Certainly, this season has not been what the Colorado football team had in mind.

After winning the Pac-12 South division and going 10-4 a year ago, the Buffaloes believed they could win the conference title.

With two games left, the Buffs (5-5, 2-5 Pac-12) are officially out of title contention, but a second consecutive bowl appearance is within reach if they win one more game.

"There's still a lot of football left to be played, we can still do something special this year and get to a bowl game," senior safety Afolabi Laguda said.

Considering 80 of the 130 Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) teams will play in bowl games, it may not seem like a big deal to get there. But, for the Buffs, it is, because last year ended a nine-year bowl drought and they haven't played in back-to-back bowls since 2004-05.

Still, several players have said this week that the goal at this point is simply to focus on Saturday's date with No. 15 Southern California (8-2, 6-1), which is one win from clinching the South.

"A lot people around us are talking about post season and stuff like that," senior guard Gerrad Kough said. "If we don't focus on this week, we aren't going to be where we want to be. As long as we're focused on this week and we do what we've got to do every day in practice, in meetings and outside of football, then all of that will take care of itself."

A second consecutive bowl appearance would be huge for the Buffs, but Laguda said he believes the program is in good hands either way.


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"I don't think Colorado football making a bowl game in 2017 is going to make or break this program," he said. "This program is strong. It's been strong. It's going to continue to grow. I think it more so helps the morale going into the next season. You want to leave those young guys with good faith and that's more so what going to a bowl game means; it's not going to determine the strength of this program."

Early returns

For the first time, high school recruits can sign letters of intent early, and MacIntyre believes the Buffs can lock up most of their 2018 class when the early signing period runs from Dec. 20-22.

"The one good thing I'm looking forward to is when we sign them on Dec. 20, it's basically over then," he said. "Now, you're starting for the next year. Maybe after the Christmas holiday it won't be as frantic in January as it was."

The regular signing period will still begin Feb. 7, but CU hopes to have its class nearly filled by then. The Buffs currently have 18 players verbally committed for 2018.

"(The early date) has changed the season for the coaching staff," he said. "We have a lot more official visits during the season. It's definitely sped it up a lot more. There are a lot of things that are sped up, but it definitely has made it a little more frantic and a bit more pressing during the season than it has in the past. I think we've adapted well to it and had a good plan. Our recruiting department has done a great job with preparing for that."

Chasing Speedy

Phillip Lindsay comes into this week needing just 32 yards to move into second on CU's career rushing chart. He has 3,567 rushing yards in his career, just behind Rodney "Speedy" Stewart, who had 3,598 from 2008-11.

Lindsay still has an outside shot at catching all-time leader Eric Bieniemy, who had 3,940 from 1987-90. Lindsay needs 374 yards to pass Bieniemy.

This season, Lindsay has a career-high 1,334 yards, the fifth-best total in CU history and the most of any Buff since 2002.

Notable

Linebacker Tim Coleman (ankle), cornerback Isaiah (leg) and safety Ryan Moeller (unspecified injury) are all listed as day-to-day on CU's injury report. ... Senior outside linebacker Derek McCartney has been named a semifinalist for the Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year Award.

Contact staff writer Brian Howell at howellb@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/BrianHowell33