No. 21 Utah (7-3, 5-3 Pac-12) at Colorado (5-5, 2-5 Pac-12)

When: Saturday, 11:30 a.m. MT.

Where: Folsom Field

TV/Radio: Pac-12 Networks/850 AM, 94.1 FM

Just a few weeks ago, everything was in play for the Colorado football team.

While many hurdles needed to be cleared, the 5-0 Buffs still had the Pac-12 South and Pac-12 titles in sight. Perhaps even more was at stake, if everything fell into place.

Now, the Buffs (5-5, 2-5 Pac-12) are simply trying to stop the bleeding from a five-game losing streak. Throw in the rumors this week that head coach Mike MacIntyre's job may be in jeopardy, and it's clear that momentum is going the wrong way.

There is still one very important goal out there for the Buffs, however. With two games to play, CU has a shot to achieve bowl eligibility. Win one of the last two - Saturday at home vs. No. 21 Utah, or Nov. 24 at California — and they'll reach that coveted six-win mark and likely earn a 13th game.

Slipping into a lower-tier bowl at 6-6 or 7-5 may not cause the fan base to jump for joy, but it's a big deal for the players.

"I think everyone is excited at the thought of winning this game and becoming bowl eligible," senior safety Nick Fisher said. "No one (on the team) is going to feel like we lost because this is all we did. Guys are still excited. We want to win. We don't want to go out losing seven straight. The attitude of the team is really excited. We are ready. Anybody who has lost five (in a row) just wants to get a win."


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Although the goals were much higher at the start of the season - and perhaps even higher when sitting at 5-0 — the reality is that any bowl game is a reward for CU. In the previous 10 seasons, CU qualified for a bowl just once, losing 38-8 to Oklahoma State in the 2016 Alamo Bowl.

Getting there this year wouldn't turn any heads nationally, but it would secure the second-best season in the past decade and send the seniors out on a high note.

"Our goal is we want to make a bowl game," senior linebacker Rick Gamboa said. "We don't want to leave here knowing we didn't make a bowl game and knowing we only made one bowl game our whole time here. I know in the seniors' mind and the rest of the team, we all want to win these last two games."

Getting win No. 6 has proven to be an incredibly difficult task for the Buffs, who are 0-8 when playing for bowl eligibility in the last two seasons. That is, by far, the worst mark in the country during that span.

A year ago, the Buffs were 5-4 with three games to play, had a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter at Arizona State in week 10, and wound up losing 41-30.

Like this year, the Buffs went into the 2017 home finale at 5-5, but there was a sense that the fight had been taken out of them with the loss to ASU. They were blown out in the last two games.

After the 5-0 start this year, bowl eligibility seemed like a lock. It was just about wrapped up on Oct. 27, around the time running back Travon McMillian reached the end zone on a 75-yard touchdown run on the opening play of the third quarter. That gave the Buffs a 31-3 lead against an Oregon State team that hadn't defeated a Pac-12 foe in two years.

Oregon State's stunning 38-3 run over the last 24 minutes, handing CU a 41-34 overtime loss, may forever define this season.

The next week, at Arizona, the Buffs jumped to a quick 10-0 lead, but lost that one, too, 42-34.

In fact, the Buffs have scored first and held the lead in every game during the five-game skid. Each time, they've let victory — and bowl eligibility — slip away.

Co-offensive coordinator Klayton Adams said the Buffs can't let the losing streak hide the fact they've got the ability to win.

"When you are, for example, on a five-game winning streak, the perception is maybe that you're doing everything right, and you're not," he said. "When you're on a five-game losing streak, the perception is that you're doing everything wrong, and you're not."

The Buffs have done just enough wrong things, however, to come up short for five weeks in a row.

Yet, even with the losing streak and the outside distractions surrounding them, the Buffs have not lost sight of the one goal they can still achieve.

"We're trying to get bowl eligible," receiver Laviska Shenault said. "That's the only thing we're worried about."

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