#TheRiseIsReal. Ugh, another typical cliché rallying cry from another mediocre college football program. Who doesn’t remember feeling that way when the Colorado Buffaloes started using that hashtag on every social media platform and in all of their promotional material? You could hear the collective sigh across the Front Range when anyone (and everyone) associated with the Black and Gold started screaming that from the rooftops.

Why would anyone really think Colorado was on the rise?

Surely, it wasn’t Mike MacIntyre’s 10-27 record as CU’s head coach. Nor was it his two conference victories in 27 tries. (You read correctly; before this season Colorado was 2-25 in conference games.)

Did anyone actually think hiring Darrin Chiaverini as co-offensive coordinator/wide receiver’s coach/recruiting coordinator was going to make a difference? No. CU doesn’t have the best history of tapping into the players of the glory years to turn the program around.

It certainly wasn’t that everyone believed Sefo Luifau was going to turn into something other than a turnover machine. That includes his own coaches, which is why they tried so hard to get Davis Webb to quarterback this team.

Despite all of that, and the fact that there was literally nothing to legitimately be excited about, the truth is everyone in Boulder was right. The rise is real. The Colorado Buffaloes are good. Really, really good.

MacIntyre put this program on a four-year rebuilding plan and this season he is reaping the rewards of his labor. Chiaverini has been everything that Jon Embree and Eric Bieniemy weren’t and Luifau has been great under center, as has Steven Montez.

Colorado is no longer a doormat in the Pac-12. They are a serious threat with extremely high aspirations. How high? This team isn’t just aiming at a bowl berth; the Buffaloes are aiming for the bowl berth – The Rose Bowl.

It’s almost inconceivable (easy Vizzini) to think that Colorado, a program that hasn’t had a winning season since 2005, could end up this season playing in arguably the most storied bowl game in college football. But it’s true. Their road to Pasadena is falling into place like a perfectly played game of Tetris.

CU has to win out. That’s the most “no-kidding” statement of the century, but looking at how things are setting up for Colorado is the key.

Getting the obvious out of the way: The Pac-12 representative in the Rose Bowl is the winner of the Pac-12 Championship Game. Washington is all but a lock to win the North division and it’s also not a stretch to think they’ll be undefeated when they take the field on Dec. 2 in Santa Clara. If Washington does run the table and wins the Pac-12 Championship Game, they’ll end up in the college football playoff. (The Fiesta Bowl and Peach Bowl are this year’s National Championship semifinals.) That means, in all likelihood, the loser of the Pac-12 Championship will earn a trip to the Rose Bowl.

That raises the stakes for the winner of the South but figuring who’s going to win the South is a murky proposition, especially considering that four different teams have won the Pac-12 South the last four years.

Colorado and Utah sit atop the South right now with one conference loss apiece. Both teams hold their fate in their hands. USC and Arizona State both have two conference losses and need help to win the South. UCLA is hanging around with a 1-3 conference record but they need everyone else to completely implode.

Of those four teams (we’ll ignore UCLA), CU has all the advantages. With the biggest being that they dodge the Washington juggernaut. Utah, ASU and USC all still have to play the Huskies. ASU and USC both have the unenviable task of travelling to Seattle. You can safely put one in the loss column for each of those teams (but do it in pencil because this is, after all, the Pac-12 South).

The Utes may get the Huskies at home, but they have to travel to Tempe and Boulder. ASU, whom the Buffs handled easily at Folsom, still has road games against Oregon and Arizona. Sure, the Ducks and Wildcats are bottom feeders this season but travelling to Eugene is never easy. Also, anything can happen in a huge rivalry game on the road. Nothing would make Arizona’s season more than costing ASU the South title.

Utah, a notoriously bad road team, can foreseeably show up in Boulder having lost to Washington, on the road at ASU and on the road at UCLA (whom they play his week).

As for CU, they’ll take on Stanford this week in Palo Alto with Christian McCaffrey’s status very much in question. They have UCLA, WSU and Utah at home and will travel to Arizona. It’s tough to find another loss on their schedule.

It’s unquestionable that the schedule leans heavily in Colorado’s favor. They may end up avoiding the two best players in the Pac-12 conference (McCaffrey and Washington quarterback Jake Browning) and have home games against their chief rivals for the South title (Utah and ASU). In no way is that taking anything away from the Buffs. They’ve played great football so far this season and have earned the spot they’re in.

As it stands now the road to the Pac-12 South title goes through Boulder. The rise is more than a cliché; it’s real.