Brian Howell
Brian Howell

During a Sept. 13 press conference to announce the postponement of Colorado's game against Fresno State, Buffaloes head coach Mike MacIntyre put his optimism on display.

A reporter asked MacIntyre how difficult it would be to reschedule the game, considering the only common open date was Dec. 7 -- and Fresno State could be playing in the Mountain West title game that day.

MacIntyre quickly pointed out to the reporter that the Pac-12 title game is also scheduled for Dec. 7 and that the Buffs could be busy, too.

After Saturday, consider the Buffs dateless for the first Saturday in December (unless, of course, the CU administration can find another opponent to visit Boulder that day). CU certainly won't be playing in the Pac-12 title game. That became clear after Oregon State ripped the Buffs, 44-17, at Reser Stadium in Corvallis, Ore.

While MacIntyre has always been upbeat and optimistic about this season, he has known all along that rebuilding a football team that went 1-11 a year ago would not be an easy job.

It's a challenge he took on last December when he left San Jose State to come to Boulder, but he knows full well that it's rare to see a college football team go from loser to winner in such a short amount of time.

MacIntyre, after all, had to watch his team at San Jose State get worse before it got better. In 2010, he took over a San Jose State team that went 2-10 the year before. The Spartans went 1-12 in their first year under MacIntyre, often getting blown out.

MacIntyre actually started 1-15 at SJSU before going 15-6 in his last 21 games there.

So, we probably shouldn't be surprised by what happened on Saturday. After two years of being the Pac-12's punching bag, the Buffaloes opened up Pac-12 play by settling into that role once again in MacIntyre's first conference game.

Many of the same problems that plagued CU over the past two years -- stupid penalties, ugly turnovers, ineptitude on offense and a Swiss cheese defense -- showed up again Saturday.

All the good vibes that came from CU's 2-0 start were replaced with a heavy dose of reality on Saturday. Yes, the Buffs are good enough to beat a bad Mountain West team and slip past a solid FCS team -- two things they failed to do last year -- but they aren't ready to compete against the better teams in the Pac-12.

Oregon State was 9-4 a year ago, and the Beavers are well on their way to approaching that win total again this year. With a three-year starter at quarterback, one of the country's best receivers and a veteran coach with a lot of wins under his belt, the Beavers were well equipped to turn this into a rout.

They aren't the only team on CU's schedule with that ability, either.

Next week, No. 2 Oregon comes to Boulder. A trip to Arizona State (which got the most votes among teams outside the Top 25 this week) comes after that. Visits to No. 14 UCLA and No. 16 Washington are on the calendar for November.

Several variables suggested Saturday's game would be a tough one, including the three-week layoff, the inclement weather at Reser Stadium and the first road trip of the season.

Because of those variables, it might be unfair to completely judge the Buffs based on Saturday's performance. But none of those variables could hide the fact that CU was overmatched by another Pac-12 opponent.

Perhaps one day MacIntyre and the Buffs can seriously entertain thoughts of playing in the Pac-12 championship game. But not this year. For now, the Buffs simply need to worry about closing the chasm between themselves and the Pac-12's best.

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