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Pac-12 Sports
Kurt Kragthorpe and Kyle Goon
Kurt Kragthorpe and Kyle Goon cover the Pac-12 for The Salt Lake Tribune.

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(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Colorado Buffaloes quarterback Sefo Liufau (13) is chased down by Utah Utes defensive end Trevor Reilly (9) as the University of Utah hosts Colorado, college football at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City, Saturday November 30, 2013.
Pac-12 football preview — Sefo Liufau, Colorado hope to break losing trend

Mike MacIntyre wore a wristband to Pac-12 media day which read "Uncommon."

That's what Colorado wants to be: an uncommon football team, made up of uncommon players. Unfortunately for the Buffs, they've spent all of their Pac-12 tenure mired in mediocrity, from which MacIntyre is now trying to wrench the program.

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"You're still dealing with really, really young men that have a lot of maturing to do, a lot of different things," he said. "So a lot of things can happen. But we'll move up eventually. I hope it's this year."

In a regular year, Colorado would seem to have a lot going for it. Maybe it still does.

But this year is expected to be one in which the Pac-12 should be one of the country's deepest and most talented leagues, with six teams in the AP's top 25. The Buffs get the extreme fortune of missing Stanford and Oregon this year, but things start out hot with rival Colorado State and offensive juggernaut Arizona State within the first three weeks of the season.

But there are uncommon elements: Sefo Liufau, the team's quarterback, returns from a solid freshman season. The Buffs believe he's the quarterback of the future, and are trying to build the offense around him. Ground game will be important, with depth that includes two 500-yard rushers last year. Liufau has gained weight and some power to his arm, but he'll have a new stable of receivers to throw to.

Then there's the defense that allowed at least 40 points in six straight Pac-12 losses last year, while limping to the finish. While the team relied heavily on freshmen last year to try to bolster that flailing unit, MacIntyre said he hopes this season, with more sophomores, will bring stability in stopping opposing attacks.

Colorado as an athletic department is in the midst of some financial struggles and a loss of faith following two disastrous coaching eras, so the Buffs are under pressure to make something go well. MacIntyre knows a tough season will continue the dark ages, but even some progress this year will be well-received by fans.

"I see a lot of pride in the program," he said. "I guess you see some of the frustration because they want to be good again, and we will. And I think they see it going in that direction with everything not just the facilities, but the team focus, the atmosphere, all of the things that are going on. I think they feel like it is building back towards the right way."

2013 IN REVIEW • 4-8, 1-7 in Pac-12

RETURNING STARTERS • 19 total (9 offense, 8 defense, 2 specialist)

TOP RETURNING PLAYER • While quarterback Sefo Liufau will carry a lot of responsibility, Colorado's defense struggled so mightily last year, it's worth giving a nod to sophomore linebacker Addison Gilliam. The Buffaloes need to figure out how to stop opponents. With Gilliam (a team captain, by the way) in the middle, Colorado has a good start to cleaning that up.

BIGGEST QUESTION MARK • Who is around Liufau? Colorado brings back their top two running backs, but the loss of receiver Paul Richardson hurts. Young guys in the receiving game will have to step up, and Colorado's retooled line will have to protect its most valuable piece of its offense.

SCHEDULE OUTLOOK • In all, it could have been worse for Colorado. They duck the Ducks, and stay away from Stanford. ASU is not an easy Pac-12 opener, but Cal and Oregon State are winnable games leading into the tougher portion of the schedule. They should beat UMass and Hawaii in non-conference play, and while their final four is very tough, they at least get UCLA and Washington at home. This team is on track for four to five wins as the rebuild continues, but a reasonable goal is to get more than one Pac-12 win this season.

Kyle Goon

kgoon@sltrib.com

Twitter: @kylegoon

PAC-12 Links
Links from around the Pac-12
Arizona (Tucson Citizen)
» Free weekly Wildcat sports magazine covers UA-Oregon game
» Wildcats prepare for game at No. 2 Oregon
» Hansen's Sunday Notebook: Strong season will help "Hill Mary" be remembered
» UA football: Pair of defensive players leave team

Arizona St. (Arizona Republic)
» ASU football practice report from Wednesday
» ASU defense learns from blowout loss to UCLA
» Games to watch: College football's best week
» ASU football practice report from Tuesday

California (East Bay Tribune)
» Cal could face Title IX suit with field hockey now homeless
» Cal's struggling pass defense better gets its act together quickly
» Cal's Oct. 11 home game vs. Washington set for 3 p.m. kickoff
» Cal outlasts Colorado 59-56 in two overtimes

Colorado (Denver Post)
» Speedy freshman Donovan Lee gives CU Buffs another playmaker
» Colorado coached to avoid coin-toss glitches, MacIntyre says
» Colorado's MacIntyre gratified Buffs practiced hard Monday
» CU Buffs tackle Jeromy Irwin might play vs. Hawaii after concussion

Oregon (The Oregonian)
» Oregon Ducks open up Autzen Stadium doors for Fan Fest: Photo gallery
» Recruiting 101: Explaining redshirts and grayshirts
» Ohio State fan who rushed field and was body-slammed by coach loses scholarship
» LaMichael James participates in 1st practice after signing with Miami Dolphins

Oregon State (Corvallis Gazette-Times)
» Oregon State roundup (Sept. 19)
» OSU men's basketball: Tinkle says positive steps being made
» Spencer to become new AD at Evansville
» BeaversSalute program gives tickets to military personnel and veterans

Stanford (San Jose Mercury-News)
» Stanford's Shaw shoots down interest in Raiders job
» Stanford beats Washington with fourth-quarter touchdown
» Matchup: No. 16 Stanford at Washington
» Stanford facing must-win game at Washington's noisy Husky Stadium

UCLA (Los Angeles Daily News)
» UCLA Football Notebook: Running back Malcolm Jones loses appeal for extra season
» COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Improving UCLA has questions to answer during preseason football camp
» COLLEGE FOOTBALL: UCLA's prized recruit Eddie Vanderdoes cleared to play by NCAA after leaving Notre Dame
» Pac-12 Media Day: Eyes on Anthony Barr for UCLA's 2013 hopes

USC (Los Angeles Daily News)
» USC Football Notebook: Marqise Lee's injury not too serious
» USC Football Notebook: QBs Max Wittek, Cody Kessler present dilemma for Trojans coach Lane Kiffin
» USC FOOTBALL NOTEBOOK: Former UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel thinks Trojans might not miss QB Matt Barkley
» USC FOOTBALL NOTEBOOK: Dion Bailey says it's 'now or never'

Washington (Seattle Times)
» Huskies rallying around Cyler Miles after offensive struggles
» Offensive coordinator Jonathan Smith says there's no panic with sluggish UW offense
» Sue Bird, Leilani Mitchell advance to quarterfinals of FIBA World Championship
» UW's Bob Gregory on the versatile Shaq Thompson: 'He can handle it all'

Washington State (Spokane Spokesman-Review)
» Now that was a playoff game
» WSU football live chat
» Morning links and a live chat to come
» WHL notes: Paddock breaks through



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