at Arizona State Sun Devils (4-4, 3-2)
Kickoff: 7:07 p.m.
Where: Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Ariz. Capacity: 57,078; Turf: Grass.
TV: Pac-12 Network
Radio: KOA (850 AM & 94.1 FM)
Odds: Arizona State by 3 ½
Coaches: Colorado — Mike MacIntyre, 5th season (25-35; 41-56 career); Arizona State — Todd Graham, 6th season (43-30; 92-59 career)
Series: ASU leads 7-1 (4-0 in Tempe)
Recognizing the potential in his team a year ago, Colorado head football coach Mike MacIntyre put a premium on the Buffaloes' final four games of the regular season.
MacIntyre called that block of the schedule the "gold games" and actually had them written in gold in an inverted schedule — with the final game listed on top.
"We want to try to be the best team we can be when we hit November," he said.
The emphasis on the gold games has carried over to this season for the Buffs (5-4, 2-4 Pac-12).
CU's first eight games of this season didn't go as hoped, with a 4-4 record and 1-4 start to conference play. Last week, however, the Buffs kicked off the gold games with a 44-28 win against California.
"That was a good way to set the bar; it was a good weekend to start off with," senior safety Ryan Moeller said. "Really would have liked to have seen us be able to do that all beforehand, but we did it when we still have time to build upon it, so that's what we're looking to do week by week."
Despite the disappointing first eight games of the season, CU is aiming to make the gold games as special as they were a year ago.
Last year's 4-0 mark in November propelled the Buffs into the Pac-12 title game. This year, the Buffs can't get back to the championship game, but they still have a lot for which to play.
"We're in a spot to be able to finish strong," MacIntyre said. "We have a lot of other goals to be able to reach."
First, the Buffs need to achieve bowl eligibility. With three games to play, including Saturday at Arizona State (4-4, 3-2), they need one more win to get there.
"We don't talk about it too much," junior linebacker Rick Gamboa said of bowl eligibility. "Really we just focus on the game that's at hand. We have that thought in the back of our heads that we're one game closer but really we're just trying to win this next game against Arizona State."
Beyond bowl eligibility, the Buffs can clinch a winning season with win No. 7, and possibly play their way up the bowl pecking order.
Focusing on the next game — rather than the entire group of four gold games — is what carried the Buffs to a great November last year. From 2012-16, CU was 1-15 in November games. Although last week's game was in October, the Buffs have now won five gold games in a row.
"The gold games is where you want to win all of them," senior receiver Shay Fields said. "Like coach Mac says, 'The last four is what they remember.' They don't remember the first eight, the first seven. The last four is where you make that statement in the Pac-12."
The first statement the Buffs need to make is that they can play well in back-to-back games. The win against Cal was CU's most complete game of the year, but can they do it again? That's the task this week against ASU.
"We just go into practice and work hard," quarterback Steven Montez said. "Go into practice and work harder than we've been working all year and just keep that camaraderie going and hopefully we'll take it into Tempe."
ASU also has plenty to play for, including a bit of revenge for last year's 40-16 loss in Boulder. The Sun Devils are also still seeking bowl eligibility.
"I'd be willing to bet that they have a pretty big chip on their shoulder and they're ready to prove something," Moeller said.
Now that they've reached the gold games, the Buffs have something to prove, as well.
"We're definitely going to be bringing our A game and everything we've got," Moeller said.