LOS ANGELES —— Coach Mike MacIntyre's peers in the Pac-12 Conference were impressed with the progress he made in his first season as coach at Colorado and expect the Buffaloes to improve once again this fall.

The Buffs went 4-8 in MacIntyre's debut season in Boulder, with two of those victories coming against Football Championship Subdivision teams. CU was blown out by 22 points or more in six of their nine conference games under MacIntyre, but the Buffs finished the year with their three most competitive games in the conference, including a victory over Cal.

It might have been that finish to the 2013 season or maybe it was just how dreadful Cal was that led to the Buffs being picked 6th in the South Division and 11th overall in the preseason media poll released Wednesday at Pac-12 football media days at Paramount Studios.

"I think they were just kind of programmatically better," Oregon coach Mark Helfrich said when asked about the Buffs. Helfrich served as Colorado's offensive coordinator for three seasons under former CU coach Dan Hawkins.

Oregon and UCLA were picked by the media to win their respective divisions and meet in the Pac-12 Championship game in December. Oregon was picked to win the title in Helfrich's second season and head coach of the Ducks.

Helfrich was one of several Pac-12 coaches who said the Buffaloes played with more confidence in 2013. Helfrich noted the way MacIntyre chose to start last season's game against the Ducks at Folsom Field, with an onside kick, as an example of CU being more aggressive as well. Helfrich has coached against the Buffs in each of the past three seasons.


"There was a bit of a freewheeling confidence with that reverse pass and onside kick and they did some really good things throughout the year," Helfrich said.

MacIntyre was accompanied by defensive lineman Juda Parker and wide receiver Nelson Spruce to media days Wednesday. The CU contingent did some television interviews Wednesday and toured Paramount Studios. They will take their turn in front of the larger media group along with five other teams on the second day of media days today.

One of MacIntyre's most frustrating losses in his first season in Boulder came at home against Arizona and coach Rich Rodriguez. While the final score (44-20) did not indicate a close game, MacIntyre was fiery in his postgame press conference beginning it by saying he would only take three questions. He ultimately took many more than that.

It was a game MacIntyre said he believed his team had a chance to win and instead found a way to lose. The game left an impressions on Rodriguez, too.

"They're playing with confidence," Rodriguez said of the Buffs. "Mike and his staff have done a good job. You could see that they believe in the system. They made plays against us. I mean, it was a battle against us the whole game."

Fox Sports NFL and college football analyst Joel Klatt admittedly looks at Colorado with hope in his heart being a former Buffs quarterback. He is also one of the many former Buffs who supported the hiring of MacIntyre's predecessor, Jon Embree, and was disappointed by the ensuing results because he considers Embree and others on that staff good friends.

Klatt said several of the biggest problems under Embree were corrected in MacIntyre's first year. He said CU players had a better understanding of the schemes they were running, particularly on offense, in 2013. He said he also saw a team that wasn't overwhelmed by the emotions of the game, taking its cues from the more measured approach of MacIntyre's staff.

"There were some emotional guys that clearly, if you boiled it down, maybe loved the program too much to be that close to it," Klatt said of Embree and his staff. "I would probably fall into that same boat. If I was there, I'd probably be pulling out my hair just because I love the place so much. And I think that is what you saw.

"Now, it's just more of a business like approach. It's an approach that I think the kids can probably grab hold to a little bit more. A lot of times what I saw in the past is the kids were trying so hard it was almost to the detriment to the success of the team."

Three of Colorado's closest games in its first three seasons in the conference have come against fellow south division member Utah. Each of those games has been decided by one score, with the Utes winning the last two after the Buffs ended what was the longest road losing streak in the nation in Salt Lake City in 2011.

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham joked that he was petrified of former Buffs wide receiver Paul Richardson before last season's game when he was asked about the Buffs on Wednesday. He echoed others in the conference in saying he believes CU has a solid coaching staff with sound schemes in place. He said MacIntyre just needs more time to keep building momentum in Boulder.

"It's going to take him a couple, three years to get his stamp on the program and get the players in there that he needs to recruit to the schemes that he's running," Whittingham said. "It's going be a transition, but he's a proven commodity and did a great job at the last place he was at."

Pac-12 media polls




1. Oregon (37) 232

2. Stanford (2) 192

3. Washington 142

4. Oregon State 125

5. Washington State 87

6. California 41



1. UCLA (37) 231

2. USC (1) 181

3. Arizona State (1) 163

4. Arizona 119

5. Utah 82

6. Colorado 43