“We get to see how we play against a really good football team and I don't think our kids will wilt at all,” Buffs head coach Mike MacIntyre said during his weekly press conference. “And I think Michigan will be playing against a better team than they've played, I hope. So you go out there, stand toe-to-toe, and fight and see how you measure up. We'll see.”
Added senior safety Tedric Thompson: “We know for a fact we're going to get punched in the mouth, that's a great team. But we're going to have each other's back as a team.”
The Buffaloes' players have been trying to make their head coach proud by emphasizing their one-week-at-a-time approach, but even MacIntyre admits this Saturday's game is a special opportunity.
"You play major college football for a reason,” he said. “Any time you're playing a major program that's at the top and doing really well and you're playing on the road, there's always a little more excitement in your first road game.”
The Wolverines' current No. 4 ranking in the Associated Press is their highest ranking in nearly a decade.
“They are really big and very athletic,” MacIntyre said. “They've got a lot of depth, they're experienced all over the field and they've got freshmen that they are throwing in there that are very athletic too. They do a very good job defensively. They do a lot of stunting, they play a lot of good man coverage. Offensively, they are able to run the ball and great at play-action pass. The quarterback can really throw the deep ball well."
But like Colorado in its two blowout wins to open the season, Michigan has not been perfect. The Wolverines had multiple defensive breakdowns against UCF, a program that went winless in 2015. The Knights gained 275 yards on the ground. Michigan linebackers Ben Gedeon and Mike McCray both struggled at times last Saturday.
Still, the Wolverines have only given up three scores through two games.
"I've seen cover one, nothing too crazy; it's not like they reinvented the wheel or anything. They're just a great defense,” Colorado quarterback Sefo Liufau said. “What they run, they run really well. It's what separates them from the first two teams that we've played this season.
“Being a competitor you want to play against the best. They're going to make some plays, which is the nature of the game. But we'll make some plays too and our goal is to be consistent and make more plays than they do this week."
The “Miracle in Michigan” was obviously a big topic at the Buffaloes' press luncheon on Tuesday. Kordell Stewart's 70-yard touchdown pass to Michael Westbrook is widely considered one of the greatest plays in college football history.
"It was a great play to win the game,” Liufau said. “We've heard about it a lot, being here, although not this week since we're focused on ourselves and focused on playing them play-for-play. Hopefully it doesn't come down to a Hail Mary. If it does come down to a Hail Mary, I'll get it into the end zone."
Stewart came back to school at Colorado to finish up his degree this summer. It allowed MacIntyre an opportunity to get to know the former Buff.
“Not only can he throw the ball 70-something yards in the air, he's a really good guy,” MacIntyre said. “I saw him basically every day because he was in the weight room and he was around. He told me how after he made that throw, his confidence level went out the roof. It was just fun being around him and getting to know him as a person and seeing his passion and love for Colorado. I've met everybody involved in the play.”
Additional Notes -
*** Colorado has gained 500-plus yards in back-to-back games for the first time since Nov. 9-16, 2002. It marked the first time the Buffs accomplished the feat in back-to-back games to open a season since 1993.
*** Liufau compared Michigan athlete Jabrill Peppers to Chidobe Awuzie based off his athleticism and versatility. Peppers has spent time playing defensive back, linebacker, running back and receiver for the Wolverines. And he also serves as a returner.
*** With 260 rushing yards against Colorado State and 262 against Idaho State, the Buffs are now 60-2-1 dating back to 1989 when running for 250 or more.
*** Colorado has dropped 22 straight games against ranked teams.
*** Saturday's game will be televised nationally on the Big Ten Network. It is a one-and-done game, arranged through ESPN in 2013, with a $1.4 million payday for Colorado.