CU opponent glance
Opponent: No. 4 Washington Huskies
Game time: Friday, 7 p.m. MST, at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif.
Coach: Chris Petersen, 3rd season (26-13; 118-25 career)
Record:11-1, 8-1 Pac-12 North
Last week: Beat Washington State, 45-17
Key players: QB Jake Browning, So. (214 of 329, 3,162 yards, 40 TD, 7 INT); RB Myles Gaskin, So. (198 carries, 1,180 yards, 10 TD); WR John Ross, Jr. (72 catches, 1,071 yards, 16 TD); WR/PR Dante Pettis, Jr. (49 catches, 787 yards, 14 TD; 22 returns, 264 yards, 2 TD); CB Sidney Jones, Jr. (34 tackles, 3 INT); S Budda Baker, Jr. (61 tackles, 9 TFL, 2 INT); LB Victor Azeem, Jr. (67 tackles); OLB Psalm Wooching, Sr. (35 tackles, 5 sacks).
Notable: Washington won the North division for the first time, becoming the first team other than Oregon or Stanford to represent the North in the Pac-12 title game since the conference expanded in 2011. The Huskies’ last conference title game in 2000, when it tied for first in the Pac-10. Their last outright conference title came in 1991. Petersen led Boise State to five conference title in eight seasons.
The Colorado football team has packed more great moments into the past three months than they’ve had in the previous 10 years.
On Saturday night, after he danced with his team in the locker room following a 27-22 victory against Utah that clinched the Pac-12 South division title, head coach Mike MacIntyre could come up with only one word to sum up this season to this point.
“The best word I can use right now is joy,” MacIntyre said. “Joy from my toes to the top of my head for the players, the coaches, everybody involved with our program; all the fans that stayed with us and all the fans that came back.
“It’s just really gratifying on that side of it. I’m so happy for these kids and we have the opportunity to go play for the Pac-12 Championship.”
CU (10-2, 8-1 Pac-12) will square off against Washington (11-1, 8-1) on Friday at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., for the Pac-12 crown.
On Sunday, the Buffs remained at No. 9 in both national polls — the Associated Press and Amway Coaches polls. Washington moved up to No. 4 in both polls.
Friday’s game will be CU’s first top-10 matchup since the 2001 Fiesta Bowl.
“I’m real excited for these young men that we have the opportunity to experience this,” MacIntyre said. “Washington’s goal is to win the Pac-12 and our goal is to win the Pac-12. It’s going to be a great game. It’s exciting to have the best team in the North and the best team in the South going up against each other. It’s going to be spectacular.”
Getting to the title game is CU’s reward for running the gauntlet of the Pac-12 regular season schedule.
The Buffs got knocked down by USC (9-3, 7-2), which moved up to No. 10 in the AP, but they’ve won six in a row since. That win streak included a victory at Stanford (9-3), which moved up to No. 17 on Saturday, and wins over Washington State and Utah, which both fell out of the polls this week.
“It’s a great feeling, to put in all this hard work with these guys and to finally get something out of it,” quarterback Sefo Liufau said. “We’ve been working really hard for all the time I’ve been here and we don’t have much to show for it and this year we do.”
While the Buffs were in a celebratory mood after Saturdays’ win against the Utes, they also know they have a quick turnaround to get ready for the Huskies.
Outside of a loss to USC on Nov. 12, Washington has steamrolled just about everybody on its schedule.
Like the Buffs, Washington has a top-notch defense. The Huskies also have arguably the best quarterback in the Pac-12 in sophomore Jake Browning, and play-makers all over the offense.
Prior to Saturday’s game, CU support staff had already broken down film of Washington so the Buffs could get to work on the Huskies immediately.
“We’ll start on that (Sunday) morning,” MacIntyre said. “I haven’t watched them a ton, because we were all focused on this game. They’ve got a great quarterback. They’ve got some great running backs and receivers. Their defense is stout. They’ve got great corners like we do. It’s going to be a heck of a contest. I know they’re looking forward to it and we’re looking forward to it.”
As they’ve said before every other game this year, the Buffs talked on Saturday night about maintaining their regular routine in preparation for Friday.
“Staying focused is the biggest thing,” linebacker Addison Gillam said. “Coach MacIntyre says it all the time; we just have to stay laser focused throughout the week.”
After all, winning the Pac-12 South was not CU’s ultimate goal. Winning the title game has always been the top priority.
“Not yet; we’re close,” receiver Devin Ross said when asked if the Buffs have made CU great again. “We’re getting real good now after that win, but we still have a lot to do the rest of the season.”
Adding to the excitement of the week is that there’s more than just a Pac-12 title on the line. With both teams being ranked among the top nine, this game could impact the race for the national title. The top four teams will play in the College Football Playoff.
Washington has a better chance to get there than CU, but the Buffs aren’t out of the running yet.
“Now, we’ve got one more to do, that’s what we set out to do,” MacIntyre said. “If we do that, then it takes care of everything else that could happen.”
Contact staff writer Brian Howell at email@example.com or twitter.com/BrianHowell33.