Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Hyoung Chang / The Denver Post
Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Game at a Glance
Matchup: Oregon State Beavers (1-6, 0-4 Pac-12) at Colorado Buffaloes (5-2, 2-2)
Kickoff: 1:10 p.m. MT
Where: Folsom Field in Boulder. Capacity: 50,183. Turf: Grass.
TV: Pac-12 Network
Radio: KOA (850 AM & 94.1 FM)
Odds: Colorado by 24 ½
Coaches: Colorado — Mike MacIntyre, 6th season (30-40; 46-61 career); Oregon State — Jonathan Smith, 1st season (1-6)
Series: Tied 5-5; CU leads 3-2 in Boulder
Following two consecutive defeats, the Colorado football team has lost its place in the national rankings and its hold on the top spot in the Pac-12 South division, while the spotlight no longer shines as bright on Boulder.
What the Buffaloes (5-2, 2-2 Pac-12) have not lost, however, is their fight.
“It’s kind of like being backed into a corner and the only way you’re getting out of there is you have to come out swinging,” quarterback Steven Montez said this week. “I think that’s what we plan on doing Saturday.”
On Saturday, the Buffs will host Oregon State (1-6, 0-4) at Folsom Field. CU will celebrate homecoming and, if all goes well, a victory that gets them back on track and secures bowl eligibility for the second time in three years.
Despite the consecutive losses, CU goes into this week well aware that much more than bowl eligibility is at stake. The Pac-12 South title is still very much in play with five games to go, as the Buffs are just a half game behind Utah (5-2, 3-2) and USC (4-3, 3-2).
“Everyone in the Pac-12 is good, I think,” CU senior safety Nick Fisher said. “The standings show that. We’re keeping it about Colorado football. As long as we do that, the chips are going to fall where they do and all we can do is play hard.”
Oregon State has been the Pac-12’s worst team for the past two years, but CU head coach Mike MacIntyre has no intention of letting the Buffs overlook this game. In fact, he’s placed extra importance on Saturday’s contest.
Every year, MacIntyre calls CU’s November schedule the “gold games,” because of their importance.
“We moved November up a week, because we have to basically run the table,” MacIntyre said. “We do feel like we have a chance (in the South).
“We have some really good home games ahead of us here and we need to take care of home. And then play better on the road, but we need to take care of home games, for sure.”
Along the way, the Buffs also hope to get their offense going again.
During their two-game skid, the Buffs have averaged 16.5 points and 264 yards per game — a far cry from the 37.8 points and 490.6 yards they averaged during the 5-0 start.
“I think we’ve got to do a better job of just getting the ball back in space and letting our playmakers play,” co-offensive coordinator Darrin Chiaverini said. “Hopefully we can do that this week. Oregon State, their record doesn’t determine it, but they’ve been playing really hard. If you watch them on film, they score a bunch of points. On defense, they’re going to give you zone, they’ll give you man and some different looks. At the end of the day, we just have to take care of us on offense.”
Defensively, the Buffs have to stop the run, as Oregon State features one of the best one-two punches in the country, with freshman Jermar Jefferson and junior Artavis Pierce. Jefferson is among the nation’s leaders in rushing.
“He is so powerful and explosive,” MacIntyre said. “He has a really good stiff arm. He’s a strong, powerful runner. (Pierce) is extremely fast. They have an excellent running attack.”
Ultimately, the key to the Buffs getting back on track is how they respond to their two-game losing streak, and Montez has no doubt they’ll come out swinging.
“It speaks to what this team is all about and how this team is wired,” he said. “This group of guys on offense and defense as a lot of fight in them. I think they won’t go out without a fight.
“That’s what I expect on Saturday.”