There may not be a better weekend for a Buffalo to square off with a Beaver.

At the risk of discounting (see “overlooking”) a Pac-12 opponent, Colorado should be thanking its lucky stars that it will be facing Oregon State on Saturday. It’s a matchup that – on paper – should wind up about like it sounds: A big, strong bison stampeding all over a small, mud-slappin’ water rodent (no offense, Beaver fans). Oregon State is exactly what the doctor ordered for a Colorado program whose “rise” has suddenly flattened out.

Mike MacIntyre’s ballclub has a shot of winning almost every Pac-12 game. The difference between wins and losses is merely a matter of a catching a break here, avoiding a turnover there, or coming out on the right side of one tough call each game.

Quick quiz: Was the above statement written about the 2015 season, or penned just this past weekend?

Actually, the answer is “C) All of the above.”

The difference between 2015, “The Rise” that took place in 2016, and the current campaign which has The Buffs sitting at 0-3 in the Pac-12, is razor thin. It’s a bad bounce, a questionable decision (like, for example, opting for a fake field goal rather than taking the points) or running into an unexpected backup quarterback who simply can’t be stopped.

Last season, the Buffs were damn good. And, they came out on the “good side” of just about every pivotal moment.

This season, the Buffs may not be “damn” good, but they are good. But a football isn’t round, and it sure can bounce funny. Thus far, the ol’ pigskin hasn’t bounced quite right in Boulder.

At the risk of hyperbole, Saturday’s game against Oregon State is a must-win. If The Rise is real, there’s zero margin for error in Corvallis. Oregon State is not a good football team, not at the moment anyway. They’re in such disarray, in fact, that they said goodbye to their coach, Gary Andersen, Monday. Andersen’s time at Oregon State saw the Beavers go 7-23 – not exactly a mark associated with the upper tier of one of America’s toughest college football conferences. The Buffs must show the rest of the Pac-12 (and all the high school football players MacIntyre is recruiting), there’s still a world of difference between being a Buff and being a Beaver. A four-point loss to UCLA, a three-point loss to Arizona, and even a lopsided loss to Washington are all “okay” so long as the Buffs make a statement on the road against Oregon State.

The trap, of course, is that everyone in Boulder knows exactly what you and I know – that CU should win. It’s imperative that nobody in black and gold overlooks this one.

A solid, never-in-doubt win, and things are back on track in Boulder.

A loss? Well, that could put the Buffs in a funk, a downward spiral that has everyone wondering if The Rise was real, or if it was simply a fluke.

Phillip Lindsay is as tough as they come. So are Bryce Bobo, Shay Fields and Jay MacIntyre. So is Isaiah Oliver. So, for that matter, is Mike MacIntyre.

This is no time to weaken. The Buffs aren’t going to win the Pac-12 South this season, and that’s okay. The program can still improve, and can still continue to rise, even with a few bumps in the road. Few expected an exact replica of last season.

But they can’t afford a loss to Oregon State. That simply can’t happen.

If The Rise is for real, the Buffs had better flatten the Beavers.