Game at a Glance
Matchup: No. 10 Washington State Cougars (8-1, 5-1 Pac-12) at Colorado Buffaloes (5-4, 2-4 Pac-12)
Kickoff: 1:35 p.m. MT
Where: Folsom Field in Boulder. Capacity: 50,183. Turf: Grass.
Radio: KOA (850 AM & 94.1 FM)
Odds: Washington State by 6
Coaches: Colorado — Mike MacIntyre, 6th season (30-42; 46-63 career); Washington State — Mike Leach, 7th season (46-39; 130-82 career).
Series: Colorado leads 6-5; series tied 3-3 in Boulder
Opportunity has come knocking on Colorado's door quite a bit over the past couple of years.
Each time, the Buffaloes have failed to take advantage.
On Saturday, they get another chance.
While a once-promising season seems to be slipping away from the CU football team, the Buffaloes (5-4, 2-4 Pac-12) welcome No. 10 Washington State (8-1, 5-1) to Folsom Field with the opportunity to get a season-changing victory.
Win this one, and the Buffs not only achieve bowl eligibility, but take momentum into their final two games.
"I think it's always a good opportunity," senior linebacker Rick Gamboa said of playing a top-10 team. "I think everybody is excited. It's one of those brick games you always have on the wall. Everybody is excited about Washington State coming in and having that crowd; playing at Folsom definitely does help."
No doubt, being at home helps, but the Buffs enter this one as wounded team — physically and, perhaps, emotionally.
The Buffs have lost the swagger they gained from a 5-0 start to the season. They've lost four in a row and will try to avoid become the first team in school history to post a five-game winning streak and a five-game losing streak in the same season.
Gamboa said there's a sense of urgency among the players, especially the seniors, and MacIntyre believes the fight hasn't left this group.
"You can work maybe without being as happy because you've lost and I see that work ethic," he said. "If they're just goofing off out there, I'd be like, 'Wait a minute.' I've seen a work ethic, I've seen them holding each other accountable, I've seen them showing up to everything."
Mentally, the Buffs might still be engaged in the fight, but physically, they have been in rough shape.
Star receiver Laviska Shenault injured his toe Oct. 13 at USC and has missed the last three games. His status for Saturday is unknown.
Receivers KD Nixon (hip) and Jay MacIntyre (concussion) left last week's 42-34 loss at Arizona with injuries. Strong safety Evan Worthington (concussion) has missed the last game and a half. Those three may or may not suit up Saturday.
Cornerback Chris Miller (thumb), linebacker Jacob Callier (shoulder) and defensive lineman Jase Franke (knee) are all out for the year. The Buffs are also down two kickers and a punter.
Two weeks ago, after a loss to Washington, MacIntyre said: "We're not going to make excuses about who is there or not there."
This week, he changed his tune. When asked if this is the most difficult stretch of his career, he said, it's been tough, but quickly pointed to the injuries.
"That makes it tough when you're playing really good football teams and you have key, key, key players going down," he said.
No question, the injuries have impacted CU, but for the Buffs to stop the bleeding and get back on the winning track, they've got to figure out a way to rise above that and do something that's been out of character for MacIntyre's teams by beating a top-notch opponent.
MacIntyre's CU teams are 5-37 as underdogs and 2-18 against ranked opponents (both wins coming with CU as the higher ranked team). Including his three years at San Jose State, MacIntyre is 2-25 against ranked foes.
On top of that, the Buffs are 0-7 in the past year when playing for bowl eligibility, including 0-4 this year.
The Cougars, of course, aren't unbeatable. Even the oddsmakers in Las Vegas give CU a solid chance, as the Buffs were only a six-point underdog as of Friday.
In the wacky Pac-12, anything can — and has — happened this season. For CU, the chance to do the unexpected is there again.
To finally seize the opportunity in front of them, the Buffs have to brush aside the excuses and do what they haven't done in several weeks.
"We have to play our best football," quarterback Steven Montez said.