University of Colorado head football coach Mike MacIntyre enters the 88th meeting between his Buffaloes and the Colorado State Rams with what he describes as the most talent he’s had in his time in Boulder. CU’s talent and experience heading into the 2016 season have folks on the inside thinking the Buffs could win six or seven games according to Mat Smith, who covers CU for 5280 Sports Network.

Smith joined Nate Lundy and Shawn Drotar on Mile High Sports AM 1340 | FM 104.7 Thursday morning to preview Friday’s Rocky Mountain Showdown between Colorado and Colorado State, saying expectations are bit more tempered outside the program walls.

“I think the expectation inside the building is six or seven wins. I think the expectation outside the building is five to six and a bowl game would be icing on the cake this year,” Smith said.

Lundy and Drotar are trying to find six wins on the schedule and have a hard time doing so, especially with road games against the likes of Michigan, Oregon, USC, Stanford and Arizona. Smith, however, sees opportunities in the Pac-12 where Colorado has struggled during MacIntyre’s tenure.

“I think there’s an opportunity,” Smith said. “There’s a lot of new starting quarterbacks in the Pac-12 and this defense is much better this year. It’s definitely the strength of their team.”

Colorado made big strides on the defensive side in 2015 under new defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt, especially in pass defense.

“They certainly got better on pass defense,” Drotar noted. “Two seasons ago they gave up 256 yards passing [per game] and last year that cut that to 218. That’s a big jump that took them all the way to second in the Pac-12.”

Highlighting the group responsible for that jump is senior defensive back Chidobe Awuzie, whom Smith says “has NFL written all over him.” Fellow senior Tedric Thompson, a safety, is another player Smith expects to have a big year for the experienced CU secondary.

Smith points to the huge jump in turnovers CU created on defense last year as testament to how strong the group could be in 2016.

“They’re led by a lot of upperclassmen on the defense and a lot guys who can turn the ball over. In 2014 they had three interceptions, but last year they had 14, which was third in the Pac-12.”

Colorado still doesn’t know which quarterback they’ll be facing on Friday night – Nick Stevens or Faton Bauta – but it sounds like MacIntyre is more than confident that his talented, experienced defense will be up to the task and get the Buffs headed in that direction of six or seven wins.

Listen to the whole conversation with Mat Smith, including his thoughts on Buffs quarterback Sefo Liufau, in the podcast below…

Catch Nate Lundy and Shawn Drotar every weekday from 7a-9a on Mile High Sports AM 1340 | FM 104.7 or stream live any time for the best local coverage of Colorado sports from Denver’s biggest sports talk lineup.