The move from the Big 12 to the Pac 12 for the Colorado Buffaloes has been a harsh one. The Buffaloes have only won five conference games in five seasons, going 3-15 under head coach Jon Embree from 2011-12 and 2-25 under current head coach Mike MacIntyre. Are the dark days behind the Buffaloes?

There’s a different vibe around the team this season. Let’s dig in.

Returning Starters

MacIntyre’s team will have an almost identical look this season, returning 18 of the 22 starters on offense and defense. There will be seniors starting at some of the most important positions on the field, including quarterback (Sefo Liufau), center (Alex Kelley), defensive tackle (Jordan Carrell), linebacker (Jimmie Gilbert) and defensive back (Chidobe Awuzie and Tedric Thompson).

These players are sick and tired of hearing about their failing program and will leave it all-out on the field in their final season.

Sefo Liufau’s Rehab

The senior quarterback will be a focal point to the Buffaloes’ season. Liufau suffered a fractured left foot during the first quarter of the USC game last November and underwent surgery with a six-eight month recovery timetable. The senior gunslinger feels more mature and is now clear to play.

“You want to go out there and make the play,” Liufau said, via the Denver Post. “I’m more excited than anything. You want to be in those big-time moments and make the big plays. That’s where all the memories are made, whether good or bad. I’m excited and just ready to go.”

This roster is filled with 58 upperclassmen, and they will be relying on their leader to turn the program around in his senior year. Liufau is 14 touchdown passes away from setting the all-time school record.

Impactful Underclassmen 

Their seniors and juniors will obviously lead this Buffaloes team, but there are underclassmen who are expected to contribute as well. Running back Beau Bisharat will get some reps at the loaded position. Bisharat is coming in at 6-foot-2, 220 pounds with soft hands and history at playing linebacker.

Wide receiver Johnny Huntley is also expected to play a role in the Buffaloes offense. The speedy, tall receiver can be a weapon for Liufau in the their four receiver sets and comes into the program with high hopes.

On the defensive side of the ball, cornerback Trey Udoffia can crack the rotation with the second tier of corners, a weakness on this team. Look out for all three of these young players to make a real impact this season.

The stage is set for the Colorado Buffaloes. They have a four-year starting quarterback looking to set his legacy as the player who turned the program around. They have tons of experienced upperclassmen, combined with young new talent. Most importantly, the players know the pressure is on them to change the reputation that the program has earned so far, and they’re not shying away from that responsibility.

“It’s going to take a whole lot of fight,” senior corner Chidobe Awuzie said recently. “Every week is going to be a fight. Last year we could have went to a bowl game, easy, if we would finish games. We did not finish games, and that’s on us players, not on the coaches. The players have to finish games.”

Look out for a hungry, driven, and disrespected Colorado team this season.