Game at a glance
Matchup: Colorado Buffaloes (0-0) vs. Colorado State Rams (0-1, 0-1 Mountain West)
Kickoff: 7:34 p.m. MT
Where: Broncos Stadium at Mile High in Denver. Capacity: 76,125. Turf: Kentucky Bluegrass
TV: CBS-Sports Network
Radio: KOA (760 AM & 94.1 FM)
Odds: Colorado by 7 ½
Coaches: Colorado — Mike MacIntyre, 6th season (25-38; 41-59 career); CSU — Mike Bobo, 4th season (21-19)
Series: CU leads 65-22-2, including 11-6 in Denver
Posting another losing season - their 11th in 12 years - in 2017, the Colorado Buffaloes seemed to have lost the momentum gained from their remarkable run to the Pac-12 South title in 2016.
In reality, the Buffs may just be getting started in enjoying the benefits of that great season from two years ago.
Following that run to the South title, the Buffs have put together two consecutive recruiting classes that are loaded with the type of talent they weren't getting in previous years. (The 2019 class is shaping up to be pretty good, as well.)
A lot of that talent is ready to make an impact as the Buffs open the season on Friday against in-state rival Colorado State (0-1) at Broncos Stadium at Mile High in Denver.
Of the 27 players listed as offensive or defensive starters or co-starters for this week's game, 11 have joined the team since the end of the 2016 season. Overall, there are at least 25 players from the 2017 and 2018 classes that have put themselves in position on the depth chart to make an impact this season.
"We've definitely brought in some good players that can play," junior quarterback Steven Montez said.
Offensively and defensively, the Buffs have increased the talent level in the past two years, and while many of the players in those classes haven't been on the field in a game, they've proven themselves to coaches and teammates.
"The biggest thing is their work ethic and how much they want to win and how hard they work," senior linebacker Rick Gamboa said. "You see it on the field, you see it in practice. Those are hard working guys and they're guys who come to work every day. You don't have to push them to go. They're not taking reps off. They want to come out and get better every single day and they want to do whatever they can to help this team."
This season, the Buffs are going to lean on those newer players, especially on defense. Of the 11 players expected to start Friday on defense, six have been recruited to Boulder in the last two classes.
"The coaches did a great job finding the right guys, guys who want to come play," true sophomore linebacker Nate Landman said. "It's not even always about finding the five-star, four-star guys; it's guys who want to come in and work because you never know how people are going to compete in a college environment. Our guys are fighting, competing every day and they want that job."
Landman was part of a 2017 recruiting class that could be pivotal for the program. It's a class that also includes receivers KD Nixon and Laviska Shenault, outside linebacker Jacob Callier, defensive end Terrance Lang, cornerback Chris Miller, offensive linemen Jake Moretti and William Sherman and kicker James Stefanou.
Landman said he could tell it was a special group when he arrived last summer.
"We kind of knew as soon as we came in," he said. "We were working on the first day, we were doing extra running and extra lifting. You see those guys doing extra work in the (indoor practice facility) and it's all coming together."
The 2018 class included several junior college transfers that are expected to play, while true freshman Israel Antwine has been one of the best players on the defensive line. A few other true freshmen are in position to play, as well.
For head coach Mike MacIntyre, the influx of talent has been the product of several factors, including the new facilities that have been built in the past couple of years and increasing the number of staffers hired to help with recruiting efforts.
Winning helps, too. Prior to 2016, CU had a decade of losing and, from the outside, looked like a program that might never be a winner again. The 2016 season changed that.
"The success we had in 2016, when we talked to kids and they talked to other kids that played here, they know they can be successful (at CU)," MacIntyre said. "That's the main, big hurdle."
MacIntyre also credits his staff for their talent evaluation in recent years.
Getting the talent to Boulder is one thing. Getting them ready to play is another, and Landman credits the coaches and the upperclassmen, who have embraced the younger players.
"We have great leadership on this team," Landman said. "They do a great job of incorporating the young guys during (player-run practices) and through the beginning. We're all hanging out during meetings, messing around in the team room. It's a great environment."
It's an environment that seems to be setting CU up for long-term success. In the short-term, it's created confidence in a young group of players that are ready to compete and win.
"I lay in bed just picturing plays happening during the game," Landman said with a smile. "All of us (younger players) have a bright future and I think we're going to be great for this program and hopefully come out with a championship."